Easy guide to washing your boat

Buoy your spirits by washing that dirty boat until it's in shipshape condition again. First, determine whether it’s made from wood, fibreglass, polyethylene or aluminium and wash accordingly.

Easy guide to washing your boat

1. Wooden boats

  • When washing a wooden boat, you have to be careful. Most are painted, and solvents or abrasives can eat through the paint.
  • Use a mild, biodegradable pH-neutral detergent, or one of the many specialty products for the task available at marine supply stores.
  • Dissolve 250 ml (1 cup) of detergent in a bucket of water and use a large sponge to clean the boat from stem to stern, preferably when it's out of the water.
  • If dirt is particularly stubborn, use a cleaning pad with a bit of scratch to it.
  • To keep bare teak boats sparkling, mix 1 part ammonia to 10 parts water in a bucket, then scrub with a soft-bristled nylon brush.

2. Fibreglass boats

  • The tools of choice are good old soapy water — mild, biodegradable detergent in a bucket of warm water — and a large sponge.
  • When attacking stubborn crud or greasy stains, avoid using solvents such as lacquer thinner or acetone, which could etch the tender fibreglass surface.
  • Instead, use mineral turpentine on tough dirt, dabbed on a soft cloth.
  • Thoroughly rinse the boat with water.
  • Use marine wax, sold atmarine supply stores,as directed to rewax any spots where the wax has worn off.
  • Always wax your boat with marine wax before you store it for cold weather.

3. Polyethylene vessels

  • Canoes, kayaks and other small boats today are sometimes made of this durable yet pliable plastic — give it the standard mild-detergent-and-water treatment described above.
  • If you have obstinate stains, apply a touch of turpentine or acetone on a soft cloth.
  • If these don't work, and only as a last resort, use a smidgen of lacquer thinner on a soft cloth to remove a stain.

4. Painted aluminium boats

  • Wash as you would a painted wooden one.
  • If your vessel is unpainted, consider it almost indestructible.
  • That means that you can use a strong solvent, such as lacquer thinner or mineral turpentine, to remove any hardened grit and clean the surface thoroughly.
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