10 Easy Boat Cleaning Hacks

Hack(n) – a strategy or technique for managing one’s time or activities more efficiently.

Let’s face it, cleaning your boat after a long day on the water can be an exhausting and time consuming task. In this article we take a look at 10 easy to implement boat cleaning hacks that will save you time and money, and keep your boat looking great

Boat cleaning hacks will help you save time when you're cleaning your boat after a trip.

1 – Designate a Trash Bin

Designate an unused locker or bucket as a trash bin for crew and guests. This will make cleaning up at the end of the day a lot easier as the majority of trash is consolidated in one place. It also has the benefit of eliminating the possibility of your trash polluting the body of water you’re enjoying by blowing away or being lost overboard by careless guests.

2 – Use Your Raw Water Washdown

Many boaters are hesitant to use their vessel’s raw water washdown system because they don’t want salt water on their boats. However, when cleaning up while underway a raw water washdown system is indispensable. If your boat doesn’t have a raw water washdown system a bucket works great too. The convenience of a powerful washdown pump and hose for cleanup while underway is hard to beat though so you might consider installing one aboard. Coupled with a stiff deck brush, a raw water washdown hose will make quick work of any mess on your deck while underway.

3 – Use Hot Water

Hot water is one of the best boat cleaning hacks I’ve encountered and I encourage all boaters to take advantage of it if possible. Hot water is very effective at dissolving salt, the primary source of corrosion on your boat’s metal, as well as getting rid of dirt and grime. Using hot water, any salt spray left aboard from your trip needs only a rinse with warm fresh water to dissolve it away. If you’re like many boaters and you don’t have access to hot water where you keep your boat, consider having it plumbed from an existing hot water heater or purchasing an in-line hot water heater.

4 – Keep Vinegar Handy

Like hot water, vinegar is a great weapon in the ongoing battle between boat owners and salt water corrosion. Mixed with water and then sprayed on your boat, with particular focus on exposed metal, vinegar will dissolve any salt residue that found its way aboard. Be sure to wash well with fresh water afterwards. A small spray bottle of vinegar is also a great way to treat any spots of corrosion you notice or clean mildew and mold you find aboard. For a deeper clean, some boaters have even taken to running their outboards in a container filled with a mix of water and vinegar to clean their engine’s internal components of salt buildup. See How to: Cleaning Your Cooling System With Vinegar.

5 – Buy A Quality Deck Brush

It’s hard to overstate how important a good brush made for boat cleaning is. Of all our boat cleaning hacks, this is perhaps the easiest to do, so there’s no reason to skimp on it. A quality brush that won’t mark your boat’s gelcoat or lose its bristles and leave them on deck is what you’re looking for. I prefer one with a telescoping handle that allows for easy storage while also being extended for comfortable use.

6 – Prioritize While Cleaning

Boats used in salt water have two main enemies, salt and UV. Metal exposed to salt water will corrode and anything left in the sun for extended periods of time will fade. While having a spotless deck and hull can be nice, there are a few things you absolutely must clean after a day on the water to ensure they work the next time you use your boat. Engine(s) should be flushed thoroughly with freshwater and any metal aboard that came into contact with salt water should be rinsed.

Fiberglass, gelcoat, and even wood are fairly resilient to salt exposure, you could come home from a day on the boat without ever cleaning your boat’s deck and it would probably be just fine, so long as you don’t make a habit of it. By prioritizing your post-trip cleanups on the parts of the boat that could be damaged by saltwater corrosion, you’ll save yourself a lot of maintenance down the road. As for UV exposure, a good boat cover or awning goes a long way toward protecting your boat.

7 – Break Out The Pressure Washer

Pressure washing a boat is subject to some debate, some people love it, some wouldn’t let a pressure washer anywhere near there boat. For serious cleanup though, like after a long day of fishing, a pressure washer is hard to beat. A word of caution, a high powered pressure washer with the wrong tip can easily damage your boat’s gelcoat or nonskid so be careful while using. The correct pressure washing setup however can make cleanup a breeze. Some setups even allow you to feed in your preferred cleaning solution with the water which can save you significant time while cleaning. A small electric pressure washer works perfect for this application. You don’t need a commercial grade gas unit, something in the range of 2,000 PSI will work fine and is small enough to keep in your dock box. If you trailer, a pressure washer also works great for getting the road grime and salt off your boat’s trailer.

8 – Scare Away The Birds

Few things are more embarrassing for a boat owner than arriving at your boat’s slip for a day on the water with guests only to find it covered in bird droppings. Keeping birds away is part art, part science, and part outdoing your neighbor. Boaters who keep their boats in slips or on moorings will know how much of a mess birds can cause when they use your boat as their perch. Some of the solutions include flying decoy owls or hawks to imitate a predator, running wire or monofilament across the boat prevent birds from perching on it, and using automated noises or lights to scare birds away. While none are perfect, if you’re keeping your boat on the water you should consider implementing one or more such systems to keep birds off your boat with the goal being to make your boat an unappealing place for birds to hang out.

9 – Machine Wash Your Canvas

While not all marine canvas is capable of being machine washed, some is. Check what type of canvas you have and if you can wash it in a machine do so periodically. A commercial laundromat with larger machines will work great for this however for smaller pieces your home washer will work as well. If your canvas can’t be machine washed a large bucket with warm water and soap can be used then let it air dry.

Remove your boat’s canvas and clean it periodically.

10 – Clean Your Bilges

A clean bilge is a rare sight aboard a boat and it says the boat is either new, or is meticulously cared for. Keeping your boat’s bilge clean may seem hard, after all if your boat is anything like most, you’ll have to contort yourself just to reach parts of the bilge. However, there are a couple simple tricks to keeping it clean. An environmentally friendly soap like Simple Green or Dawn combined with warm water will help remove most of the mildew and grime that has built up, just let it slosh around in the bilge while underway. If there’s a particularly bad area, a spray bottle of diluted bleach or vinegar can also be used for spot treatment, just be sure to wash well with fresh water afterwards.

Keeping a clean bilge isn’t difficult.

Once you develop a routine, your post trip cleanings should get easy. A few simple hacks and the right tools will not only make it easy but save you a lot of time as well. Don’t have time to clean your boat after a long day on the water? Check BoatEasy for boat cleaning services near you that will come to your location and wash your boat for you.

Have a favorite hack, trick, or product for cleaning your boat? Feel free to leave a comment to share it with other boaters.

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