What are the water streaks on your boat (sometimes referred to as black streaks) and why do they keep happening? Where do they come from, how can we remove them, and once they're removed, how can we keep them from coming back? Keep reading for tips and tricks to learn how to keep your boat looking it's best year round in the Seattle area with Deckhand Detailing.
And the winner to the best type of boat enclosure goes to...don't have a boat enclosure! I say that from a detailing perspective, but I realize how nice a boat enclosure can be, especially living here in Seattle where it's wet for what feels like 13 months out of the year. Boat enclosures provide shade in sunny climates and rain-protection in wet climates. They give you a break from the wind and allow you to have more livable space on your boat. In a way, they're a necessary evil. I say that because they get dirty quickly and are a pain to clean (or keep clean).
The two main materials that boat enclosures are made of these days are canvas and Stamoid. For those unfamiliar with Stamoid, it's a vinyl-coated woven polyester material that's supposed to be superior to canvas. We say "supposed to be" because in our line of work, we've seen a lot of Stamoid covers that didn't hold up to their promises.
Pros and Cons of Stamoid
Stamoid vinyl is advertised as waterproof, resistant to mildew and UV damage. It maintains it's flexibility with extreme temperature changes and doesn't shrink. It's coated with a "Nanotop" barrier that helps to prevent dirt from "sticking" to it, making it easy to clean and keep clean. That all sounds good to me, you say. What cons could there possibly be?
How many people actually clean AND treat their enclosure on a regular basis? And by "regular basis", I mean a few times a month, and by "clean and treat", I mean actually washing it down and using the special cleaner that the manufacturer recommends and then treating the Stamoid by applying a cream conditioner to it? The reality is that very few people take the time to clean and condition every inch of their Stamoid enclosure material on a regular basis or ever because they either don't have the time, don't have the ability, can't reach every inch of it once it's installed or simply don't bother.
I completely understand because it can be a lot of work and keeping those Stamoid enclosures clean is part of my job as a detailer. We see brand new enclosures turn brown or grey with water streaks and dirt quickly if they don't get cleaned often from day one. Even when a boat owner has a detailing company washing their boat every other week, those enclosures still get dirty fast and each time, the dirt and streaks are harder to remove.
Also consider the cost. A custom-made Stamoid enclosure is not cheap! If you're going to pay your boat detailer to clean and polish them a couple times a month in order to keep them looking as good as possible, that will cost you a few hundred dollars each time because it takes a few hours to properly clean and polish them.
Even then, they will still age. Sun, wind, rain, heat, cold and humidity will affect them no matter what the brochure says. We often see where the thread comes out or disintegrates over time and where seams comes undone. So even if you've hired someone to clean and treat your enclosure every few weeks, you'll also need to repair the seams at some point.
Pros and Cons of Canvas
Canvas as an enclosure material can be just as annoying to work with, but it's a bit more forgiving when it comes to cleaning it. Dirt and mildew love canvas enclosures because they can work their way into the fabric and retire there. If washed on a regular basis though, even if it's with the same bucket of water and soap you're washing the rest of your boat with, any loose dirt and new mildew should come right out. If it's been there for a longer period of time and isn't coming out with just soap and water or the resident blue heron at your marina always chooses your canvas enclosure to rest on, then you'll need to use a scrub brush with some stronger products to get the dirt and stains out.
However, over time, canvas will shrink from the sun making it harder to work with. Stretching it to reach a snap could cause it to tear and once mildew has been on it for a while, it can be almost impossible to get out. Pressure washing canvas can sometimes be too rough for it and using harsh chemicals on a regular basis to clean it can cause the canvas to degrade over time.
The Verdict: Stamoid looks great, but unless you plan on cleaning and treating it often (and can reach all of it once installed), you may want to consider a different material. We're not slamming it at all, we're simply pointing out the fact that you need to stay on top of cleaning and treating it in order to maintain its great qualities as an enclosure material.
We say this about a lot of boat detailing products. Many of them work great IF you actually use them on a regular basis AND use them properly. A Stamoid cover will look great on your boat and last a long time, but you have to be willing to care for it regularly and properly.
Canvas is a bit more forgiving until it's not. What I mean by this is that you can let it go a bit longer without cleaning it, but if you let it go too long (especially if green mildew is building up), then it can get to a point where you can no longer get the mildew stains out because they're in the fibers. As far as pricing, canvas seems to be just as expensive as Stamoid these days, so I'm not sure how much savings there is with a canvas enclosure.
If I had to choose, I'd choose not having an enclosure. But if I really had to choose, I'd go for a canvas enclosure with elastic loop attachments. Since canvas will shrink, choose connectors that will accommodate tighter canvas, such as elastic loops or suction cups. That's right - suction cups! We saw this on a boat recently and it's a brilliant idea for canvas as long as the area you want it to attach to is a smooth window or gel coat. It's a great idea for canvas covers too.
Thanks for reading! We hope our boat detailing articles help you with your own boat maintenance.
Q: The colored stripe on my boat is really faded. What’s the best way to bring back the deep color and gloss?
A: Colored stripes that run along the topside or on the hull or waterline often fade quickly and need to be polished on a regular basis if you want them to retain their deeper color and gloss. The first thing you need to do is determine if that colored stripe is a vinyl sticker or if it’s a painted stripe. Depending on which it is will determine how you care for it.
Let’s get the easy one out of the way first. If your colored stripe is a vinyl sticker, there’s not too much you can do to it if it’s fading or peeling outside of removing it and replacing it. If it’s new or still in good condition, using a soft wax (with no compound in it) or spray wax to protect it will keep the color from fading over time. The darker the color, the more often you should apply wax or spray wax to it.
If your colored stripe is painted, it’s going to take more effort to bring back the color and gloss if it’s looking faded. The paint in the colored stripe can easily run if you use a buffer on it, so the first thing you want to do is apply a wide strip of painters tape on both sides of the stripe. This will prevent the paint from running into the lighter gel coat surrounding it.
The next step is to get your hands on a variable speed buffer or a dual action polisher. Do not bother trying to use an orbital polisher or doing it by hand as the results will be splotchy and not last very long because neither of those methods are able to cut through the oxidation that’s causing the fading.
With a faded colored stripe, you’ll want to do a two-step process. This means first applying and buffing with compound to cut through the oxidation and bring back the gloss and then following up with polish to protect the stripe from further oxidation. You don’t want to use wax on painted areas; instead use a non-wax polish. Cleaner wax typically isn’t strong enough to remove the oxidation in a colored stripe and although it might bring back the color at first, it won’t last very long, so skip the cleaner wax for this project. You can use a polish with compound in it as the second step, but you’ll want to use a true rubbing compound as your first step.
Before you begin, gather the items you’ll need:
Apply the compound by hand and then buff it out using the wool compounding pad. You may need to do this a few times to cut through the oxidation. This is the step that brings back the gloss, so if you’re not seeing gloss, keep buffing.
However, keep in mind that if the painted stripe is on an older boat or was painted a long time ago, the paint may not be that thick anymore and if you buff too long or hard, you may hit primer. So take your time go and go slow.
Once the colored stripe is looking glossier, it’s then time to protect it with polish. Apply it by hand and then use the polishing pad to buff it off. When finished, wipe it all down with a microfiber rag. Remove the tape when you’re done.
Now that your colored stripe is glossy and protected again, you’ll need to keep it that way if you don’t want it to fade soon after. Use the polish at least once a month. This is something you can easily do by hand and it shouldn’t take too long.
Q: We have a ski boat with a red hull that’s slowly turning pink. I’ve applied wax to it several times, both by hand and with an orbital buffer, and it looks great for a few hours and then looks faded again. What am I doing wrong?
A: Boats with colored hulls must be waxed on a regular basis, about every 6 months and if it’s a black hull, you’ll want to apply wax about every 2 months. But that’s only after you have cut through the oxidation and the only way to do that properly is by using rubbing compound with a variable speed buffer. The rubbing compound has grit or clay in it that will help cut through the oxidation, but only when it’s applied at a high speed and applied evenly. An orbital buffer doesn’t spin fast enough or offer even pressure and you won’t be able to press hard enough with even pressure if you apply it by hand. Using an orbital buffer or your hand to apply rubbing compound will give you splotchy results.
If you haven’t used a buffer before, you’ll want to start with a DeWalt 849x. This buffer has a slow start so you can ease it onto the gel coat and then kick up the speed as you go. Use a compounding pad to apply the compound and buff it in with.
Q: There are several deck brushes to choose from at my local boating supply store, but I can’t imagine I need one of each. Which one or two do I absolutely need on my boat?
A: You only need two deck brushes – one that is soft to wash gel coat and most other materials with and one that is lightly scratchy for non-skid. Shurhold offers three types of deck brushes. The blue one is very soft, the yellow one is lightly scratchy and the white one is very scratchy. West Marine offers their own brand of deck brushes, as well, however their yellow brush is soft, their blue brush is medium-course and their white brush is scratchy. Each manufacturer will have different colors for the different grades of their deck brushes, so when choosing the soft one, run it across your face and if it feels at all scratchy, then it’s not the best brush to be used on smooth gel coat.
When washing your boat with the soft deck brush, it’s perfectly fine to use it on glass windows, vinyl seats, canvas, boat graphics and non-skid. However, do not use even the softest of deck brushes on plastic windows, such as Isinglass, Strataglass or Lexan. It is best to use a microfiber rag (not terry cloth) and a spray cleaner meant for those materials such as Plexus Plastic Cleaner or Mer-Maid’s Plexiglass Cleaner and Polish.
This week’s question is about mildew. Boat owners email me every year around this time asking how to clean mildew out of their canvas, non-skid and teak decks and how to keep it from coming back so soon.
As I’ve always said, dirt and mildew is the one constant in boating. It doesn’t matter if you have a six million dollar yacht, an old wooden boat or a new sailboat, mildew doesn’t judge! It will find your boat, attach itself to your canvas, teak decks, window sills and non-skid, and will quietly grow and multiply while you sleep. However, you can try to outsmart it and keep it from taking over with these simple tips on cleaning and removing mildew and then preventing it from coming back.
Keep in mind that there are two types of mildew or mold. Green mildew is what you’ll find growing in fabrics, such as canvas, vinyl edges and seams and on deck carpets. You’ll also see it on teak decks. Black mold is what you’ll find growing on vinyl cushions and in non-skid. If your non-skid has small black specks in it that don’t come out with just soap and water, that’s black mold. This article is discussing how to remove mold and mildew from exterior surfaces and materials. If you find any black mold growing inside the cabin of your boat, you can use many of these same tips and products, but the most important thing is to wear a respiratory mask when cleaning black mold from an enclosed space. It is known for causing respiratory problems and is not something you want to breath in for any length of time.
Mildew In Canvas
Canvas is one of those materials that mildew grows quickly in and if not removed in a timely manner, can become quite difficult to kill and remove down the road. It will grow rapidly around the edges and on the underside of the canvas enclosure of your cockpit or fly bridge. If not caught in time, it can also grow in the seams around the plastic windows and zippers. But you don’t need me to tell you all of the places where it can grow. You need to know how to get rid of it!
The first step is to gather the products you’ll need before you head down to your boat so you can kill the mildew and treat your canvas in one trip instead of having to come back several times and turning it into a larger project than it should be. Here is a list of the products you should have on hand:
When treating mildew in canvas, you need to be able to see exactly where the mildew is, so don’t wet down the canvas or wash it first, otherwise the canvas will darken from the water (unless it’s white) and you may not be able to see exactly where the mildew is. Take your mildew killing spray and spray it directly on all areas where you see mildew. If it’s on the underside of your canvas enclosure, spray the mildew killer on a deck brush or hand brush and then wipe the brush over that area. You may need to go over it a few times to remove all the mildew, but you don’t need to wipe it down afterwards, as it’s fine to leave some of the product in the canvas to help keep mildew at bay for a while.
If there is mildew around the edges of your canvas, spray those areas liberally with the mildew spray and let it sit in for a few minutes. Then take the small scrub brush and scrub those areas well, trying to get in the seams as best you can. You’ll know it’s working when you see green streaks running down the side of your boat from all of the mildew that you’re scrubbing out of the canvas. Hose the canvas off so you can see your progress and hit that area once more with the mildew spray and scrub brush. When done, wash your boat and rinse well so there are no green streaks still running down from the canvas.
Once you’ve removed the mildew from your canvas, you can use a product such as Mold Off to spray on your canvas in the areas where mildew grows. Spray it on and walk away and let the product do the work. It won’t harm your canvas to leave it on and will help keep mildew away for months at a time.
Mildew In Non-Skid
Black mold in non-skid will look like small black specks that aren’t coming out with soap and water. It’s actually quite simple to treat black mold in non-skid. Spray your mildew killing spray over the non-skid and then let it sit in for a couple of minutes. Then take your medium-grade bristle deck brush and run it over the non-skid, working the spray in. You don’t need to hose the decks at this time because you want to spread the mildew spray around, having it treat the black mold in its full strength before diluting it with water. It will suds up a little while you’re scrubbing the decks.
When finished, you’ll see the black specks disappear. If you want to be environmentally friendly, take some old towels and sop up the mildew spray on your decks before hosing them down. (If you choose this route, you may not need to hose them down at all.) Otherwise, hose them down well as to dilute the product running off your boat. Left to dry on your gel coat, the mildew spray can remove wax in that area and make it look streaky, so spend plenty of time rinsing the product off your boat.
Mildew On Vinyl Seats and Deck Carpets
You may find black mold on your white vinyl seats or green mildew growing around the edges or undersides of your vinyl cushions or on your deck carpets. The best way to remove the mildew on vinyl cushions is to spray it with the mildew spray and let it sit in for a few minutes. Then take the small scrub brush and scrub the edges or undersides clean. When done, wipe the area well with a rag, but don’t hose them down or they’ll be wet and susceptible to mildew all over again.
If there is black mildew on top of the vinyl seat cushion, spray with the mildew spray and let the bleach in the product do the work. Over the course of a few minutes, the black mildew will lighten up and eventually disappear. Wipe the cushion with a rag to remove the mildew product.
Treating green mildew in deck carpets is very easy. Simply spray the mildew spray over the area that’s green and walk away. Or you can sit there and watch the green mildew disappear, but it will take about 10 to 20 minutes. You don’t need to rinse or wipe it down because it’s alright to let the product stay on the deck carpets to prevent mildew from growing in that same area in the future. It may come back eventually, but you only need to repeat this process to remove it again. This is another area you can follow up with the Mold Off product to help keep mildew from growing back.
Mildew In Teak Decks
If there is green mildew growing on areas of your teak decks and you’re not planning on cleaning and brightening them with the two-part teak product, but instead just want to remove the mildew in the few places its growing (probably along the edges of the teak), you can do so with a soft scrub brush and some mildew spray. You don’t want to use a scrub brush that is too stiff, so if you rub it on your face or the back of your hand and it feels too scratchy, then don’t use it on your teak.
Spray the areas where there is green mildew with the mildew spray. Let it soak in for a few minutes and then take the soft scrub brush and scrub it over the teak going against the grain. Because the brush is soft (it has to be for the good of the teak) and the mildew has grown into the grain of the wood, this process is going to take some time. You may need to scrub a section for several minutes to start seeing any difference or you may need to come back and treat this area a few more times over the course of a few weeks. When done scrubbing the mildew out of the teak, hose it down well to remove the bleach from the grain of the wood and rinse the green mildew streaks off your boat.
Cleaning and removing mildew from your boat can become an overwhelming project if you don’t stay on top of it, but if you treat it a little at a time and use the right products, you can keep it at bay long enough so it doesn’t get the chance to grow quickly and multiply to the point where you have to mow your canvas. Good luck and happy boating!
Q: Should I use a black streak remover product or something similar to remove water streaks on my boat or just stick to boat soap?
A: The answer to this question will lead you in circles until your head spins. Yes, you can use black streak remover products to remove water streaks, but over time, they will strip the wax in those specific areas and then the water streaks will become more noticeable and difficult to remove. But if you wax your boat every year, then by the time those water streaks have become stubborn to get off because the product you’ve been using has completely stripped the wax in those areas, it will be time to wax your boat anyway.
Or I could have answered this question advising you to stick to boat soap, which will remove the water streaks for as long as you have a good coat of wax on your boat. Once boat soap stops removing the streaks, then you know it’s time to wax your boat again. In other words, a black streak remover product is a great band-aid and will hide the symptoms, but in the end, it too will stop working and that’s when it’s time to wax your boat again.
My advice is a happy medium solution to this. Go ahead and use the black streak remover so your job is easier in removing those black streaks. But as soon as they become a bit harder to remove with the product, then take some cleaner wax and reapply it where the black streaks occur. This is something you can do by hand with a rag to apply it with and a rag to buff or wipe it off with. This will help your big yearly wax job last a bit longer.
Another option is to use a boat soap with wax in it. This doesn’t mean that as you wash your boat, you’ll be waxing it at the same time. This means that this type of boat soap doesn’t strip wax and adds a light UV protectant that should last between washes to help protect your boat that much more from harmful UV rays.
Deckhand Detailing, established in 1990, offers affordable and high quality boat cleaning and detailing services including boat washing, buffing and waxing, interior cleaning and more. We're experienced, friendly and easy to work with because we love what we do!