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If you want to keep your boat in ship shape condition then you should invest in a dedicated boat cleaner product. These cleaning products are specially formulated to thoroughly clean your boat’s hull and other exposed sections, without causing any damage, and removing potentially harmful dirt and debris at the same time.
Since boat hulls are exposed to some seriously harsh elements and weather conditions, they’re always in need of a bit of TLC. Boat hulls have to endure constant contact with seawater, layers of oil and gasoline, and all manner of aquatic life that like to call a hull home. Having the right product that can cut through the grime will protect your boat and extend its lifespan.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one magic cleaning solution that will work wonders for all boats. Different hull types require different, specialist products. For example, a fiberglass hull will need a different product to a vinyl hull. And you can’t just use any old household product either.
Unlike automobiles, motorcycles, and other vehicles, boats are covered with a gel coat rather than a clear coat, and this makes them ill-suited to automotive cleaning products or anything else you might have in your cupboard.
To make sure you don’t damage your boat’s hull, we’ve compiled a list of the best boat cleaners on the market, with a useful buying guide to make sure you purchase the right boat cleaner for your needs.
Star Brite is a popular manufacturer of marine detailing products. The brand makes all kinds of useful products, from heavy duty boat brushes to specially formulated polishes, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see one of their boat washes on the list. This is the EZ-On EZ-Off Hull Cleaner: a powerful solution that cuts through grime, bringing your hull back to life in no time at all.
This formula has been specially engineered to tackle the dirtiest parts of your boat: the hull, particularly the bottom of it. To do that, it uses an active hydrochloric acid to cut through the grease and grime. Since it’s made for marine applications and needs to be environmentally sound, the acid has been buffered. This allows it to deliver fast and aggressive cleaning results without harming the environment.
It’s safe to use, and perfect for cleaning more than just your hull too. Try it on your deck, in your baitwells, and inside your storage compartments.
The Star Brite EZ-On EZ-Off Hull Cleaner is available in 32 oz and 128 oz bottles. Both offer excellent value for money.
Application Type: Brush application
Bottle Sizes: 32 oz and 128 oz
Next, we have a product from everyone’s favorite detailing company: Meguiars. Meguiars is the go-to brand for almost all detailing supplies for any type of vehicle. Cars, motorcycles, RVs: you name it, they do it. The brand’s marine products are some of the best in the business, and if you’re looking for an inexpensive boat wash to get your boat looking its best, then this is for you.
This all-inclusive boat soap has been formulated to tackle dirt and grime without harming your fiberglass gel coat surfaces. Its pH neutral, which means that it won’t aggressively attack any of your boat’s gentler areas. It’s a non-streaking formula that gently cleanses away dirt, leaving your boat’s protective layers intact.
The result will leave your boat with a clean finish and a dazzling shine. It won’t harm your gel coat, and it will help to preserve your boat wax and keep your boat looking healthier, for longer.
Meguiar’s M43 Boat Wash is available in a large 64 ounce bottle, which is more than enough to tackle larger boat bodies, and in an economical way too. This is one of the cheapest dedicated boat cleaners on the market, at a very respectable price point too.
Application Type: Wash mitt application
Bottle Sizes: 64 oz
Boat Juice is a brand with a cult following. They develop premium boat detailing products for a very reasonable price. While they have plenty of different boat cleaning products on offer, we think that their Exterior Cleaner solution is the best boat cleaner in the range. It’s easy to use, affordable, and produces excellent results.
Boat Juice Exterior Cleaner is made from a blend of different ingredients to maximize your cleaning experience. Unlike many other products on the market, it doesn’t contain any vinegar-like solutions. The result is a powerful cleaner that tackles mineral deposits and hard water spots, cuts through grime, and uses a SiO2 ceramic sealant that will leave your boat looking fresh and clean.
Since it doesn’t use any harsh chemicals it’s safe to use on a wide range of surfaces, such as your gelcoat, chrome work, glass, plastic, fiberglass, and vinyl surfaces too.
It’s easy to use: all you have to do is spray the solution straight from the bottle onto a dirty surface, and wipe it off. Spray on, wipe off! It’s as simple as that. It even has a polymer wax ingredient which helps to wax your boat as you clean it.
All in, this is a comprehensive boat cleaner that will really make your boat shine. It’s available in 32 oz bottles, for a slightly higher price than others on the market, but it’s an all-inclusive and easy to use product that’s worth the extra.
Application Type: Spray application
Bottle Sizes: 32 oz
Simple Green Marine’s All-purpose Boat Cleaner is an excellent all-rounder that can keep a wide range of your boat’s surfaces clean for relatively low price. What’s more, Simply Green Marine is an environmentally-conscious brand that aims to develop products that can do the job, but don’t harm the environment in the process.
The All-purpose Boat Cleaner is built on top of an eco-friendly formula that’s non-toxic, completely biodegradable, non-abrasive, non-flammable, yet 100% effective at cutting through dirt and grime, and keeping your boat looking its best.
No matter what you need to clean, from your vinyl surfaces and non-skid to your hull and fiberglass, this stuff has the power to clean it. It’s strong enough to cut through oil, petrol, diesel, fish blood, and more, with ease.
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly solution to your cleaning problems then this versatile product should do the trick. It’s also ideal for use on more than just your boat too: it works wonders on your fishing gear, inflatables, and other marine equipment.
Simple Green Marine’s All-purpose Boat Cleaner is available in two different sizes, a 22 oz spray bottle, and a larger 1 gallon container. It can also be watered down for milder concentrations to tackle less heavy-duty jobs with ease.
Application Type: Spray or sponge application
Bottle Sizes: 22 oz or 1 U.S gallon
3M is arguably the most recognizable brand in the detailing industry, whether you’re detailing cars, planes, RVs, or boats, they’ve got a product that’s right for the job. They have plenty of marine detailing supplies, but 3M’s Perfect-It Boat Wash is an excellent product for simply giving your boat a thorough wash.
This professional-grade product is a premium boat cleaner that has been formulated to tackle tough dirt, grease, and algae, but in a solution that won’t harm your gelcoat, paintwork, fiberglass, or metal. It’s gentle where it needs to be, and aggressive where required. It won’t damage your wax or remove any of your protectants.
Though it’s a slightly higher priced item, this professional detailing product actually offers exceptional value for money. A regular sized bottle of 32 fluid ounces goes a long way. Simply water it down at a ratio of one ounce of cleaner to one gallon of water, and you’ve got a tough formula that can clean an entire boat with ease. And one bottle will last for dozens of washes!
It’s powerful enough to remove even the most stubborn of stains, but gentle enough that it won’t hurt your boat’s vulnerable surfaces and delicate protectants. It can be used for plenty of washes, and it doesn’t cost the world. This is an excellent boat wash for dedicated boaters.
Application Type: Sponge application
Bottle Sizes: 32 oz
Buying The Best Boat Cleaning Products: A Buying Guide
The cost of buying a boat is one thing, the cost of maintaining it is quite another. Keeping your boat clean is an essential task and a key part of your regular maintenance routine. There’s no escaping it. To make matters worse, boats aren’t small, and they have a lot of big areas to clean. That’s why it’s important to use the best boat cleaner products that you can, to take the edge off of an already labor-intensive task.
To make matters worse, boats are also constructed from a wide range of different materials, with each surface having different cleaning requirements to another. Your boat’s gel coat surfaces may require a different cleaning solution to the upholstery, metal areas will require different detergents to the fiberglass, et cetera, et cetera.
You’re going to need more than one type of cleaner in your arsenal, with a collection of different marine polishes and dedicated boat waxes too. No matter what type of boat you have, you’re going to need one type of base cleaner; an all ‘rounder that can cut through the bulk of the grime, across a wide range of surfaces, priming the job so that you can focus on specific areas with dedicated cleaners afterwards.
This kind of broad-match cleaner is what we’re looking at today. There are plenty available on the market, but to make sure you get the right cleaner for your boat, keep these important things in mind.
Key Features To Look Out For
Before investing in a dedicated boat cleaner, make sure that you read what surfaces it’s ideally suited for. Some of these cleaners are only suitable for hull cleaning, while others are more versatile and can be used on vinyl, glass, metal, and painted surfaces.
Naturally, the more surfaces that a cleaning solution is compatible with, the more bang you’ll get for your buck. However, increased versatility may come at the cost of a product’s strength and cleaning power.
Ask yourself whether you want a stronger, specialized product that works for a particular surface, or a more generic product that you can use all-over.
The method of application is an important feature that often gets overlooked. As we mentioned above, cleaning a boat isn’t a five minute job. It requires time and effort. Now, if you like to keep your cleaning and maintenance regime short and sweet, you may benefit from a spray cleaner. These can simply be sprayed on to a surface, and wiped away. It takes no time at all. However, the results may not be as thorough, and deep cleaning might not be possible.
Brush application, or sponge application is more time consuming, but some would argue that you get better results. Since you put more physical effort into the application, imperfections, stains, and marks are easier to remove.
Choose a boat cleaner that matches the level of effort you’re willing to spend.
Lastly, and possibly the most important thing you need to consider, is the environmental impact of any product that you use. As a boater, you have a responsibility to protect the world’s waterways. One of the best ways to keep the water clean and healthy is to use products that have environmentally-conscious ingredients. If it’s toxic, don’t use it. If it looks like it could cause harm to the water’s flora and fauna, leave it on the shelf.
Non-toxic clean agents often don’t perform as well as stronger chemicals, and there may be times when you need to use them. If you have to, make sure that you use those harsher products when your boat is out of the water. For everything else, try and use gentler cleaning agents. Always read the ingredients before you use a potentially hazard chemical on your boat. We all have a responsibility to promote clean boating, and using the right products is one of the easiest ways to fight the good fight.
Joe Appleton is an outdoor enthusiast who loves everything from bushcraft and hiking to wild camping and boating. If he’s not out in the woods, you’ll find him out on the water.
Established in 1998, BoatSafe is your independent guide into the world of boating, fishing, and watersports. We provide expert insights and detailed guides to help you find products tailored to your needs and budget.