The following tips will help your boat look it’s best and will also protect your valuable asset from the unforgiving marine environment, in the most efficient way possible.
1. Choose the Right Cleaning Equipment – Consider the type of boat you’ll be cleaning and ensure you have the right tools and materials for the job. Choose brushes that are sturdy and will get the job done, yet soft enough not to damage the finish. For most situations, a brush with medium-soft bristles will do just fine. In addition to a good scrub brush, be sure to have other necessities, such as a bucket (large enough for your brush), washing pads, a mop, sponges, chamois cloths and towels handy.
2. Select a Good, Environmentally Friendly Soap – For marine use, you’ll want to select a soap that will be tough on dirt, grime, and salt, yet easy on the environment. Select an effective, biodegradable cleaning agent with a neutral pH factor. Be aware that certain “super concentrated” detergents may not be suitable for your boat, as these cleansers can strip away and damage finishes when left on for extended periods of time.
3. Lather it Up – Before you think about applying any cleaning agents or touching the hull with a scrub brush, make sure you rinse the entire boat off completely. Whatever you do, never scrub a dry boat or you will risk damaging the finish or gel coat. Lather up with a sponge soaked in the soapy solution, scrub, and rinse sections of your boat at a time.
4. Soak Things Up – Use soft drying cloths that are highly absorbent and will soak up water without stripping or scratching. Chamois cloths or drying mops made of chamois material are good choices. To avoid “spotting,” be sure to dry off your boat immediately after washing and rinsing.
5. Glass Cleaning – A simple water and vinegar solution works well as a glass cleanser, and it’s easy on the environment. If glass and Perspex is heavily scratched, not much can be done in the way of repairs. The best course of action is to guard against damage in the first place by applying a clear silicon spray or polish to the windows and cleaning them with a soft, non-abrasive cloth.
6. Shine – There are many quality cleaners and sealants available for keeping the chrome and stainless steel on your boat protected, shiny and bright. After cleaning, you may want to apply a quality wax sealer to create a protective barrier against the harsh elements. If your boat’s metalwork is pitted or oxidized, apply a quality metal wax and leave it on the problem area overnight. In the morning, take a piece of fine bronze wool and gently scrub off the wax applied to the pitted or oxidized area. This process, repeated several times, should make a considerable difference.
7. Teak – If you have teak on your boat, regular care will be required to maintain the original rich color. For various reasons, it’s best to varnish your teak. Instead, wash it off with the mild detergent used for the hull, rinse, dry, and apply teak oil. If the teak is worn and has lost some of its color, rub it gently with sandpaper (a heavier grade at first, followed by a finer grade). Once the sanding is completed, clean it and allow it to dry, then apply teak oil. Performing this kind of maintenance will go a long way in keeping your boat’s teak looking like it should.
8. Vinyl Upholstery – First, clean off your boat’s vinyl upholstery with a damp cloth to remove grime, dirt and salt. You may want to follow this by applying a quality vinyl cleaner and again wiping off the surface. If mildew stains have formed on your vinyl upholstery, use a deck brush with medium-soft bristles and scrub with a water and ammonia mixture (4 parts water to one part ammonia). Follow with a freshwater rinse, dry, and repeat this process if necessary. For tougher cases, several effective commercial stain removers appropriate for use on vinyl upholstery are available.
9. Carpeting Cleaning – If the cabin portion of your boat is carpeted, you should vacuum and spot clean this area periodically. Using the specialized hose attachments will help you remove dust and dirt from hard to reach places. Start from the front of the cabin area and work toward the stern. This way you won’t be stepping on areas you have already cleaned. To avoid dirt or stains on your boat’s carpet, its best to avoid tracking dirt or fish blood from the deck in the first place. If the carpet is already stained or soiled, use a quality stain remover (following the manufacturer’s instructions), followed by a steam-cleaning with a carpet machine, if possible.
10. Cleaning Your Engine – It’s important to make cleaning your boat’s engine part of your annual ritual at the end of the season. A quality engine cleaner, 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 grease remover, 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.
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