Shipshape: The Best Boat Cleaners for Sparkle and Shine
We've all heard the term "Shipshape," meaning to keep things neat and tidy. So when it comes to your hull, decking and other parts of your craft that get exposed to the elements, it's a sound piece of advice.
Below the surface, your vessel is continuously under attack from all manner of corrosives and organisms. And it doesn't end there. The deck and exterior are prone to just as much weathering and deterioration.
The sea is a harsh environment, and you need to keep on top of your maintenance. One of the easiest ways to prolong your vessel's life is to keep everything shipshape, clean and good as new.
With that in mind, I investigated the sea of products (see what I did there?) to offer a list of some of the best boat cleaners available.
Below the Surface
Your boat is continuously exposed to damage from the moment it enters the water. So, what are the common causes of corrosion and deterioration?
Salt will do untold damage to your hull if left untouched. It destroys, it fades, it weakens and it bleaches.
If you don't believe me, see what damage salt water does to a car. I lived on the south coast of the UK for many years and saw the evidence of what salt in the atmosphere could do to rust and the paintwork of a car.
Luckily, your boat will either be constructed of wood or fiber-glass, two materials well suited to this kind of punishment. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't maintain them.
In southwest Florida, in 2018, an algae crisis was declared. A carpet of the stuff swept into the marinas and ports, coating every vessel's hull in green gunk.
It was hazardous to paint, with warnings that it could cause damage. It was even claimed dangerous to human life.
If these harmful algae are left untouched, it coats the surface of your hull and releases toxins that could cause blistering to your surface.
Whenever I see the word "Barnacle," I always end up pronouncing it like a pirate. Who else does that?
Barnacles are damaging little critters that stick to the underside of your hull. Once attached, they can be difficult to remove, and if you're not careful, you cause damage when doing so.
They're the scourge of boaters around the world and an inevitability of the boating life.
In some parts of the world, the teredo worm will burrow through wooden hulls, much like the woodworm does on dry land.
Your hull is then peppered with tiny holes, and we all know what a hull full of holes means. Before long, you'll find your boat on the bottom of the ocean.
So, now you see what you can't see (Is this making sense?).
How Often Should You Clean Your Hull?
A lot depends on your location, usage and the water temperatures you sail in. If you notice a loss in performance or handling, it could be that you have a lot of algae or barnacles attached to the hull, which can impact how the boat behaves.
The general rule of thumb is you should jet wash and clean your hull every three months. This is the ideal, especially if you have a smaller craft that you can drag out of the water on a whim, but for larger vessels, it might not be practical. In this case, it would be wise to conduct a bi-annual or annual inspection.
For the lightest of cleaning tasks, it's possible to purchase a multi-surface cleaner that caters to wood, fiberglass, steel and all other elements of the exterior of the boat. Better Boat's Boat Soap is one such product that cleans hulls, wood, glass and steel in a spray application.
It comes in one-gallon containers and is always handy to keep aboard for the day-to-day chores. You can even use it for pots and pans.
It helps to create a water-repellant barrier and protects against the rays of the sun. These products are inexpensive, and any novice boater can use them.
Shipshape: The Best Boat Cleaner for Sparkle and Shine
The 4 Best Environmentally Friendly Boat Cleaners
Given the rise in awareness of the planet's damage, as boaters, we're all too aware of the state of the seas. So why would we want to add to that burden?
For this reason, here are many eco-friendly boat cleaners available to help you keep a tidy vessel with a clear conscience.
This boat soap is a multi-use cleaner, effective at cleaning vinyl, painted surfaces, aluminum and fiberglass. It's 100-percent biodegradable and causes no harmful chemicals to enter the water.
It's suitable for fresh and salt-water environments, and you get approximately 35 washes from a 32 oz bottle. It's also guaranteed not to leave any residue or slippery surfaces once washed away.
This Eco Clean multi-purpose cleaner works well on algae, mold, mildew and is intended for use on almost all surfaces. You can even use it on bathtubs and sinks, meaning that the inside of the boat will be sparkling too.
The 1-gallon bottle does approximately 300 to 400 square feet, and there's no need to scrub. Simply spray on and rinse away after a few minutes.
This biodegradable and non-phosphate boat cleaner is kind to your boat and the environment. It comes is a 1-gallon bottle and cleans aluminum, fiberglass, chrome, gel coat, painted surfaces, rubber, steel and glass.
The makers claim this sugar-based cleaner is better than using hard acid-based detergents and outperforms the competition. You can even use it in confined spaces without ventilation.
Simple Green is non-toxic and 100-percent biodegradable, so it won't cause any harm to the environment. For every 1-gallon bottle of concentrate, you get up to 30 gallons of cleaner solution.
It's non-abrasive, non-flammable and suitable for fiberglass and painted surfaces as well as vinyl. It's even so eco that it contains no added scent!
The 6 Best Boat Cleaners
Better Boat has developed a powerful cleaner that works on fiberglass, metal and painted hulls. It removes waterline stains, mold, mildew and grime effortlessly. This stuff even removes rust stains!
It doesn't contain harmful acids, so it's entirely safe for use and won't harm your skin. It comes in 32 oz and is the fastest growing brand of cleaning products in the boat space. This is an excellent product.
This Meguir's is the four-piece complete set for all your fiberglass hull needs. It consists of a restoration system to bring your hull back to life.
The set includes an anti-oxidation remover to remove stains and scratches, a high gloss polish and a pure wax to add a protective layer to all your gleaming hard work. It restores color on gel coat surfaces too!
This set is all the boat cleaner you'll ever need.
Boat Juice Cleaner Kit - 32oz Exterior Cleaner - Ceramic SiO2 Sealant - Water Spot Remover & 32oz Interior Boat Vinyl Cleaner - Ceramic UV Protectant - Includes Interior and Exterior Microfiber Towels
This Boat Juice pack is the ultimate spring cleaning set. It comes as two spray applicators; one for exteriors and another for interiors.
The interior spray is effective on foam surfaces, carpet, upholstery and vinyl, while the
exterior spray removes mineral deposits and hard water stains from the hull. The exterior spray is also suitable for gel coat, fiberglass, glass and vinyl surfaces.
This 303 multi-surface cleaner is more of a handy spot cleaner rather than an entire hull and boat cleaner. It comes in a convenient spray applicator and works great on vinyl and vinyl plastics, as well as metal surfaces like stainless steel and chrome.
It removes water spots and stains from fabric and even freshens and protects rubber and aluminum. If you have a teak floor or a canvas cover, this cleaner works on that too!
This is the second time I've featured a Starbrite cleaner on the list, and for a good reason. My experience with their products has been excellent.
This Starbrite cleaner is specifically designed to clean aluminum surfaces, removing oxidation, dirt, grime and waterline stains.
It's biodegradable, so it's better than some other boat cleaners for the environment. Also, when used in conjunction with Starbrite Ultimate Aluminum Polish, it's excellent for restoring older boats.
This spray-applied marine cleaner is an all-rounder, working above and below deck. It also deodorizes while removing stains and water spots from almost every surface.
This marine cleaner is suitable for carpets, upholstery, vinyl and hard surfaces, as well as killing bacteria as a disinfectant. It even cleans inflatable boats and RVs as well as canvas and lifejackets.
Owning a boat is all about the sun, sea and fun. But while there are many hours of enjoyment, there are also many hours of hard work. Keeping on top of all the tasks takes time and dedication to keep a boat shipshape.
Getting your hands on the right cleaning products is crucial to keeping an orderly and maintained vessel, not to mention choosing an eco-option to save the planet.
All in all, these detergents are designed to make your life as easy as possible without losing their cleaning power.