October 19, 2022

Boat Cleaning Tips

Boat Cleaning Tips

Written by ShoreMaster Marketing

When it comes to washing our cars, so many of us are guilty of thinking, “I’ll just let the rain wash the dirt off,” even though we know that’s not actually how it works. Cleaning your boat is more work than running your car through a car wash, but it’s still very important to clean it properly. From basic dirt and grime to mildew stains and corrosion, there’s a lot about the water that can potentially damage your boat. With a little knowledge, elbow grease, and boat-cleaning products, your boat will look as good as the day you bought it. We have a basic guide to cleaning your boat and touching up your lift and dock while you’re at it.

ShoreMaster Vertical Lift

Gather Your Boat Cleaning Products

Cleaning your boat properly means getting the right cleaning supplies. Your list might vary depending on your watercraft and how much of a project you have ahead of you, but most people will need the following:

  • Two buckets: one to rinse dirt off your brush or mitt before returning to the soapy water
  • A wash mitt: it’s less abrasive on a gel coat or other finish than a washcloth
  • Water hookup, basic house water hose, and basic nozzle attachment
  • Long-handled stiff and soft bristle brushes
  • A towel to help with drying because air-drying leads to spots
  • An eco-friendly and paint-safe soap (household cleaning products have pH balances that could damage boat surfaces and harm the environment)
  • Buffing attachments for a drill to polish chrome and painted surfaces
  • A glosser detailing wipe to finish shining your boat up
  • A microfiber cloth for cleaning interior elements like instrument panels
  • Safety equipment, like clothes, gloves, and goggles

Cleaning Effectively

Your boat should be rinsed and dried after each outing, especially if you’re in saltwater, and your boat stored out of the water, whether on a boat lift or on a trailer. Using soap after every outing could break down your wax job or sealant. If it’s time for a more detailed cleaning, these directions apply.

Start cleaning your boat by rinsing it with fresh water to loosen up any dirt. Rinsing will also keep you from scuffing your boat’s finish with brushes and other abrasive materials. Start from the top of your boat and rinse downward to avoid getting freshly-cleaned parts dirty again.

Fill up your first bucket with water and eco-friendly soap and a second one with water. Start washing with your wash mitt or scrub with a soft brush from the top down, but only gently scrub small areas at a time and rinse them immediately to avoid soap film. On your final rinse, remove the nozzle from the hose and let the water run down your boat’s surface to avoid beading and spotting.

Dry your boat’s surface with a highly absorbent towel or chamois and completely dry everything you just washed. This will give you a streak-free finish and also let you inspect your boat’s surface for flaws, damage, or other areas that need to be touched up. Buff the surface to prepare for waxing and sealing, and follow the directions on your wax or sealant.

Don’t Forget the Detailing

Most detailing can be done on an as-needed basis. If you’re going to DIY your boat detailing, these are the kind of tasks you’ll end up doing:

  • Washing and drying the windows and windshield with a soft brush and absorbent towel
  • Vacuum the floors and seats
  • Scrub non-skid flooring and teak
  • Polish chrome (railings, horns, ladders, cleats, etc.)
  • Apply vinyl cleaner with a UV blocker to vinyl seats
  • Clean instrumentation gauges
  • Scrub the underside of canvas covers to prevent mold and mildew growth

Caring for Your Dock and Lift

While you’re giving some TLC to your boat, don’t forget about the systems that are supporting it. There might not be as much care involved in your boat dock or boat lift, but you should still put effort into keeping your boat lift and dock systems clean. When cleaning your boat lift, rinse the cables and cradle with fresh water after each use, and use a gentle eco-friendly soap if needed. Areas like cable winders aren’t easily accessible with a hose but still require cleaning, and your canopy cover could use a gentle scrub and rinse as well. Your aluminum boat lift only needs a power washing every once in a while. Ensure that all of the hardware and other parts are in good order as long as you’re paying attention.

Do you have more questions about the care and keeping of your ShoreMaster boat lift or boat dock system? Are you hoping to upgrade your system before the next season gets here? The first step is talking to a dealer from our extensive network—Find one near you using ShoreMaster’s online contact form.