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Step-by-Step Boat Washing: A Comprehensive Tutorial

Step-by-Step Boat Washing: A Comprehensive Tutorial
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Boats are investments, just like houses and cars. Chances are you want to keep your investments as nice as possible, right? That means maintaining them, specifically cleaning them. Similar to washing your car, you will want to clean the exterior and interior of the boat separately. There are a few differences between cars and boats when it comes to washing, like using specific products and paying attention to the waterline. This blog will serve as a step-by-step boat washing comprehensive tutorial.

The Importance of Regular Boat Washing

It is important to wash your boat properly and regularly to keep it looking nice and functioning as it should be. Not only is keeping your boat clean aesthetically pleasing, it also helps with the longevity and performance of your boat. It keeps the paint looking nice and helps alleviate dirt and grime buildup as well as helps keep algae and other wildlife from attaching to the vessel and causing problems. It is best to check your boat's owner manual to see when and what is suggested to wash your boat.

Essential Tools and Cleaning Products

Much like your car, there are some tools and supplies that will help make cleaning your boat easier and better. There are some cleaners that are to only be used on specific materials, so be sure to check before using anything on your boat.

They make marine tools and products; however, some have regular, everyday, uses as well. For instance, it is recommended to have access to a hose with high water pressure and a rust-resistant nozzle that helps with pressure. They make marine hoses that are just coated in something slightly different so it does not scratch your boat — a regular garden hose works just the same. As long as you have a hose, you are good to go. Rinsing off your boat will help with corrosion and algae growth on your vessel.

Microfiber towels, sponges, mops, and other detailing cloths are highly recommended for marine use. They do not leave behind any lint, streaks or scratches while drying and polishing your boat. They make microfiber cloth mitts that make washing, drying and polishing super easy.

Along with microfiber cloths and mop heads, a compact extendable handle is helpful to get your cleaning cloths to hard to reach places and also works as a mop for whenever needed. Microfiber towels can also be used on your car or inside your house, so you do not need to buy marine specific ones if you do not want to.

Some additional cleaners you are going to want include polish and wax for the exterior of the boat, disinfectant, Star Brite or On and Off Hull Cleaner are good items to keep onboard and work well on fiberglass. Any auto leather cleaner will work for your seats if they are leather, but they also produce marine specific leather cleaner such as Boat Bling Vinyl Sauce.

Cleaning Products for Wood

If you have wood on your boat, it is crucial to only use wood friendly cleaning products. If the wood is not properly taken care of, it will ruin and need to be replaced. Lemon oil is really great for wood surfaces. Vinegar and water is also a good disinfectant and cleaner for wood surfaces. Vinegar helps reduce mildew and mold growth and can be used throughout the vessel.

A good, all around marine cleaner is Simple Green. It is also a degreaser so it fights the tough messes on the deck of your boat. This cleaner is not recommended for use on any waxed areas though as it has been known to remove the wax. If you prefer something more versatile, you can use Castile soap.

Cleaning Products for Chrome

If you have chrome on your boat, Bar Keeper’s Friend is a great product to use. This is a bleach-free product that doesn’t scratch your metal surfaces and will even remove stains. It can be used elsewhere on deck as well, just make sure to read the directions and test in small areas to see how it does.

One thing to keep in mind when selecting products to clean your boat is if the item is toxic or not. Boats and what goes onto them will also go into the water. There are a variety of non-toxic, bleach-free cleaners that will work on your boat and keep the water healthy. Most marine specific products tend to be water-soluble and non-toxic.

Boat Washing Techniques

First, you are going to want to rinse everything off with hot water, or high pressurized water if hot is not available. Make sure to get both above and below the waterline. This will help with any dirt and grime that is hitching a ride on your vessel and make cleaning slightly easier. Make sure to start at the highest point, otherwise you will be getting dirty water everywhere you have already cleaned.

It is recommended to use a bucket of water and marine soap with a microfiber mitt or sponge so you can easily clean your boat. Whether you are wiping or scrubbing, keep the areas small and rinse immediately. Soap will dry quickly on the boat and will leave marks and leave a layer of film on the surface. When scrubbing with a brush, be careful not to scrub too hard and avoid scratching your boat.

Since part of your boat is frequently submerged in water, it requires more specific types of cleaning. Regularly cleaning this part of your boat will help with algae and other marine life buildup.

When cleaning below the waterline, it is important to figure out what kind of under paint your boat has. You will not want to use any cleaners that are too strong or abrasive and remove or scratch the paint. Most of the time, you will be cleaning your hull in the water. You will need hull cleaner, a brush or mitt, and a suction cleat (optional). Suction cleats are helpful when cleaning because you can put it on the hull and hang onto it as you clean so you have somewhere to grab.

Giving your boat a good scrub all over, but particularly the waterline and below will help keep it clean and looking good. Marine life such as barnacles and algae thrive in the water and in objects submerged. Regularly cleaning will help avoid those unwanted guests. Using a good polish and wax will help protect the exterior of the boat against these instances as well.

Once you have scrubbed and rinsed every area, give the entire boat one last rinse with water. You will then want to wipe everything down with a highly absorbent towel and make sure to get everything as dry as possible to avoid water marks.

After the boat is dry, you will be able to buff it and get it ready to be waxed. Using marine polish and wax is best for the boat surfaces. This will help protect the vessel while in and out of use. Some things that are included on a full boat detail are:

  • Wash windows and windshield
  • Vacuum floors and seats
  • Scrub flooring and teak with soapy water
  • Polish chrome
  • Use a vinyl cleaner and UV protectant coating on any vinyl
  • Keep your boat cover clean as well to help prevent the boat from getting dirty while covered

Maintaining and Protecting Your Boat

Now that you have the know-how to clean both the interior and exterior of your boat, you will want to make sure to keep up with your boat's maintenance and help protect your investment. Properly cleaning your boat's interior and exterior regularly will not only keep it looking nice, but it will also help with the longevity of your boat. The frequency of cleaning your boat depends on how often you are on it as well as if it is stored in or out of the water. The more you use your boat, the more you will need to clean it.

As always, you are able to hire someone to clean your boat for you if preferred. Boat detailers usually either charge per boat or per house. We recommend doing some research to find the one that works best for you.

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