Last Updated on July 1, 2022 by Brian Drew

Boat fenders keep your boat looking new and free from scratches, scuffs, and damage caused during docking, mooring, and rafting.

Nothing is more unsightly than a bunch of dirty-looking fenders hanging from your handsome boat. Watercraft and their accessories need regular cleaning as they are in constant contact with water and other debris.

Fenders or bumpers are hung on the outside of the boat and are exposed to the sun and all kinds of dirt. If you don’t clean and care for them regularly, they easily get multiple coats of dirt and grime onto them, after which cleaning becomes a really challenging task.

So if you are wondering how to go about keeping your fenders looking new and clean, then you have come to the right place. Read on as we reveal to you the secret to good-looking bumpers.

Why do I need to clean my boat fenders?

When you buy new bumpers for protecting your watercraft, they look so squeaky clean, and bright and enhance the look of your ride. It is only natural to think that since they often come into contact with water, they would automatically be clean. The fact that they are also made of materials like plastic and rubber only reinforces this thought.

But if you have already left them out on their own too long, you probably have learned it the hard way that in reality there are in no way self-cleansing. If you don’t care for them regularly, you are sure to end up with dirty, slimy, grime-coated fenders that become a sore to the eyes.

That is why regular and proper care is essential to keep them looking good and make them last a long time.

Here are the common reasons why you should have a cleaning routine in place.

  • Oxidation stains
  • Dirt
  • Grime
  • Salt
  • UV exposure

In addition to the above, there are other reasons why your fenders become dirty. They can become soiled and stained due to constant rubbing against the coating of pilings and docks. So no simple wiping with a soapy solution is going to help clear such tough stains.

Ways to clean boat fenders

As bumpers are exposed to the elements, they tend to accumulate dirt and even algae on their surface. This is not just unsightly, but can also cause a build-up of mold and cause insect infestation on board when they are stored. To make things worse, they may also start giving off a bad odor.

Thankfully, a number of options are available to restore badly soiled bumpers. Here are a few ways that you can consider for your cleaning routine.

Pressure washing

A simple way to care for your top-rated fenders is to use pressure washing with plain water. To do this, you must first tie down the fenders on the ground with a rope. Once this is done, you simply have to use a pressure washer to remove all the debris sticking to the surface.

Finally, you can wipe them dry with a piece of cloth before stowing them or hanging them back to your boat.

Hydrogen Peroxide

You can also create your own cleaning solution to clean boat bumpers. To do this you will need a chlorine/bleach-free toilet cleaner and hydrogen peroxide. Mix equal parts of both the solutions and scrub the surface with a scrubbing brush dipped in the solution.

Fender cleaners

A safe and sure way to clean your bumpers is to buy a fender cleaner that has been specifically formulated for use with this protective gear. A variety of such cleaners are available in the market and they cut down on the scrubbing part.

Also, they are fender-friendly and so do not cause any damage to their surface.

Magic eraser

If you do not have a lot of stains on your bumpers, then you could opt for the eraser method. All you will need to do is wet the eraser and scrub till the entire surface is clean. These can be re-used a number of times before being discarded.

Can I use any cleaning solution from my cleaning supplies?

The simple and straightforward answer to that question is a big ‘No’. This is because different cleaners have different ingredients that are specifically designed for use in a particular situation.

Fenders have a protective role to play and so using the wrong kind of cleaner can decrease their life by causing damage to their surfaces. Also, different bumpers are made with different materials. Here are the commonly used materials in the manufacture of bumpers.

  • PVC
  • Vinyl
  • Hypalon
  • Neoprene
  • Rubber

Some solvents in multi-purpose cleaners are harmful to materials like rubber and PVC and can degrade them over time. Also, using a heavy-duty scrubbing brush or hard-scrubbing the surface of the bumpers too can leave the surface damaged. This in turn can cause an easy build-up of dirt and grease in the future.

How to choose the right fender cleaner?

There are a lot of fender cleaning products that are available in the market. But in case you are not sure of which one to pick, then use the following checklist. It will give you a good idea of what to look for in your cleaner.

  • Non-flammable – Ensure that there are no inflammable materials in the cleaner to avoid accidents
  • Solvent-free – Strong solvents like acetone may remove stains and grime, but they also affect the fender material and reduce their durability. Hence it is important to choose a solvent-free agent
  • Non-corroding – Some harsh chemicals used in cleaners can damage plastic and rubber. Since fenders are made of these materials, the cleaning agent should be free of such chemicals
  • Non-toxic –The ingredients should not cause any harm to either the users or the environment, especially because marine organisms can be affected. Some cleaners are also made to be biodegradable.
  • Protective coat – It is good to look for a cleanser that will leave a protective coat on your gear to prevent wearing away in future
  • UV protection–In addition to protection against future weathering, look for one that will also protect against UV exposure
  • Easy-to-use –The cleaner should be easy to use and not involve any mixing or dilution. Many cleaners are available as ready-to-use sprays or mixes to simplify the process.
  • No-scrubbing – Even scrubbing action can cause damage to your bumper’s surface over time. So a fender cleaner should be able to dissolve the grime and dirt and help you clean with minimum scrubbing action.

What else will I need?

If you have a good cleaner in place, the only other thing you will really need is a soft cloth or a cleaning sponge. It’s better to buy one that already has a protective coat feature, in which case, just cleaning, and drying is all you need to do.

Otherwise, you can choose to apply a thin coat of wax to simplify further maintenance. Again, marine wax is what you should ideally be using as auto wax won’t be as effective.


Caring for your boat fenders does not have to be a painful task. Even though regular cleaning will keep them new, more often than not it becomes difficult to stick to a routine. Fender cleaners are a great way to remove unsightly rust stains; dirt and grime build-up on your bumpers.

As they have been specially formulated for use with fenders, they save you time, money, and a lot of elbow grease. What’s even better, as they also protect the surfaces after cleaning, they can very well increase the life span of your bumpers.

Similar Posts