Your boat is constantly in water, no need to clean it right?
Keeping a clean boat will extend its lifespan by years and will keep your investment looking like new.
There's no all-purpose cleaner that will get the job done inside and out. There's also a few ways to harm your boat's surfaces.
For sparkling results it's best to understand the materials you are working with and the products you need to get the job done right.
Cleaning Your Boat Interior
Always vacuum first. Applying water and scrubbing when there is loose dirt or other particles present is an easy way to cause scratches and tears. For fabric areas, use a brush attachment to loosen anything that may have gotten stuck in the fibres and use a wedged attachment to get between seams.
Even if you're not planning a full wash, you should schedule periodic - 2 to 3 times per boating season - vacuum sessions to avoid abrasions and worn out fibres.
*This is where your first mistake can be avoided. Most people follow the next 3 steps 1-by-1. They soak, they clean, they rinse. This is indeed the correct order but treating your whole interior in this manner usually results - especially on hot days - in sticky soap that doesn't rinse out properly. This causes fibres to stick together and harden.
Soak one area of your boat's interior at a time. Every bit of cleaning you do to your boat should be as gentle as possible. A pressure washer is a terrible idea, but take it a step further by removing the nozzle from a garden house. Let the water dribble out and soak the area you're concentrating on.
Work your product of choice into the fabrics. Again, be gentle by using a soft brush or cloth. Rather than overwork that elbow grease, work an area, rinse, and re-apply more product. Repeat the process as needed until problem areas are free of grease, grime, and dirt. Repeated use of water and product will get the grime out just as well as scrubbing real hard, but also avoids damaging fabrics.
As you use this method throughout the interior of your boat make sure that you're rinsing everything off before you move on to the next section.
You can use a little more pressure to achieve this but not too much.
What we're trying to avoid with all this gentle behaviour is
1) Avoid too much heat, this will burn your fibres
2) Avoid pushing too hard on the carpet, this will separate the glue from the underside.
The last step is to soak up any remaining water. Bust out the shop vac and work the surface of your carpet to suck up any water that's been left behind. Using a soft brush attachment will fluff up your fibres back to near-new.
Cleaning Your Boat Hull
Start with a rinse to get all of the loose dirt and surface scum off the aluminum hull. You can use the full pressure of your garden hose nozzle but a pressure washer should be avoided.
Follow the directions on your cleaning product. Some solutions will need a few seconds or even 10-15 minutes to foam up, others will begin to form a film that gets baked in by the sun a little sooner.
If you have years of built up grime - especially in problem areas - you're going to want to be fairly generous with the amount of solution you're using.
As prescribed by the directions on your product, rinse off the hull.
You're likely to see a massive difference the first time around but you are going to want to repeat the process. Areas like seams and corners will hold grit a lot more compared to flat surface areas.
Start by using a cotton rag to scrub away those problem areas. You can dig in with your elbow grease as much as you want as there's almost no chance of scratching the aluminum boat surface. If you're using the product as prescribed and still not able to get dirt off the surface use a green scrub pad. There's a fair enough chance of scratches, but far less than using steel wool.
Inside and out, that's how to clean your boat. But, you probably still have a few questions.
How Do I Clean a Fibreglass Hull?
It's the same process as cleaning an aluminum hull, just a different product. Look for a solution that's specifically designed for fibreglass and gel coats. There's also the optional added step of a protective wax coat. This is highly recommended. A good wax goes a long way to protect your finish and avoids having to use silicone products to restore damaged surfaces - this makes any repair work a mess to deal with.
What About Rust, Stains, or Hard Water Spots?
All of these are possible to deal with but you can't rely on your regular cleaner. Find a product that specializes in the type of problem you're having and follow the directions.
How Do I Clean the Console and Glass?
Windex is always a safe bet for glass or glass-like materials. We see a lot of streaks though. You only need a small amount and then a dry wipe to do the trick. You should do this after you've cleaned everything else, otherwise water drops
How Do I Clean Travel Covers, Enclosures, and Bimini Tops?
You'll want to take the top off the boat and find a nice flat, clean area.
Brush off loose dirt and hose it down with liberal amounts of water. Work in your cleaning solution with a soft bristle brush and allow to soak for 10-15 minutes. Rinse off all the soap - again with plenty of water - and air dry.
What Products Should I Be Using?
We've been in the boating business for a few decades now and have heard a lot of claims when it comes to cleaning products. We've recently found a company that follows through - Babe's Boat Care Products.
It's a family-run business - which we can relate to and appreciate - and offer a full range of environmentally friendly products.
Seat Soap: Cleans vinyl, plastic, and leather.
Seat Saver: Protects vinyl, plastic, and leather.
Boat Bright: Wax with built-in UV protection.
Mildew Master: Removes mould from carpet and hard surfaces.
Clever Cleaner: Specially designed to remove dirt, scum, and exhaust residue.
Metal Magic: Removes water spots, tarnish, and oxidization.
Well Wash: Cleans your live well and keeps bacteria out with pro-biotics
Spot Solver: Removes stains from seat and cover fabrics.
Odor Oust: Neutralizes wet dog, fish, and other typical boating odours.
Boat Bubbles: A gentle formula for gel coats.
Of course there are tons of DIY concoctions out there.
For best results take some time to clean your boat - inside and out, including the trailer and motor - on a frequent basis. If you're constantly keeping clean there's no chance for major problems to set in and have to deal with in the future.
Yours In Boating,