First completely rinse off the interior and exterior of your boat. Although this may seem like an obvious first step, it is worth reiterating because if you skip this step and go straight to scrubbing any dirt on the outside of your boat you could scratch the paint. If you are lucky, a rinse may be all you need for some parts of the boat. This will save a lot of work, which gives you more time for relaxing!
What you will need
You should purchase several medium and hard bristle brushes, Windex, vinyl protectant, a plastic scrapper, clothes, mildew cleaner, mildew stain remover for vinyl and vinyl protector. A garden hose and access to running water is a necessity. You should also consider renting or purchasing a power washer.
Use a utility brush with a medium bristle. After rinsing with water, use an all-purpose cleaner. Let it sit for a few minutes to loosen everything up. Then scrub all over with a brush. After scrubbing, use a hose to rinse the soap off until it rinses clear, going from the top down.
If you have a delicate console or a covered boat a more gentle process will be better because grime will be less of an issue. An all-purpose cleaner with some paper towel should do the trick. If your console has a high gloss plastic I would stay away from any kind of abrasive material that would leave swirl marks.
Unless you own a superyacht like Stephen Spielberg and have beautiful hardwood floors throughout, all weather carpet and no cleaning crew is a standard. So try mixing 1-part vinegar with 5-parts water and brag about how eco friendly you are. Put it into a spray bottle and use a hard bristle brush with a long handle. This works really well for dirty carpets. If the carpet has mold or mildew stains, try using mildew stain removal product. Make sure to embark on this endeavor on a bright and sunny day so it dries really quickly. If not, you may have to deal with a musty smell until you clean the carpet again.
If you buy a boat named ‘Slice of Life’ don’t bother cleaning the carpets and vinyl. Although it would be impeccably clean you are best to replace everything. In case you missed it: that was a Dexter reference.
As you may have guessed, this is what the Windex is for. Boat windows aren’t any different than windows in your home, office or car so your biggest concern will be getting a streak free clean.
Okay, okay they might be a bit harder to clean as they are more exposed to the elements so you may have to give it a once over with the mildew or all purpose cleaner before you take the Windex to it.
Steering Wheel/Helm & Seat covers
Well this really depends on the material your boat is fashioned in. You can probably get away with the Arm & Hammer suite of car products to tackle this. Arm & Hammer products cover everything from hard plastic to leather all the way to wood and wood grain. Treat your boat with the products it deserves to keep it looking good over the years, which will come in handy when you want to sell it for more HP for a few extra feet.
Apply vinyl protectant after every use to keep the vinyl seats in the best possible condition. This will help prevent cracks in the material.
Spray the cover with with an all-purpose cleaner, wait for a few minutes and then scrub it. Rinse off with water and then use a wax to polish it. This will make the motor easier to clean in the future.
Clean the propeller with a stainless steel cleaner. Stainless steel cleaner will remove surface rust just like it does on the BBQ. It also looks great when you take the boat out of the water for the winter.
If you frequently fish in salt water, you probably get pesky barnacles stuck on the bottom of your boat. You should remove the barnacles right away if you are leaving your boat in the water, as they will be more difficult to remove later on.
First I would recommend trying to use a plastic scrapper first. If this doesn’t work, I would suggest using a metal paint scrapper. However you must be careful not to scrape the paint. If there are large clusters of barnacles, I would suggest getting a pressure washer to remove the majority of them.
Additional Tips and Tricks
If you frequently in fish in salt water, I would recommend cleaning the boat after every trip as the water will leave residue that will eventually damage the finish on the boat.
Make sure that you clean out all of your brushes thoroughly after each use. You don’t want residue damaging your boat next time you wash it.
To detail your boat, the obsessive compulsive you will need additional tools such as Q-Tips, tooth brushes and an extra day of time. Hopefully, you will not have to go to this level of cleaning more than once a year. Please don’t go crazy and spend hours detailing your boat before every time you go out on the water. Enjoy the boat, enjoy the water, enjoy your summer and if you live in the south, enjoy your life.
Please share your comments below. I would love to see some YouTube clips of you cleaning your boats especially if you have some unique materials I did not cover.