Q: Is it OK to use a pressure washer on my boat?
A: We get asked this question a lot. You come down to your boat in early spring and are amazed at how dirty it is with green mildew actually growing on the gel coat and canvas and black mold in the non-skid. It would be tempting to use a pressure washer, but even set at a lower pressure, we highly advise against it for many reasons. First of all, you’ll be removing any wax that was left on the gel coat. Even if you’re planning to wax your boat soon after, using a pressure washer won’t improve the gel coat’s condition for waxing. You’ll still need to use a buffer with rubbing compound, so it’s not saving you much time. Especially when there are many things that can go wrong when using a pressure washer on a boat.
Even the lightest of pressure can put a hole in older canvas. Medium pressure can remove fittings and ruin teak. On a colored hull or topside, a pressure washer can make areas look uneven or splotchy because of the spray pattern. On a painted boat, the pressure can easily remove paint. In the end, a boat “washed” with a pressure wash will still require you to clean certain areas by hand and the boat will need to be waxed immediately after in order to keep the gel coat from oxidizing further.
We see a lot of boat detailing companies out there attach a dirty boat or teak decks with a pressure washer and we cringe every time we see this. Fittings go flying off into the water, paint starts to peel and teak decks end up with wide open grain and ugly spray patterns. It’s always best to spend some extra time washing your boat with a good ole’ bucket of soap, a soft deck brush and a soft hand brush. It’s the best way to remove the dirt and know that you’ve touched every inch without ruining your boat along the way.