Boat Waxing and Detailing

This article is an attempt to give some basic information about waxing and detailing of boats.

Lets assume you have already washed your boat and dried it. (the better you wash your boat the better the detailing is going to be)

The first thing you need to do is determine where your boats finish is. In a detailed sense, is it shiny and reflective? Is it a little dull, but still somewhat reflective? Or is it flat, dull and chalky? It may be a mix of all the above depending on where you are looking…

I like to rate things like this. Good, Fair, or Poor. For the purposes of this article we will consider the boat is in fair condition. By that I mean, it has some shine to it but its not as bright and reflective as it once was.

Lets talk about types of “wax” There are different types of wax that we can classify into 5 general categories.

Cleaners, Compounds, Wax, Glaze, and Sealants. These are all available in liquid form which is what we professional detailer’s use.

There are also paste type wax. I do not believe in this type of product as I have seen problems caused by it that far out weigh any potential benefits. Primarily having to do with difficulty in applying and removing without creating or leaving extra work. Also the stated benefits (long lasting) can be achieved with modern polymer type sealants.

1. Cleaners are chemical compounds that remove oxidation through solvents generally. Good for removing oxidization. They do not have any protective qualities.

2. Compounds are also used to remove oxidation and scuffs/scratches. They use an abrasive to do this as opposed to solvents. They also do not necessarily have any protective qualities.

3. Wax is generally considered what is the protective product designed to resist fading and contamination.

most have some combination of cleaners in them to also brighten or clean too.

4. Glaze is similar to wax only tends to be more geared to adding shine and less protection.

5. Sealants tend to be polymer based products. A synthetic product designed to give protection that lasts longer due to it’s ability to “bond” to the surface as opposed to sitting on top like a wax. Also used as a protective measure to resist fading and build up of contamination on surfaces. Many also contain cleaners to brighten.

Next, we should talk about methods of applying the different products.

By hand, Orbital polisher, High speed/rotary.

Hand application can be used for Wax, glaze or sealant application, but is not recommended for compound or cleaner products.

(If planning on hand waxing your entire boat you are in for a long difficult job) It can be done but I don’t recommend it.

Orbital buffer, can be used for all types of products. But may not be enough for compounding if oxidation level is heavy. This is the preferred method for do it your selfers and professional boat detailer’s. An orbital is easy to control, relatively light weight and fairly simple to master. (you still have to be careful and pay attention to what your doing to avoid personal injury and costly damage to your boat.)

High Speed Polisher/Rotary
This is typically used for compounding. Some “professional detailer’s” use only this machine. If you are not accustomed to using this machine on dry ground I would not attempt it on the water… This machine can renew the shine of a heavily oxidized boat using compound or cleaners. But can easily damage you or your boat with just a moment of lapse in focus. Do not use this as a first time on your boat. You or the boat will most likely pay if you do…

So your going to “wax” the boat lets assume you have decided to use a multy step process as your boat is in fair condition. And you decided to use an Orbital polisher because it seams like the best way. Easiest, safest, fastest.

There are two main types of orbital available today. The old large round plastic body with a thick pad that uses a cotton bonnet to apply and remove wax, or the newer smaller higher speed type that uses a foam pad for applying wax. I would recommend the latter. It costs a little more but is easier to use and does a significantly better job. Although with this one you will need to remove the applied wax by hand. (not as difficult as hand waxing but still is work)

Either way, you’ve selected a cleaner wax as your first step and a sealant as your final step. Some sealants are available as a combination (Griot’s One Step Sealant) and this may be a good way to go…

Starting at the top is always a good idea. We start on the topsides or roof if the boat has a pilothouse or fly bridge.

Apply a small amount of Cleaner or Sealant/cleaner to bonnet or pad. (enough that will wet the entire pad once machine is on but not to much it slings off the pad everywhere else.) usually the first amount is about the size of a 50 cent piece, then reduce to quarter size puddle on subsequent applications.

Put machine pad side down in nice open area (away from any edges, brightwork, molding, caulking etc.) And turn on move machine left to right in a an overlapping fashion either away from you or toward you your choice. Each new application of product should allow you to buff a 2×4′ area or slightly more depending on oxidation and weather…

Once the product is worked into the pad you can go out to any edges or joints and buff with their direction for good coverage. We usually allow the buffer to go back and forth over an area between two and four times before moving off that line half the distance of the pad and repeating. (always move the buffer in straight lines when doing “open” areas. The machine is spinning in circles so you don’t need to.

When buffing try to keep the pad flat so the weight of the machine does the work, you can add a little pressure but unless your trying to remove moderate to heavy oxidation you don’t need to “push” on machine. Just keep it flat… When you come to an angle its OK to angle the edge onto that surface, there you should add some pressure to make sure the surface is getting good contact with the pad and to take up that slack the exposed pad is creating… when you are done with an area or need to add product to your pad, turn off the machine before lifting it. As it slows down lift it away. (lifting with the machine on will cause pad or bonnet to spin off and possibly land in water or on ground. allowing it to stop completely before lifting away may cause excess wax to be on that spot… To do properly, turn off while moving in direction you are buffing and right before pad stops completely lift it away)

There are different ways to go about completing the boat wax process in regards to doing it section by section or all on all off at one time. three things usually help determine this. Level of oxidation, direct sun and temperature. I generally like to apply at least an entire area before even considering switching to taking off. for instance the whole roof, or the whole side of the hull, or the bow section of the topsides. However, high oxidation or direct sun can necessitate “taking off immediately”. (if you don’t it can become more difficult.) Weather can play a big role in this decision. In Seattle weather it’s usually OK to do as much area as I want before switching to taking off. Test different areas and see which works best for you.

Apply wax to all the smooth fiberglass in a methodical way from the top to the bottom of the boat. generally moving buffer from side to side, unless on a vertical section. Or along an agle or line that needs to be gone it that direction. Once the cleaner or sealant is applied it can be removed using either a cotton or microfiber towel. We use both, first cotton then micro fiber. On boats with less oxidation sometimes micro fiber alone works.

Article Source:

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