The Best Boat Cleaners to Use for Boat Maintenance

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When you think about boat accessories, the first thing that comes to mind likely isn't boat cleaners. Radios, lighting, and even practical things like rope or seat covers may be on the top of your list. Proper cleaning supplies, however, can mean the difference between a boat that sparkles and shines and a boat that ages before its time.

Having a sharp-looking boat isn't the only reason you'll need to keep things nice and clean. Harsh elements like wind, salt, and dirt can eventually cause damage to your boat that can be costly to repair. 

There are so many boat cleaners on the market that it can be a bit overwhelming. The costs of owning a boat can add up, so it's good to know that cleaning products don't have to break the bank. Here is a simple guide to choosing the best cleaners for your water vessel. 

Basic Supplies and Boat Cleaners

When it comes to cleaning your boat, not all cleaners are created equal. You may be tempted to use the strongest substances you can find to keep things in tip-top shape. When cleaning your boat, stronger isn't always best. 

There are a few things to consider when choosing the best cleaning products for your boat. Harsher chemicals can not only damage your boat but can also contaminate the water and harm marine life. Aside from choosing environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, there are other ways a boater can help protect marine life. 

Some things you'll want to have on hand to clean your boat are a variety of buckets, sponges and microfiber cloths, soft bristle brushes, and a chamois towel for drying. 

The good news is that there are many things you can use to clean your boat that are inexpensive and easy to find like white vinegar and mild dish detergent. For the more specialized cleaners that tackle specific areas and materials on your boat, it's best to go with products made especially to handle those tasks. 

Boat Soap

Before you get to the finer details of cleaning and protecting your boat, you'll want to make sure you have a clean surface to work with. A good all-purpose soap can be used to clean your boat from top to bottom. 

Simply rinse off your boat, then add the soap or soap concentrate to warm water and apply with a soft sponge or microfiber cloth. It's important to rinse the boat first so you remove any loose dirt and debris that could scratch the surface while you're cleaning. 

Once you've used the soap to clean any surface on the boat, be sure to rinse it off completely. Dried soap on the surface of the boat can cause scratches and damage.

Wax and Polish

Most boats these days are made from fiberglass. This durable material provides a sturdy structure but is lighter than wood and metal options. Gelcoat is the tough glossy exterior finish that protects the fiberglass from the salt and sun. 

If the Gelcoat isn't properly maintained, the finish can get dull and chalky over time. After giving your boat a thorough wash, you'll want to apply a coat of boat wax. Wax will help protect and seal the finish while repelling water and dirt. 

If you want an added shine, you can choose to polish the vessel as well. A good polish will remove any oxidation from the Gelcoat to really make it shine. There are cleaner waxes or all-purpose waxes that will both wax and polish, which is good for vessels that have only a light or moderate amount of oxidation. 

You'll want to wax your boat twice a season. A good idea is to wax once before launching your boat and again before putting it away for the winter. 

Upholstery and Vinyl

The seats on your boat can take quite a beating. If they are removable, you can extend the life of your cushions by storing them inside or below decks when not in use. That's not always an option.

Since they will encounter their fair share of moisture, many vinyl seats will come factory-treated with antimicrobials. To protect this coating and not to damage the material in general, you'll need to clean them with a soft sponge or cloth and a mild soap. The all-purpose boat soap works fine or you can use a mild dish detergent. 

For tougher stains, you can scrub gently with a soft-bristle brush. Avoid the use of harsh chemicals like bleach and ammonia. Not only are they bad for the environment but they can also damage your cushions.  Our leather and vinyl cleaner as well as our boating wipes are perfect to care for your seats and interior.  


Some boats will still have at least a small amount of wood trim on handrails, toerails, steps, or decking. More often than not, this trim is made from teak. In most cases, folks just allow this wood to naturally age and form a grey patina. 

Even if you let the teak age naturally, it will need to be cleaned at least once a season. Using a special teak cleaner can remove oils, grime, and mold while protecting the wood from corrosion. 

To clean wood surfaces, be sure to go against the grain to keep from damaging the softer parts of the wood and to deep clean down in the pores of the wood.  

Don't Forget the Head

Just like your toilet at home, if you don't keep it clean it will start to smell. Badly. Cleaning the head in your boat isn't that dissimilar from cleaning the one at home. 

Unlike at home, however, you'll need to keep the lines free of scale and calcium deposits. To keep things running smoothly, you can simply run a cup or two of vinegar through the lines once a month. For even more odor control, you can add natural enzymes that will help break down waste. 


It can perhaps be a little daunting when choosing the best methods to keep your boat in top shape. Choosing the best boat cleaners doesn't have to be a hassle. With a few products, you can clean, polish, and protect your boat from top to bottom.

Begin with the basics: buckets, all-purpose soap, and quality sponges, brushes, and cloths. Once you've gotten the hang of keeping your boat clean, you can get down into the gritty details with specialized cleaning products like teak sealer, fabric waterproofing, plus many other products that will keep your boat looking like new.