One of the simplest and most effective things you can do to maintain your boat is to keep it clean. When proper steps and effort is put forth cleaning your boat you not only gain a sense of pride but you are taking an important step in safeguarding your boats fit and finish.
Choose the right equipment for your type of boat. Sturdy brushes with telescoping handles help alleviate stress on our back and muscles and allow you to reach out of the way places. Consider the materials your boat is constructed of when buying cleaning tools. Generally a medium soft bristle brush is desired and won’t harm most surfaces. Some tougher non-skid decks may benefit from a stiff bristle brush. A sponge, clean rags, mop and detail brushes will also help you keep your boat clean. Applicator pads for vinyl cleaners and polishes are also suggested. Choose items that will stand up to the rigors of marine usage and the elements like salt water and the sun. Choose items that can be broken down and stored easily in the confines of your boat. Store your cleaning supplies in the same place and in good condition after every use and you will be able to find them and use them with little issue the next time you have to clean your boat.
Use only environmentally friendly products to clean your boat. It may seem like a proverbial drop in the bucket but imagine the environmental impact of every boat in your area using unsafe products to clean with. Try to avoid using concentrated products at full strength. This will potentially damage or strip finishes from your boat. Don’t use dishwashing soap to wash your boat as this will strip the wax or polish from surfaces. Don’t use bleach as it will corrode certain metals and is harmful to marine life. If you have stubborn stains try to use hydrogen peroxide or a cleaner like oxyclean diluted in water. Borax is also an alternative to bleach that works well on decks. Make sure you are using the proper cleaning agent for the proper surface. On isinglass or strataglass only use cleaners recommended by the manufacturer. On vinyl only use cleaners and protectors made for vinyl. Steer away from using a magic eraser as these are technically little blocks of sand paper and will remove finishes.
When washing your boat wash in sections so that soap doesn’t dry on the surfaces. Pay attention to the condition of your boat and note any damage or areas of concern where items might need re-bedded or repaired. A good wash is followed by a good rinse. Make sure to rinse all of the soap and dirt from scrubbing off the boat to avoid streaks. In areas with hard water hand drying with a towel is necessary to avoid water marks. To remove hard water marks try using vinegar and if they are on glass try using Bar Keepers Friend to polish them out.
When cleaning vinyl clean off heavy dirt and debris with mild soap and water then use a vinyl cleaner to remove stubborn stains. A mixture of 4 parts water to 1 part ammonia can be used to remove mildew or mold stains. There are also commercial cleaners that will safely remove mildew stains. Follow up with a good marine quality vinyl protectant.
Clean your canvas with a soft bristle brush and a marine canvas cleaner making sure when rinsing all the dirty water rinses clean off of the boat. Then apply a marine canvas protectant to protect your canvas from UV light and the elements.
Depending if your boat is painted or has the factory gelcoat you will need to wax your boat. In most areas of the country waxing twice a year is recommended with spot waxing when needed. In places with harsher UV light levels more frequent waxing might be needed. I wax twice a year, in the spring I apply several coats of a high quality marine liquid wax and one coat of a high quality paste wax. In the fall I apply one coat of cleaner wax and two coats of liquid wax. This protects the finish all year and makes the boat stand out. Painted surfaces may need a polish applied yearly or nothing at all depending on the brand of paint used and the amount of shine the paint has.
Washing and caring for your boat’s exterior shouldn’t take away from the fun and enjoyment of boating but a small amount of time spent caring for your boat will pay off in the long run. A clean shiny boat is worth more to a buyer and is more appealing to your guests.