How to Detail a Boat: The Inside Out Guide
Updated January 4, 2021
Cleaning boats is a challenge to a lot of boat owners. It is true that boats are delicate and require special care and maintenance. However, some good practices might save you some time and effort.
Seeing your boat as clean as the first time is wonderful. The good news is you don’t have to spend all the time on your boat cleaning it. All you need is a consistent and efficient cleaning routine and, very importantly the right cleaning equipment and products.
In this guide, we’ll take you through how to detail your boat yourself. Whether you have a small or big boat, you’ll be able to save some time and energy by the end of this guide.
Boat Detailing Equipment
The first prerequisite for an efficient boat cleaning process is the equipment. Forget about household tools. Regular scrubbers, brushes, soap, and detergents are too abrasive. They will damage your boat’s wax finish and can cause more problems in the long run.
Additionally, a lot of countries forbid to use those products on boats. Regular cleaning products are ecologically toxic and thus shouldn’t be released into the ocean. If you are using those products, make sure to check your local laws and switch to adequate products.
For Your Boat Interior
By interior, I mean the deck, which includes the bulkhead and everything visible on the deck including the rails and the glass windows. The cabin is not included in this guide.
Here’s all the equipment and tools you need to clean your boat interior.
1. A couple of buckets
2. Boat soap instead of household soap or detergent
Your deck is resistant to abrasive household detergent but boat soap lathers well and it’s a natural degreaser. It removes dirt and stains.
3. Bar Keeper’s Friend cleanser – best chrome cleaner (gold can)
4. Mildew cleaner for your cabin
Vinegar is the best DIY mildew cleaner. You can buy a vinegar mildew cleaner specifically made for boats like this Heinz Cleaning Vinegar from Amazon.
5. Boat wax
6. The Crown Choice Long Handle Scrub Brush – Best 3-in-1 set with detail brush
It will work for isinglass and can clean the corners of the glass frames.
7. Water hose with a water spray gun for more control
8. Heavy-duty deck brush or stiff bristle brush
9. Wash mitt or a non-scratch home scrubbing pad will also work
10. Non-skid brush, non-skid deck cleaner and
Specifically designed to clean non-skid floors.
11. Water bottle spray
12. Rubber gloves
Guide to Cleaning Your Deck
Note: Wash mitts are great for lifting dirt which makes them inadequate to clean glass.
Amazon’s wash mitts recommendation – Relentless Drive Ultimate Car Wash Mitt – 2 Pack Extra Large Size – Premium Chenille Microfiber Wash Mitt – Wash Glove – Lint Free – Scratch Free
Washing Mitts Do’s and Don’ts
1. Mitts are great for lifting hardened salt, dirt and polishing rails
2. Mitts are not good for isinglass as they will scratch it
– mitts collect dirt and crystal salt. Using them to clean glass will scratch it.
Regular Cleaning Guide After an Outing
Step 1: Wipe down your deck and then use your water hose spray gun to rinse the boat with fresh water
– focus on the isinglass
– spray as much water as you can to wash out the crystallized salt from the surfaces
Warning: Most boat seat covers should be waterproof but it’s best to check what kind of material they’re made of.
Step 2: Fill a bucket with water and boat soap
Step 3: Use that cleaning solution along with a soft bristle brush to swab the deck and scrub the bulkhead
Step 4: Fill your bottle spray with cleaning solution and spray on the dirty portion of your deck and the isinglass
Step 5: Make sure to use The Crown Choice brush set on the isinglass first before using it on any other material
– The soft bristles are non-scratch and you can use the detail brush with the silicon scraper to get the grime out of the sides of the glass window panels
Step 6: Wash the brush then use it to scrub the mud and algae (or the blood and guts of fish after your fishing expedition)
Step 7: Use your hose to rinse the deck again
Step 8: Wax and seal
Since this article is only about detailing and cleaning your boat please check this video on how to wax it.
Heavy Cleaning Decks
DIY boat cleaning is daunting as there are many details you need to consider. First, you need to know what type of material your deck is made of.
Check your boat’s exterior coating as it’s most likely different from other boats. Here are the type of boat exteriors according to West Marine.
- Gelcoat non-skid – far tougher than clearcoat so you need to apply more aggressive cleaning methods.
- Painted non-skid
Non-skid needs to be cleaned in a specific way but this will also apply to Gelcoat type decks.
How to Clean Fiberglass Boat Deck
Fiberglass looks great but it gets slippery if fish guts, blood or mud are not cleaned up immediately. Slipping is dangerous on land, it’s even more dangerous on the high seas. Make sure to thoroughly clean after every outing to avoid any incidents.
Step 1: Scrub it down with a non-abrasive fiberglass-friendly brush and a broom
Step 2: Hose down the deck to loosen gunk and grime left from brushing
Step 3: Gather your materials like the boat cleaner and the long-handled squeegee so you don’t need to go back and forth
Warning: Make sure you start from the edges first but stay safe. People often fall off from the boat edges when cleaning their boats.
Step 4: Apply the boat cleaner solution using a bottle spray. You can also use a non-abrasive washcloth or washing mitts
Step 5: Use a non-abrasive long-handled brush to scrub the fiberglass
Step 6: Use your long-handled squeegee to wipe the residue. Some of these squeegees can reach up to the edges of the boat even if you stand near the center
For Your Boat Exterior
The dirtiest part of your boat exterior is the hull since it’s the most exposed to the elements.
How to Clean Wooden Boat Hull
Here are the utensils you need to clean wooden boat hull
2. The Crown Choice Long-Handle Scrub Brush – Best 3-in-1 set with detail brush
3. A large plastic to catch dirt and the dirty cleaning solution
4. Mobile detailing boat cleaning solution
- Starbrite Instant Hull Cleaner (preferred cleaner)
- Lysol toilet bowl cleaner (cheap and readily available)
5. A no scratch and non-abrasive washcloth or sponge
6. Water hose
7. Non-abrasive long-handled deck brush
Note: There are long handle brushes that are slightly bent used to clean the boat’s underside that is submerged underwater.
Here’s how to clean the boat once it’s out of the water.
Step 1: Spray the hull with your cleaning solution
Step 2: Scrub the hull with your long-handled no scratch brush or no scratch sponge cleaner
– focus your spraying and scrubbing on the dirtiest sections
– you can use the long deck brush for hard to reach sections
– use the 3-in-1 brush set to scrub the hull and use the smaller brushes for a more detailed cleaning
Step 3: Hose it down as you go to get rid of the dirt and grime
Step 4: Give it a final hose down and on you go for the next outing
The Crown Choice Long Handle Scrub Brush – Best 3-in-1 set with Detail Brush
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Boat cleaning is so involved and there are many contradictory guides online about “how to detail a boat”. It sounds easy and self-explanatory but when you start researching you’d find conflicting information all over the web.
One thing is sure, using The Crown Choice 3-in1 brush set is the best equipment you can find to clean your boat’s deck and hull. It has strong but non-abrasive bristles so you won’t scratch your boat finish. The detail brush will pick up dirt and algae on sections that your deck brush can’t even reach.
It’s perfect for boat detailing and car detailing. Check it out here and enjoy our 30-day, no questions asked, money-back guarantee.