Though winter still blusters now and then, its cold days already seem less threatening here on the Piedmont lakes. You can feel the gentle push of spring advancing steadily along behind. These in-between days are the perfect time to give your boat a thorough cleaning so you’ll be ready for that first irresistible spring day when the water calls.
First, give your boat’s exterior a good wash and wax using high-quality products made especially for boats. A local favorite is Meguiar’s soaps, cleaners and waxes, available from boat shops or discount retailers. Use acetone to clean dock rash from the hull, but be careful to use it only on the fiberglass, since it can rip decals and make them tear off. Be similarly cautious with black streak remover, which will take off the streaks that flow from upholstery snaps and the like.
If your boat is fairly new and you use a boat soap that contains wax, you don’t need to re-wax, but acetone and black streak remover will strip wax, so be sure to re-wax any area where you use them.
To clean the interior, use a good vinyl cleaner and conditioner. Household detergents, harsh chemicals or products that coat will cause the vinyl to crack over time. Use only a soft scrub brush or a rag. On carpet and non-skid, use a stiffer brush if necessary.
Clean stainless steel and aluminum hardware with a cleaner like Mother’s or Blue Magic that are specially made for this use.
As you’re going over your boat, check for nicks and scratches in the hull. For those requiring attention, it’s a good idea to put your boat in the hands of a professional (see the “Cleaning/Detailing” category in the Marine Service Index for area providers) before the spring rush to maximize your time on the water.
While cleaning your boat is a great do-it-yourself project, repairing fiberglass or gelcoat is not, since it involves dangerous chemicals and special skills. A good fiberglass or gelcoat specialist will be certified by a number of boat manufacturers, (Here's a directory of fiberglass & gelcoat professionals), and can handle repairs from small scratches to major damage from accidents.
No time for doing spring cleanup yourself? Most service providers will come to your dock and do it for you. In fact, many boaters sign up for routine cleaning on a quarterly or monthly basis. It’s very important to keep your boat washed regularly, wax it three or four times a year, and keep the bottom clean. That will prevent oxidation of the finish, which requires compounding and high-speed buffing to reclaim. Besides, a clean boat not only feels better, it runs across the water more efficiently.