Boating is one of the most pleasurable experiences that you can have on our beautiful lakes, rivers, and oceans. Boats involve a large amount of cleaning and maintenance, though, which can be time consuming and not particularly fun. Some boat owners use more of their time cleaning their boats than they actually spend enjoying them out on the water. While keeping your boat clean and maintained is essential, there is no reason why you need to use so much of your time cleaning. If you use the right equipment and cleaning products, you can save time while maintaining your boat's beauty and protecting it from destructive marine elements and harsh weather. You can also lessen the time and effort of cleaning your boat by cleaning it regularly and by using boat covers when it is not in use.

Cleaning Your Boat's Exterior — Selecting the Appropriate 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 heavy duty brush for scrubbing away dirt, grime, stains, and salt. The brush should not be so harsh and rigid that it could damage 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 decrease the chances of arm and back strain 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 helpful products for boat cleaning include buckets large enough for your brush, sponges, mops, towels, and chamois cloths. Crucial for your boat as well as the environment is your choice of soap. You should use a soap that is effective 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 harsh and could cause damage to the finish of your boat. If you use your boat in salt water, it's important that you use fresh water and soap to eliminate the salt build-up 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 any length of time.

The Best Way to Clean Your Boat's Exterior

Now that you have the appropriate equipment and cleaning products for the exterior of your boat, you can get started with 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 otherwise harm your boat's finish or clear coat. Use a sponge or washing cloth with soapy water, and begin by lathering 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 require another rinse. 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 soaping up the area to be washed, use your scrub brush to clean away any dirt and grime before rinsing. To prevent water from drying and forming spots, use chamois cloths or dry, soft towels to dry off any moisture after washing. One or two times per season, you should wax and polish your fiberglass boat to protect the shine of the boat's finish. Use a quality wax, such as a carnauba wax, for ultimate protection.

Caring for the Details

Additional areas 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 can 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 may be some newer products available that can improve these damaged conditions. Teak wood trim and decking should be varnished to preserve them and keep them looking like new. If the wood already appears faded or worn, you can sand it and then protect it by applying teak oil.

Cleaning the Boat's Engine

You will need to clean and most likely degrease the engine or motor of your boat. It is vital 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/protectant, such as WD-40 or Boeshield T-9, used in conjunction with a cleaning cloth is often enough to remove the built up dirt, grime, and grease. These products also preserve engine parts by creating a protective barrier from moisture. If it's an older engine with a considerable amount of build-up, you may need to apply 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 after you have finished cleaning.

Cleaning Your Boat's Interior

You will also want to clean the interior of your boat, including the carpets and vinyl upholstery. For the carpets, you should vacuum them to remove any loose dirt and grime. For tougher stains, 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 dry completely 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 mold or mildew build-up, 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 potentially damaging 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.