If you’ve arrived down to your boat on a sunny afternoon with the intention of relaxing or entertaining friends and you’re greeted with bird droppings on your gel coat and scuff marks and greasy footprints from the shoes of the mechanic who stopped by to fix your thrusters and you realize it’s another three weeks before your detailer (or you) is scheduled to do a more thorough wash, your relaxing afternoon now seems like a distant memory. Don’t despair because there are many simple things you can do to keep your boat looking clean and cared for in between the more detailed washes. Here is a quick list of those tasks, which cover topics such as washing, waxing and detailing.
Washing Your Boat
If you have your boat detailer come out every three or four weeks or if that’s when you have time to do a more extensive wash, that leaves plenty of days for your boat to get quite dirty, dusty or water streaked in between their washes. To get the gel coat and non-skid clean again, give your boat a quick wash using a long pole handle with soft deck brush attachment and a bucket of water and boat soap. Be sure to use a boat soap that doesn’t strip wax so as not to affect the integrity of the protective wax coating currently on your gel coat.
Most of the dust that has settled on your boat can simply be hosed off, but you’ll want to use your soft deck brush around the housing structure and on the non-skid as the dust in those areas may not hose off as easily. Always be sure to rinse well. You can choose to wash the windows as you go and then squeegee them off or you can save them for later and use a window cleaner spray and microfiber rag to get them clean.
If your boat is salty from an excursion you just returned from, then you’ll need to give your boat a full wash rather than a quick wash. I know we all like to think that we can just hose off the salt spray, but unless your boat was recently waxed, it will take more than hosing it off to fully get the gel coat salt-free. Use the soft deck brush on all areas of your boat and wash the windows, as well. Afterwards, you may need to go back and spray and wipe the windows again to fully remove all salt spray from them. The last thing you want is salt spray to etch into the glass from the sun because this can cause permanent water and salt spots in your windows.
If you find scuff marks from shoes on the gel coat, water streaks that didn’t completely come out with soap and a soft brush on vertical surfaces or grey water stains on horizontal surfaces, you’ll want to use some wax or polish to remove those marks and stains and bring a shiny gloss back to those areas. Use a terrycloth rag to apply a small amount of wax to the stain or mark and rub in well. Then use a microfiber rag to remove the wax. This is a great way to remove stains in between wax jobs.
You can also use wax to clean your stainless with. Rub it on with one rag and wipe it off with another. This will remove salt spray, rust and dirt and will further protect your stainless from the elements.
Canvas and Plastic Windows
If there is salt spray in your canvas, wash it as you would the rest of your boat with a soft deck brush and soap and water. Rinse it for a long time to make sure the salt crystals are out of the fabric. Salt can deteriorate canvas fairly quickly if left to dry and permeate the fabric. If the birds have made a mess of your canvas, spray the area with a high pressured nozzle to remove most of the droppings and then scrub with a scrub brush or deck brush, then rinse well.
If your plastic windows are salty, spray them down well with just the hose. It’s best not to use a deck brush of any kind on them as they can scratch easily. Once they’re rinsed, use a spray cleaner meant for plastic windows and a microfiber rag and spray and wipe them well. For areas you can’t easily reach, drape a microfiber rag over the deck brush on your long-handled pole. A few extra tips = don’t roll up wet plastic windows and it’s best to clean them when there is shade on your boat or in the cool of the morning (not direct sunlight) to prevent streaking.
Bird and Spider Droppings
Bird and spider droppings can be difficult to remove completely if they’re not attended to quickly. Once you’ve washed them off with soap and water, you may still see a lighter version of the stain on your gel coat. Use a small amount of cleaner wax to rub over the stain and it should come out completely. For spider droppings on vinyl seats, spray with water or a cleaner spray such as Simple Green, let it soak in for 30 seconds and then wipe off.
These are tips that can be done at any time between the more detailed washes. These tasks don’t have to all be done at once and can easily be accomplished in an hour or two per week.