Fiberglas Maintenance 101

 Fiberglas Maintenance 101 

When you bought your boat it was new and you enjoyed the many day trips, since you are a busy person you didn’t take time to develop a routine; washing, waxing and depending on how big the boat is the list of “to do’s” can be daunting.  It even depends on where you keep your boat as to how often it should be washed.  An extreme example; during our detailing day’s, we had boats to wash monthly, one of our locations, a marina situated between two city bridges and one mortuary that would regularly incinerate the deceased, the boats in that marina had to be washed at least twice a month to keep all the dirt, grease and “ashes” off the boat  

Regular wash-downs should be at least every two weeks.  After washing, dry the boat using a squeegee then apply a cleaner wax to all the metal and aluminum to help prevent pitting and corrosion.

The following routine should be used when washing boats that have a wax on; you do not want to use a harsh soap (NO DISH Soap-they are all degreasers), many boat soaps will remove all the wax.   If you practice the following steps your boat will look great and the wax will stay on the boat a lot longer!

  • Make sure all hatches and windows are closed, if necessary remove outside cushions before you wash the boat.
  • Take a diaper (rag) and some cleaner wax; rub out any black streaks along the windows, exhaust and where every your boat gets the back streaks.  Each boat is different; you will know those “trouble spots” on your boat.  If you do this step each time you wash the boat you’ll be adding a protection to those spots helping to keep the wax on much longer.  Usually people make the mistake of trying to remove black streaks by using a strong soap all over the boat; they end up taking all the wax off while trying to take care of few black streaks. 
  • Add a few capfuls of Mer-maid® Boat Wash (or your favorite soap) to a bucket of water (warm water works best but is not necessary) and begin washing from top (bridge) then the bow along the sides ending at the stern.  We like the doodle brushes that have a telescoping handle. Depending on the size of the boat we usually take the time to squeegee the sides.  Because Mer-maid® Boat Soap has the carnauba wax in it we finished by taking a nice rag like a diaper or old flannel sheets (cut to size) and wiped down the windows until dry.  The wax leaves a protective coating on the glass and when the glass is buffed out is looks great.  As an added bonus the water-spots that you see on windows will not be as troublesome because of the extra protection on the windows.             

             Then, use the following techniques, depending upon how advanced a stage of oxidation the fiberglass gel-coat is experiencing. 

Stage One:

Non-oxidized Surface          

           Protect the surface by applying a carnauba paste wax once a year over the entire boat.  Carnauba wax provides the most protection of any wax product for a long period of time.

            Use a good high speed buffer. The handheld low cost electric buffers will not give good results. Use a machine that has 2,500 to 3,000 RPM. We used 3-M wool buffing pads available at most marine stores.  We tried hand-waxing boats but felt good results were very hard to attain.

           A cleaner/wax should be used in between the annual waxing on the topsides, you will know if the wax is gone, it will look dull and water will not bead up.  Topsides take a great deal of punishment from the sun, weather and human wear and tear.  

           If you take care of your boat using these techniques, you will never have to deal with the more advanced stages of oxidation-and your boat will remain pristine.   

Stage two:

Light Oxidation 

           An abrasive (light compound) cleaner wax is required to bring back the gel-coat’s luster and remove oxidation.  The compound in cleaner wax acts like sandpaper, removing stains and oxidation.  If you are not careful you can buff below the Fiberglas surface; never lean hard or buff too long in one spot.  Learn to buff always leaning into your work lightly; if you can’t remove the stain/dirt go ahead and put a little more pressure for a very short time.  Eventually you will learn to “feather”; starting with more pressure and easing up to a lighter pressure is feathering.  If you are unable to remove stain/dirt see stage three.  

Fiberglas Maintenance                           

OK-you’ve applied cleaner wax, like the fellow with the “pristine” boat.  You now have a “pristine” boat too.  In the future, follow the routine for Stage One to avoid future the “stage two woes”. 

Stage Three: 

Chalky Oxidation 

           This condition means the pores of the gelcoat are exposed and your boat will no longer hold a “cleaner wax”.

           If the deterioration hasn’t gone too far, you may be able to bring the gelcoat back.  Again, remember that the gelcoat is thin-and once it is gone, the only cure will be to re-gelcoat or paint.       

The following procedure is not for amateurs:  Call a professional.

           Using a medium grade compound (ask your local marine store staff for their suggestions) to gently remove the oxidation, taking care not to take off any more gelcoat than needed.  I know some detailers mix compound into a cleaner wax; be sure not to be too heavy on the compound!  Wash the boat before the next step.

           Apply a good carnauba wax, this is a hard past wax and still rated by Power Boat Reports as the best wax because it lasts longer than a cleaner wax.  If the can of carnauba wax is creamy in consistancy then it isn’t a true carnauba wax.   

Stage Four:

Finishing Touches! 

           If the customer will pay for this next step or if you are doing the work this next step is going to really put a shine and finish the job to perfection.  Apply a polishing compound, such as 3M liquid polish called “Finesse-it”. This compound is different from a cleaning compound: one cleans and the other polishes!  This last step will leave a durable high-gloss finish.   Follow directions for this product.

           It’s best to test an area – the transom is the safest place-to see if good results can be achieved before putting more time, energy and money into your project.  If you check the transom after a few weeks and are satisfied with the results, then go over the rest of the boat using the same steps.  This is a good way to check on a new product you have not had experience with. 

Preventive Maintenance: 

            Preventive maintenance is the key to keeping your boat looking new.  If you want to save money and beam with pride at your well-maintained boat, you will get yourself on a maintenance schedule-and stick to it.

           Years ago when Mer-maid® Detailing was in full swing we found out that our customers were not happy with our wax job….stating the wax did not last long.  I knew we were doing a good job when waxing, what was problem? I asked my customers that were happy with our work and found out that they were using very little soap when washing their boats.  I checked local marine stores so I could recommend a gentle soap and was surprised to learn that all boat soaps were “strong”!  We worked a year trying to achieve a soap that would not wash the wax off (that is what our dissapointed customers were doing) then added 2% Carnauba Wax to the wash.  We were the first manufacturer to put out a boat wash with wax!  That was over 20 years ago.  Once you have a good wax on the boat always us a gentle soap when keeping the boat up between waxes! 

Happy & Safe Boating. 

Carol Albanese  Founder & CEO

Mer-maid® Products Inc.     208 263 2434   800 878 1492

Odors & Enzymes


Lost that new boat smell? Have you ever wondered about odors, how they occur or how can you get rid of them? I know I have experienced the same thing myself and I have a nose like a bloodhound. I easily can smell unpleasant odors, most people can. Read more

Boat cleaning – tops and seats

 Article from Sea Magazine & Go Boating, by Carol Albanese

How to clean outdoor fabric

Dear Mermaid;

We are very happy with our new Bimini and vinyl windows; however, I see around the stitching there is a little mildew. It is hard to remove because of the stitching and I really don’t know what to use to clean it.  Could you tell us how to care for Sunbrella® Fabric and our vinyl seats so we can extend the life of our boat top and seats?.

Thanks Joe from Long Beach, CA.

 How to Keep Your Canvas Like New  

Sunbrella® offers maintenance tips for covers and tops.  The following tips can be used on most fabrics made for outdoors use.  Always test any cleaning product on an inconspicuous spot before using on fabric & vinyl. Glen Raven Mills, manufacturer of Sunbrella® fabrics released their “maintenance” suggestions, explaining how to maintain their fabric.   

To avoid having to clean and re-treat Sunbrella®, hose it off monthly. The fabric will not support the growth of mildew, but if dirt or soap is allowed to remain on the fabric for any length of time, it will support mildew growth. Mold spores enjoy nothing more than to dine on left over soap.  It thrives in damp climates, no matter how great the fabric is you must change the environment in order to avoid the problems that are specific to your boats location. Clean the fabric with a mild soap. Mer-maids’ has a cleaner that was tested and approved for use on Sunbrella® by the manufacturer Glen Raven Mills; it displays the Sunbrella® logo on our label. This helps customers feel “at ease” knowing there are gentle, affective cleaners they can safely use without harming the fabric.  No matter what cleaner you choose be sure it is approved for use on the fabric or the surface you are going to clean.  Using too a strong cleaner can damage delicate surfaces.  As you know it is expensive to have them replaced.   

Ok, roll up your sleeves; it’s time to go to work. Rinsing first is important; the water soaks into the fabric acting like a conduit, spreading the soap evenly over the area you’re cleaning..  If you applied the cleaner without rinsing first, the soap will soak into the fabric unevenly, not a good use of time or soap.   

You rinse your car before cleaning it, don’t you?  The same principal applies with most things you clean.  Start with a bucket of warm water (if it is possible to use) and the recommended amount of cleaner. Apply the cleaner using a dense, soft brush. Scrub and let the cleaner sit for about 5 or 10 minutes depending on how warm the day is.  Don’t let the soap dry!  Rinse well, repeat steps again if you miss a spot or don’t get the results you wanted the first time.  

Stitching around windows seems to be a place where dark stains and mildew take hold. It is especially important to let the cleaner have a chance to loosen the dirt; don’t be in a hurry to rinse the area.  Again, use a soft dense brush; old toothbrush, fingernail brush or vegetable brush; we now offer our favorite brush; it is available on our site.  If you still see mildew, give it an extra scrub if needed..  Rinse well!  

 Never use a power washer on fabric!  You might not see the damage but it is there.  Power washing will stretch and weaken the fabric; you will also remove the waterproof treatment.  Dirt and grime will fill in where threads use to be.   Power washing will shortened the life of your fabric!   

If  heavy stains remain, Glen Raven Mills recommends using a mixture of 4 ounces of chlorine bleach in a gallon of water; apply the bleach mixture using a brush; let sit a few minutes; always rinse well!  The bleach can harm the stitching if a thorough rinsing isn’t complete.   

My favorite bleach is a colorfast bleach; it is an oxygenated bleach and unlike chlorine bleach will oxydize away (it does not continue to weaken fabric) Water temperature affects the bleaching rate of oxygen bleaches. Hot water accelerates the bleaching action – as water temperature decreases, exposure time must be increased substantially, use as directed and rinse well 

Sunbrella® fabric is treated with a fluorocarbon finish, which enhances water repellency. This treatment is designed to last for several years if the fabric is cared for properly. After several cleanings, the finish will lose some of its repellency. Boost water repellency with a topical waterproof treatment, but use a product that still will allow the fabric to breathe. Glen Raven Mills has approved a waterproofing product, 303 High Tech Fabric Guard, which can restore water repellency to near-original state while still allowing Sunbrella® fabric to breath. The product protects against oil-based stains and has UV inhibitors to protect the fabric from sun damage.  There are other fabric waterproofing products, read the labels to make sure it is waterproof for fabrics. 

Vinyl Seats and other outdoor fabric. 

Treat your seating just like the boat top; the same cleaning steps apply.  Seats have to stand up to some heavy abuse.   Fun loving people who just applied suntan lotion will use your seats.  They eat and drink, spilling mustard, juice (hopefully not grape juice) and a whole host of gastronomical delicacies.  It is doubly important to take care of spills when they occur.  Never use a powdered cleaner (Ajax, or?).  You will take the first layer off the vinyl using abrasive cleaners, but that’s another story.  Put a towel down when those sun bunnies are using suntan lotion and sitting on your seats, the towel will provide a barrier from almost everything.   

An extra bonus when using a towel will be protecting both your friends & family from burning their legs, also the sun can’t damage your vinyl if it can’t get to it! 

 Happy & Safe Boating….

 Carol Albanese (Head Mer-maid®)    800 878 1492      

Stop Bugging Me!

Dear Mer-maid:

Do you have anything that will kill bugs and spiders? It is a losing battle. They leave their droppings all over our boat. We’ve tried boat washes, soft-scrub and even acetone, but nothing works. We hope you have some ideas! Read more