Last Updated on October 27, 2022 by Brian Drew

New to owning and maintaining a boat? There are a number of things one should know about keeping their boat in good condition. Cleaning the boat is as important as attending to various repairs. Just like a car or a bus, your boat requires to be kept neat and clean at all times.

Boats are used for different purposes. They are not used just for fishing or transporting goods, they are used for recreational purposes too. These boats have more areas and upholsteries to be cleaned.

Guide To Help You

Here is a small yet comprehensive guide to help you keep your boat clean:

Know What To Clean

Cleaning the boat does not mean just hosing down the exteriors. The boat has to be cleaned thoroughly from the inside out. Some of the places that have to be cleaned on a regular basis are the hull, engine, seats, consoles, and carpets.

The hull and the engine require extensive cleaning once in a while. This is because most of the dirt and grime tend to accumulate here. Also, if these were to get damaged, it can be an expensive affair.

What Do You Need

Though different parts of the boat require different items to clean it up, there are a few basic items every boat owner should have if they aim to maintain the boat in good condition:

  • Spray bottle
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Soft cloth
  • Clean towel
  • Washing soap
  • Cleanser detergent
  • Sponge – both smooth and coarse
  • Vinegar

What To Do

Cleaning a boat can be quite challenging if you are not sure about what to do where and which product is the best boat cleaner. Here are a few things to be done if you want your vessel to be clean all year round.

  • Always hose down the exteriors as the water pressure can help lift off the dirt. This saves you a lot of time and removes most of the dirt easily.
  • Use a mild solution to wipe the surfaces. Though harsher chemicals can get the job done in no time, they can cause early damage to the boat’s body. Chemicals like bleach are cheap and easy to find. However, if left for a while, it can damage the surface and result in rust and corrosion.
  • Clean up your boat routinely. A routine clean-up will reduce the accumulation and build-up of dirt and other residues. The lesser the build-up, the lesser you will have to scrub and clean.
  • Keep some cleaning solution at hand for emergency clean-ups. Though it may not remove the stain completely, it will reduce the impact and stop the stain from seeping in and ruining your boat. A simple soap and water solution in a spray bottle, with a sponge, will do.
  • Attend to rust spots immediately. Letting it stay even for a while can cause severe damage to the boat’s body. The rust can spread and corrode the metal surface from within.

What Not To Do

Here is a list of things one should not do, in order to keep their vessel in good condition:

  • Never use harmful chemicals unless it is specifically designed for the boat. Though these chemicals can be great against stains and dirt, they can harm surfaces too.
  • Do not scrub too hard or use coarse sponges on the surfaces. This will not only ruin the paint job but will leave your boat looking dull and filled with scratches.
  • Never allow water to seep in and stay inside. It is natural for water to get into corners, especially when you use a hose to clean. Ensure the water is all drained and the vessel is left to dry out in the sun. Use a dry towel to wipe down and absorb excess moisture from the fabrics. This will prevent mold formation.
  • Just washing off the mold with water will not do the trick. It needs more cleaning to ensure mold does not appear again and the smell is removed for good. The use of detergent or baking soda can do the trick.
  • Never underestimate the importance of fenders. Even if your vessel is docked alone at the port, the tides will push it. Even small bumps against the concrete or any other surface will cause damage. These damages will develop into sweet spots for rust formation.
  • Never leave the soap solution or any other cleaner solution to sit too long on the surface. It will leave lasting watermarks and also lead to corrosion.

Get Cleaning

Cleaning the whole boat is a major task. Here is how you can do it in an organized and simple manner. Follow these steps for a clean shiny boat –

Wash – Rinse the entire boat. Hose down the exteriors and interiors. The water pressure will do most of the cleaning as the dirt and grime will be lifted off and sometimes, even washed away.

Soap – Attack the stubborn spots by soaping. Soap up the entire area if you can, as spots tend to escape the naked eye and will be obvious only after the entire cleaning process. Use professional-grade soap specifically designed to clean boats. Not only will these be more effective, but the damages caused will also be lesser.

Soap up the boat and clean it immediately. Do this one at a time as letting the soap dry on the metal or vinyl surfaces is not advisable. Apart from leaving watermarks, it will also lead to corrosion.

Buff – No matter how much your soap and wash, the boat will not be as shiny as it was when new. This calls for a little buffing. You can do this by hand or by using a rotary buffer. this will remove the oxidation and get the boat ready for waxing.

Wax – Wax has a dual role. It adds shine to the surface and also protects it from grime and debris. The wax coating forms a protective layer, thus slowing down the damage caused to the boat. Using a wax designed for boats will yield better results than other wax off the counter. This will make the surface look shiny, making it more attractive and new looking.

Interiors – It is not just the exterior that needs to be cleaned. The interiors need some attention too. Use a standard surface cleaner available in the market. These are good against spots but gentle on the surfaces too. Spots on metal areas can be cleaned using a spot cleaner. Finish off with a metal polish for a new-like look.

Fabrics – Though boats use vinyl seats, fabrics are used in many places. These tend to get dirty and smelly too. Curtains and removable upholsteries can be washed like regular clothes, while fixed seats can be cleaned with some soap solution and a wet vacuum.

Protective Layer – Once the cleaning is done from top to bottom, the boat should get a protective coating. Sunscreen can protect your vinyl seats from harmful UV rays, which result in cracks and breaks. A coat of fabric guard on the fabrics can prevent the absorption of water and the build-up of mildew.


Maintaining a boat, no matter what the size and type of boat it is, is a difficult task. Protecting metal surfaces from corrosion and rust when it is always in water, requires a lot of attention to minute details.

With proper cleaning and detailing, your vessel can look as good as new, for a very long time. Use these tips to show off a clean boat, to the world.

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