Everybody loves to go boating – but nobody loves to start a weekend-long boat cleaning project. Guess what? With a little planning, you’ll never have to do that again. In fact, you may be able to get your boat ready to cruise in just one afternoon. The biggest secret to speedy spring-cleaning is to have done thorough winterizing cleanup routine when you put your boat away. The time you took to prepare your boat for storage last winter really pays off when you are ready to use it again in the spring.
Still, that doesn’t mean you can just start boating with no spring cleanup at all. You protected your boat from harsh winter weather, and now it’s time to protect it from the summer sun. Follow these guidelines to help keep your boat running and looking new.
Last winter, you protected your boat by washing and waxing. It’s time to wash the boat again, using a very gentle soap so you don’t wash the wax you applied last year.
When washing the boat, clean from the top down. Make sure all windows and hatches are closed. Dry the boat using a cotton towel. Remove streaks and stains, using a cleaner wax. We used Meguiar’s Cleaner/Wax; there are many good cleaner waxes to choose from.
Re-wax with a good carnauba wax and polish using a 3M buffing pad or good old “elbow grease”. Washing the outside of the boat at least two times per month can stop spots and black streaks from becoming stains.
If you have a canvas top with vinyl windows, use a soft brush and gentle soap. Scrub it and make sure to rinse well.
To prevent future stains, you may want to re-waterproof the fabric. Glen Raven Mills, the manufacturer of Sunbrella® Fabric, recommends a product called 303 Waterproof. And the company has also approved Mer-maids® Canvas & Vinyl Cleaner for cleaning it’s fabrics.
If your glass windows have hard water spots on them, try a product called Spot-X. This product is the safest way to remove hard water stains on glass, including shower doors!
During my boat detailing days, I accidentally stumbled upon a way to help prevent hard water spots on windows. After washing and waxing the boat, take a wet cloth, add three or four small drops of liquid wax and incorporate the wax into the wet cloth. Wipe all of the windows and let them haze up. Wipe the windows dry, and then step back and look at how sparkling clear they are. If you see that the widows are still a bit hazy, you used too much wax. A little wax goes a long way, so use it sparingly
Nothing makes a boat look more unkempt than a cloudy, yellowish brown vinyl window. If proper care isn’t taken, the vinyl will become brittle due to loss of chemicals called “plasticizor”. The more plasticizors, the more pliable the vinyl. If a boat window looks old and cloudy, it’s because a particular process has taken place called “plasticizor migration”. The plasticizors work their way to the surface over time, evaporating and leaving the vinyl brittle, cracked and cloudy.
It isn’t enough to wash with water – you must follow up by using a good plastic cleaner. To avoid scratching the window, rinse off as much of the dirt and salt water as you can before drying. Never use paper towels on plastics of any kind: Vinyl and plastics scratch easily. Mer-maids and Meguiar’s both have good cleaners. If you don’t see them in your local marine store, you can find them on the Internet. The difference between Meguiar’s and Mer-maid Plastic cleaner is: Meguiar’s is a cream and comes in two parts, one for cleaning and then another bottle for polish. It does leave a cream swirl that is hard to remove. Mer-maids Plastic Cleaner is a liquid and is easy to apply, it cleans and polishes while leaving the surface optically clear. If you don’t see these products in a marine store try the internet (ask your dealer to carry them for your convenience).
When cleaning vinyl windows, always wipe side to side, horizontally. That way, if you do scratch the window, it will be harder to see.
When storing your vinyl windows, remove them and lay the first one on an old sheet. Fold the sheet on top of the window and keep adding windows one by one, wrapping each in a section of sheet, until you’re done. Then, fold the sheet over the top. When finished, you can roll them up and store them in a cool dry place. Never lay a window on top of another, because they will stick together and leave permanent marks.
Metal and Wood Surfaces
Go over your stainless steel rails, ladders and hardware with a cleaner wax. This chore should be repeated throughout the summer to prevent pitting.
Don’t forget the zippers and snaps in your canvas tops. Tugging and yanking can pull snaps out or rip material. Take the time to add Vaseline, or check out the marine outlets for products recommended for use on snaps. If you’re using your windows, protect areas that may be touching the hardware by inserting a soft lamb’s wool or another fabric that will protect the window. Ask your local upholstery shop what they recommend. If you have any wood (other than teak, which can be left alone), use a good oil – or a varnish, if you prefer. There are many good products on the market.
Fenders and Lines
If you moored your boat all winter, it’s time to clean your fenders and lines. Never use a acetone, MEK or paint thinners on your fenders (or Inflatable boats) Doing this will remove the first layer of protection on your fenders, making them sticky and causing dirt to readily cling to them.
Use a citrus-based cleaner or a fender cleaner. I like the citrus-based cleaners; they are multipurpose products and take the place of those harsher solvents. Citrus-based cleaners remove oil from engines, are also excellent for use in galleys and heads. In the galley clean up greasy messes made from cooking with oils: hamburger, spaghetti, bacon, you get the idea. If you get creosote, oil or diesel on clothing and rugs citrus-based products will take care of these problems without hurting most fabrics (always test for colorfastness before using). Wipe down exhaust dirt from fiberglass with these cleaners too.
Electronics and More
Apply a product like CorrosionX to all electronic wire connections (horns, lighting and batteries). Don’t forget t check your windshield wipers, making sure the rubber is in good shape. Lubricate the moving parts with CorrosionX or your favorite lubricant. Check your engine for leaks. Check your engine. Keep it clean with a degreaser. Dirt is not only unsightly but it can fall into key components and cause mechanical problems.
You did a thorough job last fall, right? All drawers were kept open, and cushions were either stored in a dry location or at least pulled out so that air circulated around them all winter. Sniff your way throughout the boat. If you detect a musty odor, make a mild solution of bleach (one ounce in two quarts of water). Wear rubber gloves and open all the windows. Wipe the surface of any mildew-affected areas. Be careful not to splash the bleach solution on clothing or cushions. Rinse it well and allow to dry. Clean your cushions, and wipe them down with a fabric protector so that suntan oils and spills are kept off. This will help prevent stains. Close all drawers and cupboards. Vacuum thoroughly. Remove and wash all bedding. Wash window and surrounding areas.
Wipe the galleys stove and operate it to be sure it is ready to go. Check your supply of stove alcohol and matches. Inspect the refrigerator and wash it out. Pet stores sell a product-called Nature’s Miracle-that will rid refrigerators and ice boxes of any nasty smells.
Have a bucket ready and arm yourself with an assortment of cleaning solutions an all-purpose citrus-based cleaner, wax a small bottle of bleach, plastic cleaner, window cleaner and SpotX (which can remove hard water spots from glass). Store the cleaners in a safe convenient place (such as the bucket).
The head needs attention too. Use an approved marine head chemical to keep it smelling fresh. If you follow a good maintenance regime, it will cut down on cleaning time – and you won’t be one of those boaters who finds himself or herself waiting all day in a repair shop. Saving time and money can make for a season full of wonderful boating experiences.