Boats are exposed to the elements on a daily basis. The combination of water, wind and sun can cause wear on a vessel over time, so knowing how to keep your boat clean and protected is an important part of every owner’s maintenance routine.
Cleaning your boat can be time-consuming, but it is important. Of course, you could pay someone to do it for you, but professional detailing can be expensive. So, we’ve put together a rundown on cleaning your boat from bow to stern, inside and out. And here’s a tip: if you can get a crew together to help, you’ll have it done in a fraction of the time.
When it comes to cleaning, your hull’s material matters, and so does your choice of cleaning products. Don’t be tempted to grab your household cleaning products from underneath the kitchen sink as they can damage your boat. Instead, opt for marine-grade cleaning products that have a neutral pH of 7 and won’t compromise your hull’s surface.
For aluminium boats, every few months use a marine aluminium cleaner together with a scrubbing pad to remove surface stains and waterline marks. Start at the bottom, work your way up in small sections and rinse as you go, so the cleaner doesn’t mark the surface. Finish with an aluminium polish applied with a soft cloth. Rinse your boat every few weeks to keep any pollutants or oxidation spots at bay.
For fibreglass hulls, a quick freshwater rinse with a hose every few weeks will help keep grime at bay and your gelcoat surface clean. Using a boat soap is only necessary when your boat is actually dirty, as washing weekly with soap can compromise the integrity of its protective gel coat. To avoid scratching, always use a fresh cloth or chamois to dry your boat and finish with a soft cloth to buff away any water spots. Two or three times a year, apply a boat wax to restore and maintain the gelcoat.
Your boat’s canvas and Isinglass panels need regular cleaning to avoid mould and stains. A simple hose-down and a gentle scrub with a soft brush dipped in mild soapy water will keep them clean. Rinse with clean water then dry with a chamois to avoid water spots forming. Find out more about keeping your exterior vinyls and fabrics clean here.
A word about wood
If your boat has a teak deck, panelling, or any external structural timber, you probably already know it needs regular maintenance to protect it from UV exposure, salt water and the weathering effects of wind. A gentle, regular brushing with mild soapy water will keep wooden surfaces clean but consult your boat’s manufacturer’s suggestions before you undertake any oiling, staining or waxing.
Maintain a superior interior
Now you’ve got your exterior spick and span, it’s time to clean the interior of your vessel. First of all, forget about using bleach. If you need to remove mould or mildew, use a formula that’s specifically designed for boat care. Regular household bleach is far too harsh for your boat’s surfaces as it can weaken stitching, crack vinyl and also has a habit of ending up where you don’t want it, like on the carpet.
While we’re on the subject of carpet, knowing how to care for marine carpet can make a big difference to how fresh your boat smells, wet or dry. While marine carpet is designed to withstand moisture to a point, it can quickly become smelly if not cleaned properly. A regular vacuum and spot clean plus an occasional gentle scrub with a soft brush and soapy water should keep it fresh and prolong its lifespan.
Cushions and seats should be wiped down regularly with a specially formulated vinyl cleaner to remove mould, salt and sunscreen products, which can become embedded in your seats even though they might not be visible. (You can find boat vinyl cleaner at boat supplies stores and online.) Fabric cushion covers can usually be washed in your washing machine, but check your manufacturers’ care instructions before you do, and in most cases, avoid tumble drying in case of shrinkage.
Non-slip fibreglass surfaces will benefit from a regular brush with a stiff-bristle broom followed by a non-skid deck treatment with polymers that protect the surface, without adding any dangerous, slippery topcoats.
Heads and bathrooms can be cleaned like any normal bathroom, but again, keep in mind that non-slip formulations are important for yours and your passengers’ safety.
Protect your investment
Boats are a lot of work, but they’re also a lot of fun. And regardless of its size, your boat is an asset, so it makes sense to keep it in good nick and protect your investment so you can enjoy it, even more so if you intend to sell it or upgrade at some point. The same logic applies when it comes to protection for your peace of mind, in case the unexpected should happen.
NRMA Insurance offers boat insurance that covers accidental damage, collision, theft, storm and even salvage and rescue services. They also offer options such as layup cover as an option for when your boat’s out of the water and liability cover for water skiing and floatation devices. If you need boat insurance, or want to find out more, call 132 132 or go online for a quote.