To keep your boat looking its best, you should wash the bottom of your boat about once a month or as soon as you notice stains, algae, or dirt on the hull. This will protect your boat from damage, increase its overall lifespan, and make things easier once it comes time for cleaning.
Here’s how to clean the bottom of your boat.
1. Take Your Boat Out of the Water
It’s possible to clean your boat while it’s in the water, but this process is more labor-intensive and requires more supplies. You’d need scuba gear, water-safe cleaning supplies, and a good amount of time.
To make the cleaning process easier, take your boat out of the water and bring it to a car wash, field, driveway, or parking lot.
2. Gather Your Cleaning Supplies
Once your boat is on land and ready for cleaning, it’s time to gather your cleaning supplies.
Here are the boat bottom cleaning tools that you’ll need:
- Hull cleaner
- Water hose / power washer
- Soft, absorbent towels
- Marine polish
Before you begin, note that you cannot use everyday cleaning products to clean your boat. These products are not safe for marine life and can be harmful if they enter the water. Use marine cleaners that are specifically designed to be safe for marine wildlife.
3. Wet the Boat Bottom
To start the cleaning process, wet the boat with a hose or pressure washer. If the grime on the boat bottom is thick, start with the pressure washer and use the hose later. A pressure washer will remove the outer layer of dirt and any loose materials clinging to the bottom.
If you don’t have a water source of your own, you can rent one or take your boat to a car wash.
4. Apply a Hull Cleaner
Once the bottom of the boat is wet, begin to apply a hull cleaner. Be sure to wear gloves, and focus on problem areas first. You can use brushes, sponges, or rags to work in the hull cleaner. Then, let it sit for at least two minutes.
During this time, the ingredients in the hull cleaner will start breaking down the grime and stains on the bottom of your boat, loosening them for the next round of rinsing.
After you’ve let the cleaner sit for at least two minutes, take your hose and rinse the bottom of the boat until the cleaner is gone.
One application of hull cleaner may be enough to clean the bottom of your boat, but if not, repeat this process until you achieve your desired results.
5. Dry the Boat
Once you’ve thoroughly rinsed all the hull cleaner from your boat, take a clean towel and dry the exterior of your boat. Completely drying it will prevent water spots from forming on the hull and allow you to take a closer look and check for missed dirt.
Also, the sooner your boat is dry, the sooner you can move on to the final step in the cleaning process.
One thing to note is that you should avoid using rough towels that can scratch your boat’s exterior and paint job. You should use soft towels or towels specifically designed for boats.
6. Apply Boat Polish
Polishing your boat after cleaning it is a step you don’t want to skip. Marine polish creates a slick surface that most dirt and grime cannot stick to, which will keep your boat cleaner for longer. Polish also protects the exterior of your boat from sun damage and weathering.
You should follow the directions on the boat polish that you choose, but you’ll always start by applying the polish to the exterior of your boat in small circles with a soft towel and waiting for it to dry.
How to Clean the Bottom of Your Fiberglass Boat
You can clean fiberglass boat bottoms by following the above steps. The most important thing to do is to clean the hull of your boat regularly to avoid fouling, or the buildup of marine organisms. The “glue” left behind by these organisms can damage both fiberglass and wooden hulls.
How to Clean the Bottom of Your Boat in the Water
If you decide to clean your boat while it’s at the marina, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, check the restrictions in your local marina to confirm that you’re allowed to clean your boat there.
Next, determine the type of antifouling paint that is on your boat hull. Soft or ablative antifouling paint should be cleaned by gently sweeping a soft cloth along the surface of the hull. Scrubbing ablative paints will cause toxic chemicals to be released into the water, which can harm marine wildlife and enter water and food sources.
Hard bottom paint can be scrubbed a bit more thoroughly than ablative paint, but you should still use the least abrasive material that is effective for the job. For example, using a wire brush will still cause some bottom paint damage and release toxic chemicals into the water.
Underwater boat hull cleaning tools must include something to scrape off marine growth since you can’t use a hose or power washer underwater. Examples include wood planks, scrubbing pads, and firm-bristled brushes. You’ll also need work gloves and snorkeling or scuba gear.