How to Clean a Boat
How to Clean a Boat


What You Need

  • Water source
  • Microfiber cloths, chamois or clean towels

Boats are made from a variety of materials, optimized for their various purposes. Between interior surfaces such as carpet, vinyl or fiberglass and external surfaces like gel coats and canvas, as well as boat engines, your choice of cleaning products - emphasizing quality and versatility - is key for proper boat maintenance.

In generations past, boats were made mostly of wood, steel or aluminum alloys. Today, the majority of boats are built using fiberglass, a highly popular versatile material due to its strength, lack of density and resistance to chemicals and heat. Fiberglass has a higher strength to weight ratio than steel, which is highly valuable to boaters looking to keep their watercraft as lightweight as possible. Fiberglass is also sound absorbent, which works wonders for eliminating the clanging sounds more characteristic of metallic boats.

The carpet of your boat is perhaps the dirtiest component on the entire vessel. Where else can you find a combination of dirt, fish guts, sunscreen, machine oils and the odd beverage or two? The best way to clean boat carpet is to vacuum any loose dirt, then follow up with a proper cleaning product, a good scrub down via stiff-bristle brush, and water.

Caring for boat vinyl on seat cushions, liners and upholstery is easy to do, provided you're committed to regular maintenance. Marine-grade vinyl is popular due to its waterproof nature. But they're susceptible to sunscreen, food, dirt and mold stains, which are not only unsightly, but can have a deteriorating effect on the surface of the vinyl. Vinyl is a porous material, similar to leather, which can become clogged and grimy. This requires regular cleaning, especially during active boating months.

Your choice of cleaning product is also important when it comes to cleaning livewells. A clean rinsing product is key, to avoid a detrimental effect on the fish that will occupy the space. Be sure to remove the filter screens from the livewell and the intake, and rinse them thoroughly to dislodge any deposits or clogs.

Gelcoats act as a protectant on boat hulls, but are easily damaged by cleaning products with abrasive or harsh chemicals, potentially leading to oxidization and rust. When cleaning on your boat, you should avoid using bleach, as it can damage or deteriorate gelcoats, the stitching on marine vinyl and more. You should also avoid alcohol-based cleaners, which can cause dryness and cracking on boating materials. Additionally, you should never clean your boat in direct sunlight, to avoid streaking and possible material damage.

A better alternative to harsh cleaners, Simple Green Marine All-Purpose Boat Cleaner is a specially formulated, concentrated cleaning solution that removes grease, grime, oil, gas, diesel fuel, fish blood and more from all washable surfaces in or near marine environments. The biodegradable*, non-abrasive formula can be diluted for light cleaning, or used straight from the bottle for heavy duty cleaning jobs, all without damaging more sensitive or fragile materials used on your boat and leaves no lingering residue is left on the surface which could cause surface damage or skin irritation.

Directions For Cleaning Your Boat:

Most cleaning products are not approved to run into open bodies of water. If you need a product to clean your boat while it's on water, try one of our Simple Green Oxy Solve Total Outdoor Cleaner. Otherwise, take your vessel to an approved area that drains to a sanitiary sewer system.

  1. Wet the surface. Thoroughly rinse the hull, taking care to dislodge any accumulations of algae or other materials. If using a pressure washer on the boat exterior, be sure to use the lowest-pressure setting or nozzle.
  2. Apply cleaner. Spray Simple Green Marine All-Purpose Boat Cleaner on surface (avoiding glass and electrical components), and scrub with a soft-bristle brush. Do not let product dry on surface.
  3. Rinse. Damp-wipe fiberglass and vinyl surfaces, and flush out livewell with clean water numerous times, to ensure that all residues and cleaning solution has cleared the system.
  4. Dry. Allow surface to dry fully before using or storing.
  5. Wax. Use a wax or polish with a UV sunscreen to protect the boat's exterior.

*Biodegradable per OECD 301D.


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