I have often told my customers that if there is one cleaning product they should definitely keep on their boat, its cleaner wax. It is by far one of the most versatile products that has many uses and is “green” in the sense that it gets wiped off rather than hosed off and therefore doesn’t add to the pollution of our waterways. It’s not very expensive and can be found in both marine supply stores and variety stores selling auto supplies. (Yes, in a pinch, there’s no reason why you can’t use a cleaner wax made for autos. It works just the same.) But before I list all of its great uses, let’s first learn what exactly cleaner wax is!
Cleaner wax is basically wax with compound mixed into it, as opposed to pure wax that has no compound in it or a compounding agent that has no wax in it. Some common brands of cleaner wax that you’ll find at your local boating supply store are Meguiars, Starbrite, Pure Oceans and SeaPower. Any cleaner wax will say just that on the label, so you’ll easily be able to pick them out from finishing compounds or soft paste waxes.
The compound agent found in a cleaner wax is what allows the product to remove light oxidation and other stains or marks while not also removing wax AND while adding a bit more wax to that area for further protection. For example, if you have a stubborn water streak on your gel coat that’s just not coming out very well with soap, water and a wash mitt, there are several different products and methods you could use to attack it with, but many of those products, such as spray cleaners or abrasive sponges or liquids (such as Soft Scrub) will surely remove the water streak, but will also remove the wax in that area, as well. You’re then left with a section of gel coat that isn’t protected with wax and that area may become lightly yellowed or faded depending on the product that was used. To prevent having more work on your hands, attack a water streak with cleaner wax and you’ll remove the streak without removing the wax.
Aside from the container of cleaner wax, you’ll want to have two rags on hand – one cotton or terry cloth rag and one microfiber rag, preferably. When using cleaner wax to remove a stain, pour a small dab of it on the cotton rag, rub it in and around the stained area and then use the microfiber rag to remove the haze and any wax residue.
And now for that long list of uses for cleaner waxes that I promised you. In all of these examples, all you’ll really need is the cleaner wax, a cotton rag and a microfiber rag.
- Stainless: Use cleaner wax to remove rust, salt residue and other stains on stainless rails, cleats and fittings. It will brighten it up and provide a protective coating against rust and salt in the future. You’ll see all your stainless bead up when wet.
- Bird droppings: Birds can leave colorful stains on your gel coat, especially in late summer when they’ve been feasting on berries and have chosen your boat as the perfect boat to relax on. If your boat has been waxed recently, then these stains should come off easily enough with soap and water because they’ll be sitting on the wax. However, if your boat hasn’t been waxed in a while, these stains will slowly be “soaking” into porous gel coat, making them a bit harder to remove. You’ll want to rub the cleaner wax over the stain pressing hard with the rag, but after a few times, the stain should come out or at least lighten up. If cleaner wax isn’t doing the trick, try a dollop of rubbing compound instead. One the stain is gone, be sure to follow up with some cleaner wax or pure wax in that area as the rubbing compound will have removed any wax that was previously there.
- Spider droppings: You’ll most likely find these little black dots in your enclosed cockpit area because spiders (and their millions of babies) love the warm climate and many hiding areas created by canvas enclosures. The nice thing about cleaner wax is that is can be used on different surfaces other than just gel coat. If you find spider droppings on glass, plastic, vinyl or rubber, go ahead and remove the stains with a light rubbing of cleaner wax. If you have a bad spider problem, you might try buying a fogger and letting it off in your enclosed cockpit area to kill the spiders and their eggs. Do this only when you can walk away from your boat for several hours to let the fogger do its job.
- Window spots: If you’re just starting to notice spots on your windows that aren’t going away with window cleaner, you can try removing them with cleaner wax. These spots are water drops or salt spray that is starting to become etched into the window thanks to the sun’s reaction on them. As soon as you start to notice these types of spots on your windows, you want to remove them as best you can because once they’ve been there for a long time (several months or more), they can become almost impossible to remove in the future. Try a small section in the corner of the window, rubbing the cleaner wax over the spots and then wiping it off with a microfiber rag.
- Ceramic cooktop: If your ceramic cooktop is starting to look dingy with dried water and food residue, try using a cleaner wax to remove those stains and brighten it up. Make sure you wipe off the wax well before turning the heat on again.
- Scuff marks: If you look around the walkways of your boat and notice black scuff marks made from shoes, cleaner wax will be your best buddy in quickly and easily removing those marks.
- Fender and line marks: If your black fenders or lines have been rubbing up against the gel coat, they’re going to leave black marks. A few swipes with some cleaner wax will remove these marks and make it easier to clean those areas again in the future.
- Wax touch-ups: You should wax or have your boat waxed once a year to remove oxidation and further protect the gel coat from UV rays. In between those wax jobs, cleaner wax is a great way to keep the flat surfaces and sun beaten areas of your boat looking glossy year round. You’ll notice that if your boat has a brow, it will be one area that starts to fade first if it’s always facing the sun. Although the brow can be difficult to reach when waxing, if you can safely reach it, use cleaner wax on this area in between your main wax job to keep it from oxidizing further. When you go to wax your boat the following year, you won’t need to use heavier compounds to cut oxidation in these areas if you’ve kept up with them throughout the year using cleaner wax.
If you haven’t used it before, go out and buy a container of cleaner wax, a cotton rag and a microfiber rag and take a walk around your boat looking for streaks, stains, marks and faded areas that could use a touch-up. Give it a try and see how it works for you. You definitely can’t ruin any areas when applying it by hand and adding more wax to your gel coat is always a good thing!