Top 5 Boat Cleaning Tips

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“A Clean Boat is a Happy Boat”!

Well, we’re guessing if boats had feelings, then this would be correct. But since they don’t, we’ll say “A Clean Boat makes a Happy Boat Owner”.

There’s nothing like having a clean vehicle. Any style of vehicle. Even a dirt bike or an ATV fresh off of the muddy trail. Although these off-roaders look pretty bad-ass when covered in mud and dirt, they look equally awesome when sparkling clean.

In the boating world, you have to admit, when that rig is sitting on a trailer, glistening and shimmering, it certainly brings in lots of “nice boat” comments from strangers.

A great example is at a boat show. If you find a single small water spot on any of the boats, it’ll be gone in minutes by the cleaning crew. It’s all about that “perfect” look. That creates the attraction.

You won’t see many specks and spots on rigs at a boat show, they are all pristine clean!

Keeping your boat clean is more tedious than it is hard to do. After all, we all just want to get out there fishing, right?

Here are 5 suggestions to help keep your rig in tip-top-looking shape.

1 – Start With Soap On Your Hull:

There are lots of products out there that cater to a boat’s finish (aluminum or glass). Most are good but they aren’t absolutely necessary. If you can find “boat” soap, buy it. It works. If you can’t, then a good automotive soap is an alternative.

Two things to look for are a gentle “powered” soap as well as a biodegradable soap (for obvious reasons).

Companies like Meguires manufacture soaps for both boats and cars. Starbrite has an array of boat cleaning products that will get the job done. There is also a great company from the US called Booyah that makes a fully biodegradable hull cleaner, though, at the time of this writing, getting it in Canada is still a bit difficult.

Just add the amount of soap as recommended on the bottle into warm water and wash away. 

Don’t forget to pre-rinse!

By using a good quality soap, you’ll only have to clean once, having a streak-free finish.

What about that gross greenish-brown on your hull after it’s been sitting in the water for a while (doesn’t take long by the way)?

That’s a job that any boat or automotive soap cannot handle. There are companies that cater to this and their products work well for the most part.

CRC Marine On & Off Hull & Bottom Cleaner, Star Brite EZ-ON EZ-OFF Boat Hull & Bottom cleaner, Star Brite Bottom Cleaner and Instant Hull Cleaner, (we’ve even heard that Kaboom bathroom tile cleaner works) are all products made for cleaning scum.

If you cannot find anything at the store, here’s a fix.

Take a spray bottle and fill it about ⅓ full with Lysol toilet bowl cleaner. Fill the rest of the bottle with water.

Buy a couple of cheap plastic painter throw sheets. Lie them on the driveway, under the entire outside of your boat. Put a few weights on each as it will blow away.

Put on a pair of rubber gloves.

Now just slowly walk along spraying the affected area with a wide spray (not a stream). Make sure you cover the areas well… really well! 

Let it sit for maybe 10 minutes.

You will probably have to do another pass for boats with a light scum film. For heavier scummed boats, it will take more passes and some possible scrubbing.

The beauty of this method is there is, with a light amount of scum, there is literally no scrubbing. Just spray, observe the magic, and then hose it all off.

Make sure you clean up your plastic and dispose of it properly.

The hardest stain to scrub off is actually the easiest to get rid of. A couple of passes of our homemade concoction above does the trick

2 – The Detailed Areas:

Although you could clean the dash, gauges, controls (throttle handle) etc with your above soapy water mixture, you can also hit these fine areas with specific detailing compounds. Most car detailing products are made for “interior” use, however, they still work well on the exterior areas of a boat. That said, products designed for boats are the way to go if possible.

A multi-purpose degreaser/cleaner and clean microfiber cloth work great in a pinch.

This is where you can give your rig a basic going-over or, you can dig deep with toothbrushes, pre-manufactured detailing kits etc. It’s totally up to you.

For detailing boats, stick with marine products when possible

3 – Carpet Cleaning:

If you have carpet in your boat, then it needs to be cleaned every now and then. The reason we say this is because if you let it go too long, you’ll have a true mess on your hands (in your feet may be more appropriate). As anglers, we seem to be “extra” dirty when it comes to dropping live bait or worm bedding (that black dirt that comes with a couple dozen crawlers), the slime and sometimes the unfortunate blood from fish, the “poop” from fish (happens quite a bit, especially with pike), your lunch flying out of your hands (sorry to place this one next to the poop) etc etc. These are mostly events that an average boater of the non-fishing sort doesn’t ever see or have to contend with.

Cleaning boat carpets is a two-stage deal. One is spot cleaning in which you hit the “stain of the day”, and the other is an entire cleaning from bow to stern.

4 – A Clean Bilge Is A Happy Bilge:

The bilge area of your boat may just be the most neglected portion of your entire rig. Now you may be thinking that since the bilge is covered over with hatches it would never get dirty. On the contrary. If you store your boat outside for the spring, summer and fall, then that bilge area has all sorts of dirty remnants.

By it being a closed-in area, the residual water (yes it happens even with your drain plug out) combined with the blazing sun’s heat, create a dark oven, coating the inner walls and floor of your bilge with a black residue that over time, literally becomes baked on. We’re not kidding here!

We have found a two-step process to help clean up this ungodly mess.

Step one is to put your drain plug in, then pour in some bilge cleaner (recommended amount on bottle) and fill the bilge with water from your hose. Leave this mixture of cleaner and water in for the recommended amount of time again as per the cleaner’s bottle directions.

After this, pull your drain plug and let the biodegradable solution pour out and rinse.

We let our bilge area dry out for a day or two and then move on to the next step.

Step two is a simple one. We grab our household pressure washer, open up the access to the bilge and then starting at the highest point, clean off the walls and floor (exactly as you would when pressure washing your deck). Let everything pour out the drain, clean up any debris leftover and you’ll be left with a super-clean bilge area. This step will amaze you!

Two steps to a cleaner bilge. Soak it & blast it.

5 – Don’t Forget Your Trailer and Wheels:

Ahhh the good ol’ trailer and wheels. If your sweet baby sits atop a trailer, then the trailer should be as clean as the boat, right?

As for the frame of the trailer, go ahead and use the soap that you use on your vehicle. A trailer is a tough customer and can take a good scrubbing with a strong automotive cleaner.

When it comes to your wheels, use good automotive wheel products. This is not just about the look of the tires and wheels, but it’s about the protection, longevity etc. Your wheels and tires are the only things holding your rig up off the pavement and getting you to your favourite Hotspot.

Quality goes a long way. Always try to purchase and use superior cleaning products.

EXTRAS:

Is your fibreglass boat looking hazy lately?

Has that lustrous shine faded away?

Well, it’s time for a complete makeover!

Unfortunately the above is called oxidation and it cannot be fixed properly (that brand new finish) by any type of cleaning. It’s an entire process. This can be done professionally or it can be done at a minimal cost with a lot of elbow grease.

Hopefully in a future Fish’n Canada article, we’ll show you how.

CONCLUSION

Well, there you have 5 of our top boat cleaning suggestions. Hopefully, you can use some or all of the above.

Fishing boats really do take a beating when it comes to the spray from waves, the algae, and scum from back bays, the dirt from bait, the spills from coffee, and the mud from the roads.

At least you can start each fishing trip out by having that sparkling rig looking sweet and fine… once that baby’s in the water, however… it’s playtime in the dirt!

Fish'n Canada

The Fish’n Canada Show first aired in 1986 with phenomenal success. In 1988 the program went coast to coast on CBC, the first North American weekly fishing show to broadcast on a national network. In 1992 the show went into syndication adding Global Television Network, prominent CTV and affiliates, and several cable networks. The move resulted in unprecedented fishing audiences. With the addition of WFN U.S. and The Sportsman Chanel Canada today the Fish’n Canada show dominates the airwaves with a national weekly reach of 3.5 million and ama of over 450,000 easily making it one of the most-watched “outdoors” programs in North America.

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