Wax On, Wax Off: Waxing a Boat in 5 Slick Steps

Wax On, Wax Off: Waxing a Boat in 5 Slick Steps

There's one surefire way to avoid waxing your boat.

Don't own a boat.

Yeah, not waxing is not happening. Not if you value your vessel.

I'll guess that you love your time on your boat, so you're willing to do what it takes to keep that vessel ready for adventures, good times with friends and quiet moments on the water when Mother Nature shows you how amazing light and water and life can be.

In order to take the pain (figurative and literal) out of this waxing chore, I did some homework to make sure I was using the right tools. I saved effort and got better results. I also gave some serious thought to making waxing more fun, less of a chore and more a part of my overall boating experience.

I'll share my secret for making waxing enjoyable in a few.

Why Waxing a Boat Is Important

A boat spends its time in a pretty harsh environment.

When it's not wet, and often with corrosive salt water, then it's dry from the sun beating down on it. I skipped waxing one year and learned the hard way that the gel coat on a boat will oxidize over time.

The process is invisible to the naked eye, but the results are very visible and painful to see and remove. Electrons move as they interact with the oxygen around the boat. Think of how fruit browns when you cut it open or how metals rust. Marine wax will form a barrier between your gel coat and the air around the boat to stop this process.

Of course, the wax will wear away over time. That's why it's important to regularly and properly wax your boat and avoid the hard work of removing that chalky substance that can form on a neglected boat hull.

A good wax job will also make your boating season more enjoyable. You'll have a more beautiful boat and it will be easier to keep her clean after a ride or fishing trip. Few of us have won the lottery or inherited billions of dollars, so we're the ones behind the hose at the end of a long day on the water.

When I'm tired and maybe a little sunburned, hungry for my evening meal and looking at a long car ride home, one of the last things I want to do is to deal with stubborn stains like fish blood. The wax coating will make it easier to get the gunk off and wash almost invisible problems, like salt, which can harm the boat as she sits in the sun, waiting for you to return.

Finally, waxing is quality time with your boat. You'll have time to look up close at the hull while you're applying and removing the wax, so you'll be able to identify stress cracks or more serious damage early on.

While you won't wax the bottom (painting the hull is a different protection process), you might find that you've hit something during the previous season. Fixing something before your boat goes into the water is much easier than realizing she's sinking in her berth.

Wax On, Wax Off: Waxing a Boat in 5 Slick Steps

Everyone knows how to wax thanks to Mr. Miyagi's sage advice, Wax on, wax off. Detailed steps are really refinements to make the basic two easier.

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1. Buy the right products

Realize that a boat is not a car in so many ways, not the least of which is that your goal is to protect a gel coat and not a painted finish. I tried car wax and it was not only gummy and a royal pain to use, it just didn't do the job as well as the waxes developed for boats do. One good wax for boats is made by Meguiar (check price on Amazon), and another nice option is produced by Turtle Wax (check price on Amazon).

2. Start with a clean boat

Giving her a good wash is always the first step to waxing. If you try to wax a boat that's dirty, you'll convert that dirt and rag into sandpaper and end up scratching your gel coat. A power washer (check price on Amazon) can be a handy tool that will not only save water but also elbow grease.

3. Wax well

Use that elbow grease to wax the surface of your boat or invest a little money in a good rotary polisher. The machine won't replace your strength but it will allow you to use your muscles to guide the work rather than do it all.

Put a small amount of wax on the pad and lay that down on the surface, then start the machine. If you start the machine with the pad in the air, you'll discover a new art form, a la Jackson Pollock.

4. Buff

Use a clean pad on your machine to buff off the wax. Move the machine so you don't get rub marks. Go back and forth in one direction, then repeat in a perpendicular pattern. You'll see the shine come through. You'll also learn if you're applying too much or too little wax in the previous step.

Pay attention and adjust. If your pad is gumming up or it's taking forever to remove the wax, lay off on the application. If your boat surface is not shiny enough after your efforts, you might want to add more.

5. Admire

Seriously, you're doing a good job so take a moment to enjoy your accomplishment!

Tips to Make Waxing a Boat Fun and Friendly

Phone a friend.

Think of asking your friends to help you with the waxing just as the Amish invite their neighbors to raise a barn. I can attract a decent-sized group by making the day about teamwork and fun and by having lots of good food and beverages on hand. Also, I announce that those who help get priority when I plan a cruise or fishing trip.

Keep the boat safe.

That means don't use a slippery wax that may be appropriate for the hull on your deck. Use a non-skid wax (check price on Amazon) for the horizontal surfaces.

Also, stow the junk and keep clutter to a minimum. Storage space may be at a premium on your boat but good organization is a good way to store more and lose things less.

Commit to waxing.

Plan on doing a good waxing job when you get the boat ready for the season and then consider when you can do it again, especially if you live in a climate with strong sun.

Take care of yourself.

Wear comfortable clothing (avoid jewelry that might scratch the gel coat), keep hydrated and get the tunes going!

Enjoy the experience!

There are some benefits to this chore if you pay attention. For one thing, I love the camaraderie that just sort of happens at the marina. We're all doing the same thing and happy to share tools or swap a quick story as we take a break. I also love how good I feel when a fellow boater walks past and tells me the boat looks good as I make progress.

Take pictures.

Finally, think about bringing a camera to the boat when you wax her. You can use it to take before/after shots, which will remind you of just how much you've accomplished or capture fun moments with friends as you tackle this project together.

The point is to savor the waxing experience. That might sound odd because it's definitely a lot of work. But it's also another aspect of boating that will bring you memories and pride, just as much as completing your first night cruise or catching the biggest fish.