Cleaning and Maintaining your Boat

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Cleaning and Maintaining your Boat

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Purchasing a boat for leisure enjoyment can be costly, depending on the type of boat you choose. To protect your investment and keep it in safe working order, you will need to keep it clean and maintain it. The various surfaces in a boat will require different cleaning products and cleaning processes. You will also need to care for your boat seasonally depending on your geographic location. Lastly, if your boat has an outboard engine, you will also need to maintain it to keep your boat running.


To keep your boat looking like it did on the day you bought it, clean it regularly. Frequent cleaning will prevent dirt and scum from building up on the boat. It’s also important to inspect your boat for mud, plants, and aquatic life that could be clinging to surfaces. If you find these remnants, clean them from your boat to prevent transferring anything to a different water area.

The tools and products you use to clean your boat will depend on the type of boat and the waters in which you use your vessel. For example, simple rowboats and paddleboats will need a scrub brush and a biodegradable soap that will clean the surfaces. Motorboats require scrubbing with a scrub brush and soap, hosing off the outboard motor and cleaning any upholstery and windows on the boat. If you use your boat in saltwater, always rinse away the saltwater residue with a powerful hose. Spray all surfaces thoroughly and allow the water to sit on the boat for a few moments to dissolve salt crystals. Rinse the boat surfaces again with the hose, working from the top to the bottom. If you allow salt residue to remain on the boat, it can corrode metal and damage paint over time. Dry the outer frame of the boat with a chamois cloth after rinsing.

Using environmentally friendly products to clean your boat may be preferred because these products will not harm the environment or marine animals. Make an all-purpose solution for general cleaning of upholstery, floors, windows, and exterior surfaces by mixing a cup of white vinegar with two gallons of cool water. Clean stains from fiberglass by making a paste of baking soda and water. Polish wood in the boat with olive oil or almond oil. Clean and polish chrome with apple cider vinegar. You may wish to wax fiberglass one or two times during the boating season to keep it shiny.

Seasonal/Winter Storage

At the end of the boating season, prepare your boat for storage. Before you prepare your boat for the winter season, take it out on the water for a final trip to note any issues or problems that need resolving. If your boat has any outdated features that need upgrading or issues that need repairing, note these problems and have them fixed prior to storing it over the winter season. Empty your boat of all supplies such as gear, cushions, fire extinguishers, and food. Clean your boat from top to bottom before storing it. Winterize your engine by topping off tanks and stabilizing fuel. Change the oil and replace every filter. Assess all clamps, hoses, and belts and replace any that appear worn. Drain fresh-water tanks and the water heater, if applicable. Add antifreeze to the water tank and pump it through the plumbing in preparation for cold temperatures. Haul your boat to its winter home and position it to support the hull completely, or distortion could occur. Cover your boat with a wood frame, tarp, or canvas boat cover to keep it free of snow.

Engine Maintenance

Every new boating season should involve a professional tune-up of your outboard motor to prevent breakdowns over the summer. Every time you bring your boat in off the water, flush the engine with a hose to remove salt or fresh water from the system. It’s also important to burn all residual fuel from the carburetor after every boat outing.

Safety Gear

Check your safety gear after every time you use your boat. Before you put them away, count and examine life jackets, swimming floats, fire extinguishers, and flares to ensure that everything is in working order. Also, ensure that no plants or marine life cling to these items before you store them.

Last modified: March 16, 2020

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