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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.