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Any boat owner will tell you that being out on the water is more than just a hobby it’s a lifestyle, but that comes with price. Boats can be a lot of work and maintenance especially if you’ve found yourself behind or in a situation where you’re trying to bring an old or damaged boat back to life. But no matter what kind of boat you’ve had or how long you’ve had it, one thing is certain: staying on top of your boat maintenance regularly will always be much less stressful then having to revive your boat after a period of negligence.

Many people mistakenly assume keeping your boat clean and tidy is all about the aesthetic, but just like with car detailing, the benefits go way beyond just appearance. A clean boat will perform much better and is guaranteed to last longer and won’t need nearly as many repairs to it in the long-term. And you know what that means, less time working on your boat means more valuable hours on the water. Not to mention the money you’ll save from extensive repairs.

Another unfortunate reality of being a boat owner is that boats get dirtier much faster then say a car or RV. There are several more factors that can potentially threaten your boat’s exterior. Things like algae, rust, salt water, mussels, coral, and dirt are all your enemy and it’s important to use only the best methods and best products to ensure your boat is well protected from it all.

So what does professional boat detailing look like? How do you know you’re doing the best you can for your precious boat? In the following step-by-step guide we will show you all the steps you need to take to get your boat back in it’s best condition. We will highlight the importance of utilizing proper vinyl protection as well as things like quality fabric protection and the importance of using certain protectants and cleaners.





The Step-By-Step Process

Step 1: Initial Rinse
As with washing any type of vehicle, it’s always wise to begin with a rinse to loosen up any dirt or grime and create a nice wet surface that will react to the cleaning products better. When rinsing always start with the top of the boat and slowly make your way down to the bottom. Any hose will do but a pressure washer is ideal if you have access to one.

Step 2: Soap Scrub
The rinse will have loosened up some of the dirt buildup, but putting in some elbow grease will ensure you get the more stubborn dirty spots out as well. Using specialized boat cleaner (such as 303 Boat Wash or Starbrite SeaSafe Boat Wash) soak and scrub the entire exterior of the boat and remember again to start up high and work your way down. You also want to do your best to make sure that your soap never gets the chance to dry. If your soap dries, it can do a lot of damage to your finish and will leave terrible looking streaks everywhere, so be sure to constantly keep that hose going over anywhere you clean.

Step 3: Buff It Up
Once you’ve rinsed and scrubbed your boat’s exterior it should look much better but there is still an element missing that gives it that extra pop. In order to remove oxidation and to get your boat ready for that extra shine you’re going to want to buff it up. As with the other steps, you can do this by hand but using a rotary buffer is even better and will make the job easier. Now your boat is nice and smooth and ready to be waxed.

Step 4: Wax
Finally, it’s time to polish her up. Waxing is crucial and will not just protect your boat, but it will add that nice gloss to it. Make sure you really spend some time picking out a quality wax product. Two common go-tos include Atwood Premium Marine Polish and/or West Marine Pure Oceans NanoTec Fiberglass Polish. Then, using circular motions, and doing one small section at a time, begin waxing your boat’s exterior. Instead of waxing everything on at once and then waxing everything off at once, it’s ideal to focus on one spot at a time and wax it both on and off in that moment.

Step 5: Don’t Forget the Interior
You’re already dirty, you’ve already got your stuff out, so you might as well address the interior of your boat real quick to seal the deal. You want to use a multi-surface cleaner for this step and one in particular that works pretty well is 303’s Marine Recreation Multi-Surface Cleaner but most quality cleaners will suffice. You can also use window cleaner to address mirrors and any glass surfaces. Make sure to really get those hard to reach tight spaces. Although they may seem minuscule, dirt buildup and bacteria can pose a threat no matter where they can be.




Sealants and Wax

There’s often some confusion with boat owners when it comes to looking at sealants vs wax. This is because sealants and wax essentially serve similar purposes, and that is to protect your boat’s exterior from salt, grime, and other various things.

Many people over the years have deemed sealants as more abrasive but recently they’ve been drastically improved and have become much easier to apply. They will easily fill the pores of a gel coat and will effectively dry to a solid finish. Additionally, one thing to keep in mind is that you should always pick a sealant that is made specifically for gel coat finishes.

Carpet Cleaning

It’s also recommended that if your boat has carpets, to clean them quite regularly as dirt buildup drastically gets worse with time. When it comes to real thorough, real deep cleans, a steam cleaner might be your ideal option.

If taking your boat to a professional and/or steam cleaning it are both not realistic options for you then here’s another alternative method. With your boat in the trailer, park it on a slope with the stern at the lower end. Utilizing a homemade solution of water and white vinegar, pull your drain plug, soak your carpets, and use a sprayer or bucket to wash and scrub out your carpets.


So there you have it. Everything you need to know about reviving your boat back to life. From the exterior to the interior it’s important to take your time and cover everything you can think of. Boats aren’t cheap so it only makes sense to get the most out of it. A clean boat is a happy boat. If you enjoyed this reading or found it helpful you should check out a few of our other readings. And as always if you have any questions or would like to speak to a professional on the Reliable Detailing Team, we are only a phone call away.