How To Wash A Waxed Boat

Now that your boat has a shiny coat of wax, there are some important things you can do to keep it looking great for as long as possible. From my experience, and with proper maintenance, a good coating of wax can be expected to last 4 - 6 months on the deck, cabin, and cockpit,  and 6+ months on the hull sides, although this will vary based on where your boat resides and the environmental conditions there.


Rinse The Boat After Every Use

When salt spray dries on your boat’s surfaces, the salt crystals remain, and these will eat into your wax coating and can even etch unprotected gelcoat. Rinsing the boat off with fresh water after each time you go boating or sailing will rinse away salt spray before it has a chance to cause problems.

Wash Your Boat At Least Once a Month

Rinsing the boat after each use helps, but a good soap-down and rinse at least once per month will properly and completely remove salt, dirt, pollution, bird droppings, and other contaminants that have settled on the surfaces of the boat. These contaminants, combined with sunlight, can rapidly decay the wax coating if allowed to sit for extended periods. Regular washdowns are good for more than just the gelcoat: They will also help to keep up the non-skid and canvas surfaces, which accumulate dirt and mold growth fast and are very difficult to get clean after long periods of poor maintenance.

Wash glossy surfaces with a good boat soap, water, and a soft deck brush, gently massaging away dirt and grime then rinsing thoroughly. For scuff marks, stains, and touch-ups, keep some light cleaner wax like Collinite #870 or Mequiar’s #50 onboard to spot-clean and leave a coat of wax behind.

Beware: Not All Soaps Are Created Equal

Beware using cleaners that can strip your wax and harm your boat and the environment. Household cleaners and dish soap should never be used, as these will strip your wax off in a single use, and most are not biodegradable. Many car care products can do a decent job, but be careful as some of these products contain chemicals that are hazardous to aquatic life. Remember, everything will be running into the marina each time you wash the boat. Your best bet is to seek out a quality marine-specific boat soap that says “will not strip wax” right on the bottle. All boat soaps should be biodegradable and phosphate-free. As a bonus, look for one that also contains wax or “protective polymers,” as these may help to reinforce your existing wax coating and help both waxed and non-waxed surfaces repel contaminants.

Reapply Wax Every 4 – 6 Months

Your wax coating won’t last forever, and will need to be reapplied periodically to keep your gelcoat protected. The good news is, application of a quality liquid or paste wax can be done by hand and takes far less time than a multi-step compounding / cleaner waxing. Don’t wait until your boat needs a time-, labor-, and money-intensive polishing to restore its shine. Keep up with your wax and enjoy all of the benefits of a waxed boat!


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