Skip to main content

Boat Cleaner’s Tool Kit

Back before I got into the magazine business I cleaned boats for a living, roaming the docks of Newport, Rhode Island, with various and sundry brushes, chamois, rags, polishes, waxes, soaps and the like. Over the many hours (and dollars) spent in the aisles of the local West Marine I found a few products that stood out, a few go-to bottles I’d grab to make a job quicker and more effective. Here is what I used to keep in my go-to cleaning kit.

product
  1. Amazing Roll-Off
    You’re always going to get a few spots on a boat that need a little extra attention in the cleaning department. I’ve used Roll-Off for a long time now to get out stains that just won’t budge after a normal washdown. Spray a bit on the stained area and, depending on how dirty it is, wait a little while before you hit it. Then scrub it down and give it a good rinse. This stuff is pretty heavy duty, so grab a gallon and throw it in the lazarette. You’ll be set for a year. (Unless birds really like your decks.) $11.99 (quart), $25.99 (gallon). Amazing Roll Off; westmarine.com
  2. Magic Bling and StarGlow Extreme Polish
    Anyone who has ever wandered the tents at a boat show looking at cleaning products and other marine goodies will recognize the purple bottle of Magic Bling. Silly name? You bet. Silly product? Not at all. I would use Magic Bling to clean windows and, in a pinch, shine up the metal as well. Already a great glass cleaner, when you combine it with the company’s new StarGlow Extreme polish, the one-two punch is what your stainless needs. StarGlow applies like your typical non-liquid polish; put it on a rag and rub it on your railing. I’d come away with so much black gunk on my rag you’d have thought I was taking off paint. The stuff works wonders and buffs out to a mirror shine. After you’ve polished, spray the Magic Bling on a rag and give the railing a once-over—not only will it improve that shine, but it forms a protective coating over the stainless that protects it from minor scratches and keeps your metal shining longer. $19.99-$24.99 for Magic Bling; $34.99 for StarGlow. Magic Bling and Starglow; magicbling.com
  3. Plexus Plastic Cleaner
    Whenever you’re cleaning a boat with aging isinglass in the dodger windows, look to Plexus Plastic Cleaner. You use an easy spray-on-wipe-off application method, and it not only cleans the plastic but polishes it as well. It also seals any pores to protect for longer periods than, say, Windex (which is really just for glass). Also, use a clean rag or a microfiber cloth to wipe it off. Paper towels leave behind fibers that will stick to the plastic and are a real pain to get off. Believe me. With general cleaning a can of Plexus should last you a season at least, depending on how much isinglass you have onboard and how sparkling-clean you like it. $34.99. Plexus Plastic Cleaner; plexusplasticcleaner.com
  4. Collinite No. 925 Fiberglass Boat Wax
    For waxing the boat, I used Collinite No. 925, a staple in the boat-wax game. Shake the bottle well before you start and make sure not to use too much of the stuff. A 2ft-by-2ft area is a good one to work on. If you do your sailing in the north, probably one thorough waxing each season will be fine unless for some reason you really need another. If you’re sailing in the southern sun, two coats each year is recommended. Collinite No. 925 leaves a nice protective coat so it should hold up for a while, and it leaves a hell of a shine. $19.99. Collinite; collinite.com
  5. OrPine Wash & Wax
    I’ve always sworn by OrPine Wash & Wax, a cleaner and wax mix. Buy a gallon jug and leave it in the lazarette for when you need it. I tend to mix a capful or two with a gallon of water. After I’ve scrubbed and hosed down the boat, I dry everything with a chamois and the boat glistens. People used to ask me if I’d waxed their boats. No, sir, just a wash. If you go with OrPine Wash & Wax don’t be surprised if someone on the docks asks you the same thing. $24.99 (quart), $74.99 (gallon); OrPine; hmmarine.com

A few more necessities…
Make sure your boat locker has a Shurhold telescoping brush handle, and both soft and stiff wooden Shurhold brush heads. Yes, they’re expensive, but they work wonders and last a long time, so don’t skimp on some plastic knockoff you’ll have to replace midway through the season.

Grab a few of those Absorber synthetic chamois that come in the plastic tubes, and after you’re done make sure you dry them out before stowing them away.

Buy a squeegee for streak-free windows, a tiny bottle of Rain-X, and a pack of microfiber cloths for polishing and waxing.

Have the above, and the other products listed in your lazarette and your boat will thank you.

April 2016

Related

m138123_14_00_210609_TORE02_SE_2152_2504-2048x

The Ocean Race to be “Climate Positive”

The 2023 Ocean Race intends to be one of the world’s first climate positive sporting events, offsetting more greenhouse gasses than are produced. The two-fold effort means cutting emissions by 75 percent and investing in ocean projects that sequester carbon and restore ocean ...read more

01-LEAD-Ancients-3-2048x

Cruising Lake Superior

Almost anywhere a sailor drops the hook someone else has been there before. We are hardly ever the first. That remote Maine harbor without a soul in sight: there’s a lobster trap. The south coast of Newfoundland: the crumbling remains of a fisherman’s cabin lie hidden among the ...read more

01-LEAD-Tablet-Holder-4

Fabricating a Tablet Holder

During the pandemic, I was stuck aboard Guiding Light, a Lagoon 410, in St. Lucia for over a month. During that time, as I worked on the boat, I started by doing a spring cleaning in my spares locker and finding some parts and material that I forgot I had. As soon as I saw them, ...read more

00-LEAD-AdobeStock_486335954

A Catamaran for a New Era

Anacortes, Washington, is an unassuming sea-salty town near the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound, and the Betts Boats yard is easy for a passerby to miss. But within Betts’ facilities, the dawn of an era in Pacific Northwest production boatbuilding could be breaking with the ...read more

X5_plus_slide-01

Boat Review: Xquisite X5 Plus

The Xquisite X5 Plus is a major update of the boat that SAIL awarded Best Large Multihull and Best Systems titles in 2017. The changes were not just cosmetic, but genuine improvements to an already fine boat, making it lighter, faster and less dependent on fuel. The builder’s ...read more

01-LEAD-AdobeStock_40632434

Cruising: Offshore Prep Talk

When I began preparing Minx, my 1987 Pearson 39-2, for extended Caribbean cruising, I had to balance my champagne wish list against my beer budget. Every buck spent on the boat before leaving would be one less frosty can of Carib down in the islands. On the other hand, I had to ...read more

m5702_RACE-AREA-6

Barcelona Venue Shaping Up

The decision to host the next America’s Cup in Barcelona ruffled the feathers of some fans, but the Defender is happy with how the venue is shaping up. The process of allocating team bases, spectator zones and the race village is underway. “I cannot speak highly enough of the ...read more

ELAN-GT6---273

Boat Review: Elan GT6

Elan’s first sporty “Grand Turismo” yacht, the 43ft GT5, launched in 2017, and was actually a bit of a mash-up. It combined an existing go-fast hull from Elan’s sexy E5 racer with a new deck and interior optimized for cruising comfort, and a somewhat detuned rig to create a ...read more