How to Clean a Boat: Supplies, Tips and More

Posted by

If you’re a boat owner, your vessel is likely one of your most prized possessions. Keeping your boat in good shape is a priority to protect your investment. You need to know how to clean a boat to ensure it stays in the best condition possible.

Knowing how to clean a boat boils down to basic boat maintenance. You’ll need the tools of the trade for regular cleaning: Microfiber cloth, stain remover, vinyl cleaner, a soft bristle brush, and a few other things to keep it clean.

Keeping a clean and detailed boat could extend the lifespan of the elements on board so you can both enjoy your boat longer and bring in top-dollar when it’s time to trade it in for a new vessel. Let’s break down a few things you’ll need to keep in mind when thinking about how to clean a boat.

Get Started with the Right Boat Cleaning Supplies

Get Started with the Right Boat Cleaning Supplies

Regular cleaning protects your boat and is a basic part of boat maintenance. However, it takes the right boat cleaning supplies to get down to business.

When thinking about how to clean a boat, you’ll want to gather:

  • All-purpose cleaning solution, like Simple Green, Pine Sol, or Fabuloso
  • Mildew stain remover
  • Vinegar
  • Vinyl cleaner
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Wash-n-Wax soap
  • Non-skid deck wax
  • A hose with clean water
  • Access to a washing machine
  • Shop-Vac

Having these materials on hand should ensure you have everything you need to keep all parts of your boat clean. You might consider starting the cleaning process with your boat’s interior, then moving on to the exterior and any other boat surfaces.


How to Clean a Boat Interior

The interior of your boat needs to be nice and clean for both your enjoyment and to protect your investment. Clean surfaces can be protected from UV rays to guard against damage.

No matter what kind of boat you have, keeping the inside clean involves a similar process. Most boats all have similar interior surfaces, like cushions, non-slip fiberglass, vinyl, marine carpet, and even marine heads.

Here’s how to clean a boat interior.

How to Clean Boat Cushions

Most non-vinyl cushions forms and covers can be removed and tossed in the washing machine. Consider washing them in cold or cool water and letting them air-dry to avoid shrinkage.

If the cushion foam is musty or has mildew, you might need to take a few extra steps. Consider sprinkling musty or mildewed cushions with a heavy layer of baking soda and let them sit in a sunny spot for a few days. Then, shake all the baking soda out and mist the cushion with a 50-50 mix of water and vinegar. Again, place the cushion foam in a sunny spot and wait until it is totally dry and the vinegar smell has gone away. You can then rinse the cushion foam out with fresh water from a hose or toss it in the washing machine.

How to Clean Non-Slip Fiberglass

How to Clean Non-Slip Fiberglass

You’ll likely find non-slip fiberglass all around your boat. This type of material is often molded in place and non-skid. You need to be careful when cleaning non-skid fiberglass. For example, cleaning non-slip fiberglass with waxes like you might with other fiberglass parts will make the surface slippery.

You can tackle cleaning your boat’s non-slip fiberglass with a soft bristle brush, all-purpose cleaning solution, and water. Any tough spots can be cleaned with a scrubbing cleaner that contains a little bit of bleach, like Ajax or SoftScrub, but don’t use too much or leave it on too long as it can be a bit abrasive.

After all the dirt and stains have been removed, consider treating your boat’s non-slip fiberglass with a special non-skid deck wax to keep it shiny and protected.

How to Clean Vinyl on a Boat

There are a lot of vinyl surfaces on boats, especially those designed for fishing, watersports, or cruising. Most of these boats likely feature vinyl that was pre-treated at the factory with antimicrobial agents, so the surface is likely resistant to mildew and mold. This means you should avoid harsh chemicals with cleaning treated vinyl, as abrasive cleaners can remove the antimicrobial treatment.

To keep the vinyl on your boat clean, simply wipe the surfaces off with warm, soapy water and a microfiber cloth. You might want to wipe the vinyl off after each use to keep it clean and prevent stains. Should the vinyl become stained, consider using a vinyl cleaner for a deeper clean and to remove spots.

How to Clean Marine Carpet

Marine carpet can likely be found in the cabin, cockpit, or head compartment of your boat. Other boats might be carpeted from bow to stern.

You can keep the marine carpet clean by giving it thorough vacuuming with a Shop-Vac or similar kind of vacuum. This will remove the loose dirt and debris.

For a deeper clean, give the marine carpet in your boat a good scrub with a soft bristle brush and a diluted cleaning solution. You can speed the drying time by going over the carpet with the Shop-Vac again after cleaning. This is especially helpful if you’re cleaning a trailered boat, as it might be at an angle and water can pool at the low point.

Learn more about the best boat trailers for storing your boat on land or transporting it to the water.

How to Clean Marine Heads

Marine heads, also called marine toilets, can be easily cleaned just like your household toilet. Simply use a cleaning solution or disinfecting solution on the surface and wipe clean.

You can clean the lines by running a few cups of white vinegar through every month or so. This will help clean out and prevent limescale and deposits.

As you can see, cleaning a boat interior isn’t much different than cleaning your home. All it takes is the right tools, a little know-how, and a little elbow grease. Let’s take a look at what it takes to clean the exterior of your boat.

How to Clean a Boat Exterior

How to Clean a Boat Exterior

Cleaning the exterior of your boat might be a little more complicated than cleaning the inside. The hull and other exterior portions of your boat are made of high-tech materials designed for longevity and use, but also require a special touch when it comes to caring for and keeping the surfaces clean.

How to Clean a Boat Hull

Your boat hull is likely a gel-coat surface. This means it is likely made of a fiberglass material that has been coated with a special resin. This kind of surface requires special care, cleaning, and protection to stay shiny and avoid damaging oxidation.

You can clean your boat hull and hillsides by washing it with a marine-grade wash-n-wax type product. This kind of product contains a liquid wax that can help protect your hull’s finish. To use, simply wet your boat with a hose or bucket, scrub the soapy diluted product on with a cloth or soft bristle brush, and then rinse off. This could be a lengthy process, depending on the size of your boat.

You’ll want to wax your boat hull and hillsides at least twice a year with paste wax. Use at least two layers or coats each time you wax your boat. You can also use a liquid carnauba wax between paste waxes to keep the hull shiny and protected.

If you’re cleaning your boat on a trailer, be sure to include the bottom when washing and waxing. If your boat is in a wet slip, like those available at Port Sanibel Marina, ensure the bottom of your boat has a few coats of antifouling paint on the bottom.

How to Clean Boat Canvas and Clear Canvas

You’ll likely find that boat canvas needs to be cleaned at least once a month to keep it fresh and free of stains and odors. Thankfully, cleaning boat canvas and clear canvas is easy.

To clean the canvas and clear canvas on your boat, simply spray it off with clean water from the hose and give it a brief scrub with a diluted all-purpose cleaning solution or even a mild detergent like Woolite, then rinse.

You might want to do a deeper clean on the boat canvas annually. If the canvas section is small enough, consider tossing it in the washing machine with a hot water cycle, detergent, and a cup or two of baking soda. Let it soak for a bit before agitating. If the canvas is too large for the washing machine, use a stiffer scrub brush and a solution of water, bleach, and detergent for a deeper clean.

Follow manufacturer instructions when cleaning the canvas, as there are many different kinds of canvas and canvas coatings. Your canvas might require special care.


How to Clean a Boat Engine

It is important to keep your boat clean inside and out, and this includes the engine. Both inboard and outboard engines require cleaning and care, so don’t leave this crucial part of your boat neglected.

If you have an outboard engine, wash the cowl and exterior with a mild cleansing solution and water each time you take the boat out. It is also important that you wax the cowl at least once a year. The cowl has a similar finish to the boat hull, so the same products can be used. Don’t use an abrasive cleaner or stiff brush on the cowl.

If you have an inboard engine, the process is a little simpler. All you need to do is wipe down the engine to remove any grime or dirt that might have accumulated there. Leave any wiring or smaller engine components alone. If these parts are dirty, consider calling in the pros.

Enjoy Your Boat at Port Sanibel Marina

Enjoy Your Boat at Port Sanibel Marina

Now that you know how to clean a boat and your vessel is nice and shiny, it’s time to enjoy it! Port Sanibel Marina, located in Fort Myers, is the perfect place to enjoy Old Florida charm and set off for a great day on crystal blue Gulf waters.

Port Sanibel Marina offers everything you need to enjoy your boat in the region’s warm Gulf waters. The marina offers wet and dry boat storage, makes it easy to schedule a launch, offers a ship store and waterfront dining, and much more.

Are you ready to start enjoying your boat at Port Sanibel Marina? Reach out now by contacting us online or giving Port Sanibel Marina a call at (239) 437-1660.