Boat Ownership

How To Clean A Boat

I’m sitting in the marina staring at my boat, thinking, how do I clean a boat the right way?

Cleaning a boat requires special care since it’s exposed to harsh environments. When you get back from an outing, the best time to clean a boat is right. Flush the engine with water, rinse the interior and exterior with water, and give it a final rinse.

In the rest of this article, I’ll give you more info on which products to use, how to use them, and what will keep your boat looking and operating well for years.

What Type Of Boat Are You Cleaning?

The type of boat you have matters. An aluminum boat will require different care than a fiberglass boat.

Always flush your engine with fresh water after use. If you don’t, you’ll get salt and other deposits that degrade your seals and move parts over time. Use earmuffs and a mixer (if using salt-away) and run it for 3-5 minutes or longer. I like to watch the stream pour out to ensure no blockages.

For an aluminum boat on a trailer, I like to rinse it down with water mixed with salt. I’ll use a scrub brush, but only sometimes if I have a scrub brush.

Fiberglass boats require more care. Don’t use anything that can scratch the outside, like a stainless steel scrubber or a brush with stiff bristles. Again, I like to rinse with a bit of salt off and make sure I use a towel to hand dry. Spraying some liquid wax is also advised, although not everyone does that.

Boat Cleaning Supplies

A lot of boat cleaning supplies are on the market, and here are a few they should have on hand.

You are going to need a bucket so that you can mix your soap with water. You’ll want an assortment of brushes and sponges to eliminate all the salt. And I want some towels so they can dry off the boat.

I mostly look for boat-safe or marine-safe products. I wouldn’t recommend using products made for cars or homes since the boat will enter a waterway, and the residue can hurt the environment. It’s best to look for biodegradable products.

Boat Interior

When it comes to cleaning the interior of your boat, it depends on your electronics and what you have exposed. On the boats I’ve been on, some guys like to spray down everything with a hose, and others want just to spray the deck and side walls leaving the electronics free from water.

Some boats have vinyl which will require extra care if you’re leaving your boat exposed to the Sun. It’s always recommended to use a boat cover whenever possible because UV rays will degrade fragile materials over time. You can also use a vinyl protectant spray with UV blockers if you can’t cover your boat.

The secret for Removing mildew end stains on vinyl is to use OxiClean, a little water, and a scrub brush. It’s amazing what a little elbow grease will do to those annoying stains. He might be tempted to use a chlorine-based product however I don’t recommend it because it will take a toll on the vinyl and damage it in the long-term.

 One of the things that trouble some is fish blood. If you’re using a fishing boat, it’s best to rinse the inside of your boat when you’re out on the water to remove the fish bowl before it dries. If it ends up trying, you’ll need to scrub It Off, which is a lot of work. Depending on the size of your boat it’s helpful to have a hose and spray nozzle to do this; however, just using a bucket to flush the deck also works. 

Cleaning A Boat In The Water

If you’re fortunate enough to own a slip, you won’t need to remove your boat every time you go home. However, this does because it sounds set of challenges since the bottom of your boat is a prime breeding ground for animals and plants.

 It took me a while to realize this but water is flirting with nutrients, and critters are just looking for structure to make their home. That means you’ll need to scrape these beings off your hall regularly.

 If your slip is in salt water, you will want to clean the bottom of your boat at least every month. her fresh water, you might be able to get away with a little bit longer, but it all depends on the environmental conditions.

 If you’re feeling adventurous, you can get into a wetsuit if your water is cold, grab a scraper, and scrape the stuff off your boat yourself. However, if that sounds like too much work for you, then hiring a cleaning service specializing in this is okay. Just know it’s not the cheapest service since it’s a lot of hard work but worth it. I’ve seen some neglected boats in the marina, which look like a marine Forest underneath the hull.

Is Pressure Washing OK?

Extreme pressure washing is not recommended for your boat, especially for more fragile fiberglass boats.  

I like to use a garden hose nozzle end stand three or four feet away from the boat on the most powerful setting to get the hall clean. Since my boat is aluminum, I can be slightly more abrasive. When it comes to cleaning any of the internals or if I want to ensure that everything has a good soak, I’ll turn on the shower function.

Don’t forget to wash the outside of your motor if you have an outboard. Anything that moves or has a hole that can get built up, especially when you’re in salty areas, should be cleaned thoroughly. For example, I Once forgot to wash the outside of my outboard and ended up plugging the telltale (the pisser) nearly blowing up the engine.

Common Etiquette

I shouldn’t have to say any of this, but if you’re going to be riding on somebody’s boat, the least you can do is offer and help clean it after your outing.  Far too often, I’ve seen guys spend the whole day making a mess on the boat. Then when back at the dock, they said they had a prior commitment, leaving the captain and whoever else was remaining to pick up the mess.

 That’s one way not to be invited back on the boat.

The captain’s super helpful if they have all the cleaning supplies in one common area, either in your car or back at the dock, so it’s efficient to clean the boat. Having a new guy has Johnny, for the first time, set the expectation before heading out on the water that doesn’t need to be for you for at least 30 to 40 minutes after they get back to be able to do the cleaning.

I have a trailer for your boat if you’re doing the cleaning back at home. At least get them to help make sure the boat is properly on the trailer and secure. Many new guys will need to learn what to do, but training them will make your life much easier for future trips. 

I wish you many years of safe boating!

By Captain Jon

Jon has two boats in his little armada. A 16-foot Gregor Baja that he uses for inshore fishing and spearfishing and a 14-foot Takacat 420LX inflatable catamaran for Baja missions. Jon was fortunate enough to have boating mentors make his time on the water more efficient and wants to pass on the learnings to you.

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