How To Keep Your Boat Clean

As a boat owner, have you wondered how the boat shops make those used boats look brand new?

Mike Sneed, service manager of the TRACKER BOAT CENTER® in Springfield, Missouri, answers your questions about how to keep your brand-new, or not-so-new, TRACKER®, NITRO®, SUN TRACKER®, REGENCY®, MAKO® or TAHOE® boat in tip-top shape.

How often should a boat owner wash the hull of their boat throughout a typical season? 

Sneed: If a person owns a fiberglass boat, the best thing to do is wash, or at least wipe down, the boat every time it’s pulled out of the water. This will keep dirty lake water from staining the fiberglass colors, especially the white gelcoat. Don’t forget to wipe down your engine and trailer as well. I recommend the same for aluminum boats. I think it’s much easier to do every time you use your boat, rather than once a year. It’s a lot harder to work off the dirt and grime that naturally builds up with us


What should an aluminum boat owner clean the hull of their boat with? What about a fiberglass boat owner? 

Sneed: For aluminum boats, wash it with a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. This also works well on today’s engine cowlings. Regular car wash soap and water works, too. Fiberglass boat owners should use soap and water on the hull. Also consider a seasonal coat of wax on the boat.


Are there any environmentally friendly cleaning products you would recommend? 

Sneed: Yes, Simple Green®. It’s an all-purpose cleaner we sell at TRACKER BOAT CENTER.


In some states, like Minnesota, there are worries that boat owners are unintentionally transporting invasive species, such as spiny water fleas or zebra mussels, from one lake to another. Do you have any recommendations on what to clean your boat with to kill or remove these pests (including areas like livewells)?

Sneed: Possibly a diluted bleach solution, but be careful in regard to decals and always test a small surface first. Also consider using car wash soap and water.


What should owners do to keep their boat’s carpet clean? Do you have any tips about removing fish blood/slime, coffee stains, etc.?

Sneed: OxiClean™ is a good product. Any known carpet cleaner would work, too. There is also a product called Purex® Fels-Naptha laundry soap, which can be purchased at large chain stores and is very good for blood and dirt stains. You can find it in the laundry section.


What should boat owners use to keep their windshields clean and spot free?

Sneed: Windex® for glass and mild soapy water for Lexan®.


What if an owner is caught in a heavy downpour and the whole boat gets soaked? Any tips on getting their boat dry and preventing mold from starting in certain parts, like storage lockers or built-in coolers?

Sneed: Open all storage boxes and let the boat air dry in the sun. If it’s in a garage, run a box fan over the boat to circulate air and dry the boat. If your boat is extremely wet, use a wet/dry vacuum first to remove excess amounts of water so you can start drying it out sooner rather than later. You also might try tea tree gel moisture absorber.


What should an owner do if they scratch the paint on the side of their boat?

Sneed: Most boat manufacturers have small touch-up paint bottles or spray. It would be best to repair or cover any paint scratches so that area doesn’t flake or expand over time. Certain areas, such as the running surface of the hull, would require more immediate care, as this is where most water pressure is applied when the boat is under power. Fiberglass scratches should be repaired at a qualified repair facility.


Any other tips to help owners maintain the appearance of their boats, in case they want to sell it or trade it in for a new boat?

Sneed: The most important tip I could recommend for keeping a boat looking like new is to either cover it or keep it inside when it’s not in use. Exposure to the sun and other weather elements will have the greatest effect on how well your boat looks over time. When you have it in storage, keep it dry. If you take that little extra time after every use to keep your boat clean, your efforts will pay off when it comes time to trade it in for a new boat.

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