Article from Interlux website
Boats are subjected to harsh conditions that, over time, dull
fiberglass, dim the shine of metals and fade paint. Winter storage is
particularly unkind to boats sitting
sadly neglected for several
months. Boats in southern climates endure tropical exposures that age
their appearance faster so, either north or south springtime clean up
demands some powerful cleaning aids. Factor the multitude of products
on store shelves and as many theories on their application and you have
the makings of a job gone
awry. As with any task, choosing the right tools and materials can save
you time and money.
Before heading to the boatyard, collect your tools (refer to the
clean-up kit on this page). Once there, follow these steps to quickly
and easily clean and protect your boat all season long.
Cleaning rule number one: Thoroughly rinse the boat with plenty of
water to remove any loose grime and grit that may be clinging to the
surface. Begin rinsing at the highest point on the flying bridge or
cabin top and work down, moving from the bow to the stern so the water
drains out naturally.
Add some boat soap to your bucket and using a sponge, wash mitt or
brush wash surfaces, working again from the top down. Rinse the sponge
or cleaning mitt in the bucket often. Don't let any soap dry on the
surface. Keep a hose nearby to rinse frequently with plenty of water.
For the final rinse, remove the nozzle from the hose and allow the
water to sheet off the surface. Less water hastens the drying time.
Cleaning is simple. If, when using a wash mitt or brush you're sweating
and applying a lot of elbow grease, you're working too hard. Harsh
scrubbing forces contaminants into the surface, which can scratch the
finish. Let the cleaning products do the work for you.
Cleaning rule number two: Always use a boat soap. Leave the
Cascade, Fantastic, Palmolive, Simple Green et al at home. Household
products may work great but they can damage gelcoat if allowed to dry
on the surface. Most of these products are highly alkaline with a pH of
around 12 to 14 (Figure 1). They can completely strip wax layers and
even etch the gelcoat (known as alkaline streaking), if allowed to dry.
Neither acidic nor alkaline, most soaps formulated for marine use have
a neutral pH of 7 and are safe to use on gelcoat surfaces.
Soaps come in liquid and granular form and some liquids are
concentrated. Concentrates are nice because you use as much as you need
to get the job done. The first spring cleaning demands full strength
soap; for routine cleaning dilute the soap. Some soaps remove wax so
take care to select the right one if you want to remove wax.
If it's not stated on the label don't assume it's safe; household soaps
definitely remove wax. As for cleaning power, boat soaps work equally
well. A high-sudsy soap doesn't clean better and, with suds, less is
best. We associate suds with cleaning power but covering the surfaces
to be cleaned with suds obscures the dirt that needs your attention.
One-step wash and wax products apply an additional barrier that,
depending on the amount of rainfall and sunlight your boat withstands,
gives up to two weeks of protection. These waxed soaps make surfaces
easier to clean and slightly enhance surface gloss. For the final
rinse, remove the nozzle and turn the hose pressure down to about 50%
so water gently wets the surface. Spraying surfaces with a blast of
water won't remove the wax affect but you're adding more water to the
surface than necessary and this extends the drying time.
To remove wax you'll need a heavy duty acidic cleaner. Use full
strength or dilute following the manufacturer's instructions. Some
products will damage painted surfaces so, again, check the label and
look for "paint safe." Always follow with a thorough scrubbing with
soap and water and rinse well to remove all residue, which contaminates
surfaces and leaves a hazy finish after waxing. If the gelcoat is in
good condition, follow with a wax or polish or apply a rubbing compound
on faded surfaces. [Step-by-step instructions on refinishing dull and
faded gelcoat and the proper application of rubbing compounds, glazes
and waxes appears in DIY 2002-No.1 issue.
More than Bristles
Cleaning rule number three: Invest in quality brushes and you'll need
more than one. Brushes are useful to clean those hard to reach areas
and to apply more cleaning power on deck non-skid. W've owned a
variety of inexpensive brushes sold for home and auto use and none cut
the mustard. Wood brushes rot where the handle shaft screws into the
brush and, with wear, the bristles flatten and fall out, leaving a blue
trail on the deck and exposing the screw that secures the handle.
Better brushes are made of plastic or poly with a molded-in handle.
Premium brushes have a rubber bumper around the edge that protect
surfaces in contact with the brush head.
Brushes are rated by firmness and for most cleaning jobs you'll need
two: a soft brush for cleaning gelcoat and painted topsides and a stiff
brush for cleaning non-skid decks, teak, canvas and cushions and
scrubbing waterline stains. Flying bridge cruisers with a large
enclosure will want a third, very soft brush to gently clean windows.
This supersoft brush is gentle on graphics, too. A brush that curls and
pushes out or flattens usually means you've been scrubbing too hard.
rule number four: Always dry surfaces. Professional boat detailers
always dry a boat yet most boaters opt for air drying. Drying does a
couple of things. The freshwater used for rinsing contains a concoction
of chlorine, lime and maybe iron from well water. These sediments
create a residue on surfaces that is only removed by wiping down.
A secondary benefit is that drying gets you up close with your boat so
you can check for damage or defects and inspect fittings. After
rinsing, wipe down all surfaces using a PVA cloth (Absorber) or use a
squeegee for a spot and streak-free finish. Surfaces will look cleaner
and glossier if dried.
Cleaning rule number five: Protect smooth gelcoat surfaces
(everything but non-skid) with an application of wax or polish. The
porous, colored resin finish on your boat is only 20 mils thick, that's
about 5 sheets of office copy paper. UV rays, salt, atmospheric
pollution, acid rain, insect fluids and bird droppings wage a
never-ending war on your boat's finish. Waxing puts a protective layer
between the gelcoat and the environment. It also makes your new or old
boat look better. In choosing a protective product, here are some
points to consider.
Synthetic polishes and waxes have been available for many years now and
offer ease of application and maximum durability. Paste waxes put a
slightly heavier film thickness on the surface than polishes but they
take more energy to apply and remove. Also, because they go on thicker,
they deliver slightly longer protection. Liquid polishes apply and come
off with much less effort. Paste products are traditionally applied and
removed by machine, liquid by machine or hand.
When manually working with either of these products, use an application
pad, preferably a micro fiber one. You'll find less expensive micro
fiber rags and towels sold at Costco, Sams and Target stores.
I've always been a big fan of paste waxes applied with a buffer. Last
season, for the first time, I applied a polish using the same technique
I would to buff a wax but my large, swooping circles left dull and
shiny patches. Proper application of liquids takes a golf ball size
amount squirted on the applicator pad and working just within arms
length, wipe in a small circular motion. As soon as resistance is felt
on the pad, add more liquid. Use lots of polish. Wait a few minutes for
it to haze and then remove it with a clean and dry micro fiber cloth,
turning it frequently to expose a clean surface. Move along the
surface, working in small areas, applying and removing.
Cleaning rule number six: Regardless of the wax or polish used, follow
with Interlux Teflon Wax Sealer. Just as a glaze (3M Marine Finesse-it
II) is the essential second step when compounding, a sealer follows
waxing. The extra effort is worth the results. When applied over wax,
this product completely fills the gelcoat pores and within 24 hours
dries to a mirror smooth and hard, non-stick finish that repels dirty
water, salt spray, dirt, oil, UV rays, engine exhaust, rust and
waterline stains. Apply a second coat and you'll triple the life of
your wax. On new boats, apply sealer directly onto the surface without
wax for season-long protection. A very thin liquid, Teflon Sealer goes
on using the same technique as a polish.
Cleaning rule number seven: It's not necessary to clean with soap every
time you wash your boat. Before and after every outing just rinse the
boat with freshwater to remove surface dirt and towel (or squeegee)
dry. The natural abrasiveness of soap, regardless of the "safe" product
claims, does break down wax. Under normal circumstances a wax lasts 2
to 4 months. Scrub it with soap every week and its life is much
shorter. When you do need to use soap, use a diluted solution.
On mornings with heavy dew, dry surfaces using an Absorber or mop and
you're good to go. On clean, dry surfaces, liberally apply a spray-on
wax. This restores the gloss and renews the UV inhibitors so the sun
doesn't begin to break down the protective layer of polish. Salt is
hard on metals and will, over time, oxidize aluminum and rust stainless
steel. Routinely rinse off salt from railings, anchor chain, the
windlass and other metal hardware.
Proper cleaning helps to protect your boat from elements that spoil its
appearance and otherwise might damage finishes and fittings. With the
right techniques this is achievable so you spend more time on the water
and less time cleaning.
link from the Interlux website
|Cover your boat for long-term storage, preferably with
which offers better protection, lessens chafe and keeps the boat
||Use alkaline cleaning products that can damage surfaces
and the marine environ-ment.
|Before using any product, read the application and
first aid instructions on the back label and then follow them.
||Use a metal hose nozzle as it will chip or crack the
gelcoat when (not if) dropped.
|When washing a boat in a slip or a mooring, use a
biodegradable, environmentally friendly soap.
||Dry wipe bird droppings with a towel or you'll scratch
the surface area with the excreted seeds and nuts that birds eat.
|Start rinsing and cleaning at the highest point and
work your way down.
||Use a towel or rag as contaminants might scratch the
surface. Use micro
fiber towels, which gently lift and remove dirt and grime without
smearing or streaking. When dirty, toss them into a washing machine and
|When cleaning a very dirty boat, have a second large
bucket filled with
clean water to rinse the brush or wash mitt often to remove dirt and
||Use a fabric softener, dryer softener sheets or a
detergent with fabric softener when washing any rag.
|Minimize soapsuds so you can see what you're cleaning.
||Scrub hard or you'll scratch surfaces. Let the cleaning
products do all the work.
|For the final rinse, remove the hose nozzle and reduce
the water pressure so water sheets rather than beads on the surface.
||Use any products that contain silicone oil.
|Dry surfaces after washing, rain or heavy dew.
||Let any soap dry on surfaces. Keep a rinse hose handy.
|Vigorously shake product bottles for a few seconds
prior to opening.
||Apply rubbing compounds, polishes or waxes on hot
surfaces and never apply in sunlight.
|Apply rubbing compounds in a back-and-forth motion.
Apply polish (or wax) in a circular motion.
||Apply polish on a wet surface as water droplets can
cause streaking or make the polish difficult to remove.
|Apply polish to everything onboard, including painted
and var-nished finishes, metals and plastics, for a glossy,
easy-to-clean protective layer.
||Apply a polish or wax to non-skid surfaces. Woody Wax,
according to label directions, offers good non-slip protection to
||On painted boats, use products that are not approved
for use on painted surfaces.