Boating is one of the most enjoyable experiences that you can have on our beautiful lakes, rivers, and oceans. Boats require a good deal of cleaning and maintenance, though, which is often time consuming and not always enjoyable. Some boat owners spend as much time, if not more, cleaning their boats than they actually spend using them on the water. While keeping your boat clean and maintained is important, there is no reason that you should spend a majority of your time cleaning and polishing. With the proper equipment and cleaning products, you can save time while maintaining your boat’s beauty and protecting it from the harsh marine elements. You can also reduce the time and effort of cleaning your boat by cleaning it routinely as and by using boat covers when it is not in use. Cleaning Your Boat’s Exterior: Choosing the Right Equipment The type of boat you have and the materials from which it is made will determine what equipment and products are best for cleaning it. For most boats, you will need a durable brush for scrubbing away dirt, grime, stains, and salt. The brush should not be so stiff and coarse that it could cause damage to your boat’s finish or clear coat. Your brush should have a sturdy handle, long enough to reach all areas of your boat, up high and down low. This will eliminate the strain on your back and arms and will give you the needed leverage for effective boat cleaning. The brush and its bristles should be strong enough to withstand repeated use with cleaning products, exposure to the weather, and even salt water. Other handy products to have for boat cleaning include buckets large enough for your brush, sponges, mops, towels, and chamois cloths. Very important for your boat as well as the environment is your choice of soap. You should use a soap that is tough on dirt and grime, yet safe for the environment. Use a biodegradable soap with a neutral PH factor. Do not use dish washing detergents; they are too strong and could cause damage to the finish of your boat. If you use your boat in salt water, it is particularly important that you use fresh water and soap to remove the salt buildup that can corrode your boat’s finish. Always be sure to follow the boat manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean your boat. Do not allow the soap to dry and remain on your boat for extended periods of time. The Best Way to Clean Your Boat’s Exterior Now that you have the proper equipment and cleaning products for the exterior of your boat, you can start cleaning. First, rinse the entire boat with clean, fresh water. This will remove and loosen any dirt, grime, and impurities that may have built up on the finish. Never brush or scrub a dry boat, as this may scratch or damage your boat’s finish or clear coat. Use a sponge or washing cloth with soapy water, and start lathering up areas at the top of the boat, working your way down. Working from the top to the bottom of the boat will keep suds from running over the already cleaned areas, which would then have to be rinsed again. Lather only one area at a time; if you lather the entire boat, the suds will dry and cause you to have to rewash the cleaned areas again to prevent streaking. After lathering, use your scrub brush to remove any dirt and grime before rinsing. To prevent water spots, use chamois cloths or dry, soft towels to dry off any moisture after washing. Once or twice a boating season, you should wax and polish your fiberglass boat to preserve the shine and luster of the boat’s finish. Use a quality wax, such as a carnauba wax, for maximum protection. Caring for the Details Other components of your boat that may need special attention include metal trim and rails, glass or Perspex windows, and any wood trim or decking. Use a quality cleaner and sealant for any chrome or stainless steel on your boat. For pitted or oxidized places on any metal surfaces, use of a metal wax may be necessary to improve their condition. Follow the metal cleaner manufacturer’s recommended instructions. Depending on the severity of the damage of your metal surfaces, the cleaning process may need to be repeated several times. For the glass and Perspex windows, a quality glass cleaner can be used, or a water and vinegar solution may work just as well. If the Perspex glass is already heavily scratched, there may not be much that can be done to repair it; however, there have been some new products developed recently that may improve their damaged conditions. Teak wood trim and decking should be varnished to keep them protected and looking good. If the wood has already been worn and lost some of its original color, you can sand it and then protect it by applying teak oil. Cleaning the Boat’s Engine You will need to clean and possibly degrease the engine or motor of your boat. It’s important to make cleaning your boat’s engine part of your annual winterization ritual at the end of the season. Some boat owners choose to do this themselves, while others opt to have this done, along with other winterization tasks, by an experienced mechanic. A quality engine cleaner and protectant, such as WD-40 or Boeshield T-9, used in combination with a cleaning cloth is usually sufficient for removing accumulated dirt, grime, and grease. These products also protect engine parts by creating a protective shield from moisture. If it’s an older engine with a considerable amount of build-up, you may need to employ a more powerful de-greaser, such as “Gunk.” Whatever solutions you use, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, and protect or seal off electrical engine parts first. If grease is removed from key engine areas that require this lubrication, be sure to re-apply some to these points upon completion of your cleaning. Cleaning Your Boat’s Interior You will also want to clean the interior of your boat, such as the carpets and vinyl upholstery. For the carpets, you should vacuum them to remove any loose dirt and grime. And if there are any spots, you should treat the spots with a quality stain remover, always following the manufacturer’s recommended instructions. After vacuuming and spot cleaning, use a good steam cleaner. Start at the front of the boat and work your way back to avoid walking on the cleaned areas until they have completely dried. If a steam cleaner is not an option, scrub with a stiff bristled brush and a soapy solution and then rinse. Again, allow wet areas to completely dry before walking on them. For the vinyl upholstery in your boat, first wipe off with a damp cloth to remove any dirt, grime, or salt. Next, use a quality vinyl cleaner and wipe off all of the seats and padding inside the boat. For mildew buildup, use a mixture of four parts water to one part ammonia and scrub with a medium soft bristled brush. After cleaning, apply a light coat of furniture polish that is recommended for vinyl. This will help protect and guard against stains, and it will help preserve your boat’s upholstery for many years to come. Covering Your Boat with Quality Boat Covers After you have cleaned your boat, you should cover it with a quality protective boat cover. Anytime you store your boat for any reason, clean the interior and the exterior as much as possible, then cover it with a boat cover to preserve that clean interior until you remove the cover on your next outing. Your boat will be as clean as when you covered it up. Whether your boat is stored outside or being towed on a trailer, boat covers will protect from moisture, leaves, bird droppings, and other extreme outdoor elements. Whether your boat is a bass fishing boat, ski boat, deck boat, pontoon, v-hull, or another type, it’s important to protect your investment with protective boat covers. While there is a lot involved in properly caring for and maintaining boats, using the right equipment and products, protecting them with boat covers, and establishing a regular routine of cleaning will reduce the overall amount of time and effort spent on maintenance. Less time boat cleaning means more time enjoying your boat out on the water.