Make Your Boat and Dock Squeaky Clean This Spring

Make Your Boat and Dock Squeaky Clean This Spring

This spring season has brought about sudden changes, with many of us spending much more time at home than ever before. With the additional time spent at home, you can finally cross spring cleaning off your to-do list.

But spring cleaning isn’t just for your house and garage — your boat and dock also need a proper scrub before heading out on the water. Mechanical maintenance may require some expertise, but cleaning out your boat or dock can be done easily with a few helping hands. By using the proper tools and techniques, your boat and dock will be ready to sail into warmer weather in no time. 

People sitting on a boat in the water

How to clean your boat

According to the American Boating Association, the best way to start cleaning your boat is by washing away any dirt or buildup on the boat with water. Any type of grit on the boat will scratch the boat’s surface, so it’s essential that the boat is washed off thoroughly before going in with any brushes or sponges. Adding a spot-free rinse to the water will help ensure that all grime is washed away. If there is residual wax on your boat, be sure to clean the old wax off with a dewaxing solvent. Using a boat rubbing compound will remove any remaining debris that the initial rinse may have missed and will have your boat completely prepared for cleaning and waxing.

After completely washing off your boat, you will need to gather your cleaning materials. The American Boating Association recommends these main items:

  • Brushes with a steel handle and medium bristles
  • Sponges
  • Cloths
  • A hose
  • A bucket
  • A spray nozzle
  • Boat wax

These products are available at a variety of marinas, auto part stores and sporting stores. When purchasing these products, it is vital that your cleaning products are safe for the environment and biodegradable, with a neutral pH factor. Whether you clean your boat on a trailer or in the water, the runoff will end up in a nearby body of water, so it is crucial that the products used are not going to harm the environment and aquatic species.

Person sailing a boat

According to Tiffany Malzahn, the BRA’s Environmental and Compliance Manager, the best way to ensure that your products are truly biodegradable is by checking each product’s safety data sheet, or its SDS. The Hazard Communication Standard, which was revised in 2012, requires chemical manufacturers to provide SDS’s to share information about the products. The SDS includes information such as the properties of each chemical and potential physical, health and environmental health hazards. Section 12 of an SDS provides the ecological information of the product, such as the product’s ability to biodegrade and data from toxicity tests performed on aquatic and/or terrestrial organisms. To find a product’s SDS, simply type in the product’s name then SDS into a search engine. Once you ensure that all of your products are biodegradable and safe for the environment, you can begin washing your boat.

To get started, follow the soap’s mixing instructions and create a soapy solution in your bucket. Be sure that all your sponges and brushes can fit in the bucket. Before you start scrubbing away, make sure your boat is not dry; otherwise, you may potentially scrape or damage the top finish. With a sponge that is soaked in soapy water, scrub from the top down of the boat and then rinse. To ensure that you efficiently clean your entire boat, work in sections. If you have an outboard-powered boat, make sure to clean the motor as well to rid of salt and dirt. Use an environmentally friendly bleach cleaning agent for the deck of the boat—the Boat U.S. Foundation recommends using hydrogen peroxide or a Borax. Once you are done cleaning and rinsing off the soap, immediately use soft drying cloths or a mop to dry off the boat.

Waxing your boat after cleaning is an excellent way to maintain your boat’s fiberglass and shine, but it only needs to be done once or twice during the season. Spring cleaning is the perfect time to put in some elbow grease, so apply several coats of wax and buff it in. If your boat has any chrome or stainless steel, cleaning the steel and topping it off with a wax sealer is a good idea. To clean any windows or glass on your boat, a simple water and vinegar solution will effectively clean your windows.

How to clean your dock

Before cleaning your dock, inspect the entire unit for any damaged parts to ensure that the dock is safe to use. Replace any wood boards that have rotted or dried out, along with rusted or corroded hardware. Tighten any loose nails or bolts.

Red chair on dock facing a lake

Like a boat, the dock will need a thorough cleaning with an environmentally friendly cleaner. The type of cleaner you can use depends on the type of materials that make up your dock. EZ Dock Texas recommends pressure washing with water or using mild cleaning agent to clean natural, unpainted wood. A simple sodium percarbonate solution can be made at home with hot water, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. If your dock is made from pressure-treated wood, simply use water to clean as using oxidizing agents on certain types of pressure-treated wood can release toxins into the water.

After inspecting and cleaning your dock, reseal the dock with a mildew-resistant and environmentally friendly sealer.

To learn more about proper boat cleaning techniques, visit the American Boating Association here.For a list of alternative cleaning products that are safe for the environment, click here.