How to Clean a Boat


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Cleaning a boat might seem kind of silly — do you need to clean something that spends all or almost all of the time in the water?

The answer is yes. Boats need regular cleaning to ensure barnacles and other oceanic life don’t cause damage to the hull. If you’ve never cleaned a boat before, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Here are some easy steps to make your boat cleaning less of a hassle.

1. Get It out of the Water

Unless you’re secretly Aquaman or have gills, your first step will be getting your boat out of the water. The hardest part of the cleaning job stays hidden below the waterline, so to make your job easier, put your boat in dry-dock before you start your work.

For small boats, this is easy — drag it up onto the dock and flip it over. For larger vessels, you will need the assistance of a professional dock.

2. Rinse

You don’t generally want to wash your boat with the water it’s been sitting in, especially if you spend a lot of time in the ocean. Saltwater can cause a lot of problems for your vessel if you don’t take the right precautions.

Start by giving your boat a good freshwater rinse. This will knock off any loose debris and give you a better idea of how big a job this is going to be.

3. Start Scrubbing

This is probably the hardest part of cleaning your hull. If you spend a lot of time in the ocean or any salty body of water, you probably have barnacles growing on your hull and other portions of your boat. You’ll need a plastic putty knife to remove large barnacles, and a steel scrubber to get rid of smaller ones.

Once you’ve gotten rid of the barnacles, break out the soap and sponges and give the keel a good scrubbing. This part of the job is just like washing your car — add soap, scrub until clean and then rinse.

4. Clean the Deck

The keel of your ship isn’t the only thing that needs some attention during your annual deep clean. Make sure you clean the deck as well. Only use cleaning materials that are safe for your boat. If you’re cleaning an inflatable, for example, traditional cleaning products like bleach, acetone and ammonia can all damage the material.

Even if it doesn’t look damaged, using the wrong cleaning products could leave your deck’s surfaces more susceptible to salt or UV damage the next time you head out on the water.

5. Do Any Necessary Repairs

If you notice any damage to the hull or deck while you’re cleaning, this is the time to repair it. Don’t let minor damage become a big leak that will have you calling for sea rescue. Do the repairs now, or have them done professionally if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.

Make sure you’re done with any necessary repairs before you move on to the next step.

6. Add a Coat of Wax

Once everything is clean, and you’re ready to head back out on the water, you’ve got one step left — adding a coat of wax to your keel. This works much like a wax coat does on the car in your garage, protecting the fiberglass beneath from water and sun damage. Break out a microfiber cloth or a buffing wheel for your power drill and go to town, making sure the entire vessel is coated from stem to stern.

7. Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

Once you’ve finished all these steps, pat yourself on the back. All that’s left to do now is crack open a cold one and enjoy the fruits of your labor. In general, you only need to deep clean your boat once or twice a year, but pulling it up into dry dock once in a while to rinse it off and remove any barnacles can make your job more relaxed at the end of each boating season.

A Little Regular Cleaning Goes a Long Way

Even if your boat is in the water all the time, it will occasionally need to be cleaned. Set aside a day or a weekend to do the job right and keep your boat in top condition.

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