7 Essential Spring Cleaning Tips for How to Clean a Boat

April 17th, 2019 by


The average boat age is about 20 years old. That’s about twice as much as your average car.


So, as you would expect, there’s a lot more emotional attachment! Of course, frustration may be an emotion you’ll experience cleaning one at the end of a long day.


For many boat owners, their boat is like an extension of their family. They know how to clean a boat, launch their boat, how to drive it, and how to get the most of out the parts that eventually need to be replaced.


If you follow these cleaning tips, though, you should be able to save yourself a lot of time and money over the lifetime of your beloved boat.



Start on the Outside


This might run counter to some boat owners’ routines, but we prefer to take care of the exterior first. Cleaning the interior is important, too, but it is too common for it to take the place of regular exterior cleanings.


If your interior is a mess and you can barely walk through the clutter, let that be a deterrent for taking your boat out before the exterior is done properly. Grab a hose and let’s get to cleaning!


For this first step, you should have a reliable pressure washer to really cut through all the algae and scum that accumulates on the hull. After you’ve done a quick sweep on the exterior, get a good boat brush and dip it into a wash mixture compatible with marine use.


If you’re grabbing cheap dish soap to clean your boat, you’re setting yourself up for failure. That detergent is no good for your paint and it’s going to leave a lot of residues. Remember to take breaks while you’re doing all this scrubbing if it’s in the middle of the day. 



Wax On, Wax Off


You must wax your boat after washing it off. If you don’t, you may as well kiss your nice paint job goodbye. If you don’t have a paint job, then say hello to discoloring, cracking, and long-term damage to your boat.


Fiberglass boats can get away with a lot more for a lot longer, but eventually, it will dry out all the same. Ideally, you should be waxing your boat at least annually. Waxing a boat is a heck of a job, we know. 


There are boat services out there that can handle boat maintenance for you. It’s worth every penny, considering the time and energy required to do it right. You also need to source some quality marine-grade wax. 


Car wax isn’t going to cut it here. You’ll need to be careful when applying wax, avoiding any decals or rough surfaces. Boat owners with fiberglass gel coat will need to follow a different set of instructions to preserve its shine.



Take Out the Trash


Now we move to the deck and inside the boat. These are areas we hope that you’re maintaining on a day-by-day basis. Never allow your boat to get so cluttered to where you can barely move around the deck without a tripping hazard.


Do you need more storage? Consider getting a bigger boat. It’s really as straight-forward as that. Now, on to the real deep cleaning.



Wood Surfaces


Start with the floors and other wood surfaces first. If your boat has carpeting, vinyl, or fiberglass, save them for later.


You’re going to need some good hardwood cleaner and polish, of course.


Mop them, let them dry, then rent a buffer to properly polish your hardwood floors. Standard spray-on wax is fine for interior wood surfaces.



Carpeting and Upholstery


If you keep your carpets and upholstery vacuumed/dusted, then you’re winning half the battle. Every month or so, you should go over them with a carpet shampoo to keep them from holding onto odors. When you’re out at sea, it’s only natural for your carpets to start smelling like fish feet.


After you steam clean them, you can apply a sealant over the top to protect the fibers from mold or deep soiling.



Vinyl Surfaces


We leave the easiest for last. Vinyl is really easy to clean and maintain, as long as you don’t neglect it. All you need is a standard home cleaner, like Pine Sol, and a mop/brush. The key with cleaning vinyl is to never allow it to accumulate dirt and mold to the point you have to consider bleaching it.


Using bleach on a boat is not a great solution to use in large quantities. It’s not good for your health or the health of the boat. Hose off these surfaces regularly to avoid having to kill whatever colony of mold that tries to establish itself.



All Others


We know we’re leaving out some less-common boat surfaces here. You have various composites, metal surfaces, glass, and etc. For any surface that isn’t a hybrid, alloy, or composite, you should consult your owner’s manual.


For metal and glass, it’s just soap and water, nothing extra. Avoid standing water near those surfaces and they’ll need no other maintenance.



How to Clean a Boat Right


We hope this guide was insightful enough to make your boat maintenance require less effort. By doing your due diligence on how to clean a boat right the first time, it will repay you in years of enjoyment. You can get more than a few decades of reliable sailing on your boat.


All that is required is a proactive cleaning regimen and the proper products. Never settle for inferior boat maintenance or parts. Contact us if you ever need help locating a part, another boat, or servicing of yours.


At Westshore Marine, we treat fellow boaters like our own family. We promise to take care of your boat and whatever you need for it.