The Basics of Boat Cleaning

One of the most important tasks when owning a boat is proper boat cleaning. Proper care in this regard will help protect your boat and gear from early retirement or repair. You should plan on washing and detailing your boat THOROUGHLY at least once a year, wash and wax it on a regular basis during seasonal use, and rinse it with fresh water after each use.

Materials you should have on hand:

  • 5 gallon plastic bucket
  • 1 soft bristled, long handled brush
  • 6 or so clean rags or towels
  • Mop
  • 1 Large Sponge
  • Squeegie
  • Carnuba-based wash and wax
  • Hose w/spray nozzle


Other useful items:

  • Metal Polish
  • Bilge cleaner and degreaser
  • Mister Clean Magic Eraser
  • Vinyl cleaner-protectant
  • Windshield water repellent
  • Fabric waterproofer and protector

1. Hose down the boat from top to bottom, and from bow to stern.

2. Mix wash and wax concentrate in 2-3 gallons of water.

3. Use sponge with wash mixture in circular motion on vertical areas.

4. Mop the deck and hard to reach areas.

5. Wash and rinse each area with fresh water, thus preventing the cleaning solution to sun-dry, causing soap scum.

6 .Use clean rags/towels to dry each area of the boat to prevent waterspots.

7. Use a Magic Eraser to remove marks and scuffs.

8. Use metal polish as needed

9. Sponge dirt and grime from the shift controls and the helm area.

10. Use a degreaser to remove crud, soot and oil from the transom and exhaust areas.

11. Check for and clean mildew from under the cushions, flotation devices and other fabric, vinyl or leather. Remember to check the crevices. Treat fabrics and leather with appropriate protectant.

12. Clean mildew and dirt from hatches and storage areas, including the drainwater channels that lie under the hatches and the hatch seals. Use the sponge to swab these areas.

13. Wash and dry the windshield. Treat with windshield water repellent (if you have any). You can also use the repellent on plastic portholes.

14. Clean the bilge with a quality, biodegradable degreaser.

That's it! You should be good to go! Again, I recommend doing this whole process at least once a season, but preferably twice or more! Above all, don't forget to hose your boat down after each use, to remove salt and/or plant life. Until next time, see you on the water!  

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