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Cleaning Tips

Frank Hagan

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Thought I'd start off the new Boat Maintenance board with a few tips for difficult cleaning issues.

Paint Overspray

I recently built a shed, and painted it. I didn't have the boat covered, so I got a fair amount of overspray on the boat. Including on the dark plastic windows. Borrowing a tip from auto detailers, I found that using a clay bar removes the paint easily. It works well on very smooth surfaces like gel coat, stainless steel, plastic, etc. It is less effective on textured surfaces, but still works. You can get it at auto parts stores ... here's one kind:


Mothers 07240 California Gold Clay Bar Paint Saving System

Rust spots:

I always seem to get a few rust spots on my white gelcoat. Oxalic acid works well to remove rust, but its pretty dangerous to use straight. Barkeeper's Friend has a bit of it, and its kind to gel coat. I don't know if it would stain a painted boat, but it works great on gelcoat with just light rubbing. You can find it at Home Depot and many grocery stores:


Plastic with Mildew / Rubrails

I think its mildew ... those black spots that show up on flexible plastic like fenders, cowl vents, etc. I start with a mild cleanser like Softscrub and then graduate to this whitewall cleaner if that doesn't do it. You can get Softscrub at the grocery store, and a whitewall cleaner at any auto parts store:


Westleys Bleche-Wite

The one caveat I have about using this cleaner is that it will bleach out latex paint; I'm not sure about how it treats oil based marine paiints, but you have to be careful with it. Rinse really well afterwards.

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  • 5 months later...

I agree with the recommendation for Barkeeper's Friend. We use it on the boat and it is even recommended for glass top stoves at the house. I have not found a better stainless steel cleaner anywhere.

The Star-Brite products have a new cleaner for bird & spider poop (a constant problem on a sailboat here in Alabama). I tried it on the boat yesterday and it really works with very little labor (a good thing). Star-Brite also has a great rust stain remover and fiberglass stain remover. They are all about $13 a spray bottle at West Marine, but really work well.


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There are a lot of clever ways to clean a boat and its parts without buying the over priced marine products.  Several have been mentioned  by the 3 people before me in this thread.  But please be careful of some of the advice that goes around.  If the cleaner has any silicone in it it will likely make it such that paints or any other coating will never adhere well again to surfaces cleaned by it in the future.  Some have advised the use of oven cleaner, which may stain even slightly porous surfaces such that it never comes clean again.  Learn about the product before you use it.  Along with the good advice out there comes some really bad advice as well.

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  • 1 year later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Time is usually your friend with cleaning up after Bond-type activities. I would start with a little bit of dishwashing soap like Dawn in a bucket of water and use a car washing brush to apply it, mist it if you have to in order to keep it moist, and then wash off after 20 to 30 minutes. Trying to clean up without allowing things to soak and soften often leads to using stronger chemicals and more elbow grease.

Or, make a rule that anyone who pukes on your boat has to clean it up themselves!

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