What boater doesn’t like sunshine and water? Can there be too much of such good things? The final answer is yes—especially when it comes to keeping a boat in tiptop shape.
Overexposure to sunshine fades hulls, and waterlogged storage compartments and upholstery harbor mold and mildew. You can’t avoid the elements—they’re the boating environment and what attracts us to this joyous lifestyle. Not all is lost when it comes to keeping your boat looking young, though. All it takes is elbow grease to keep it showroom new and mold and mildew free.
Mold is a fungus that looks furry with a round shape. As spores grow, they take on shades of black, blue, yellow, brown and gray. Mold comes with an unmistakable musty and rank smell. Mildew is a form of mold that appears like a thin coat of black, gray, yellow or white powder. Mildew can be easily mistaken for dust or dirt. Damp surfaces, warmth and humid air are ideal growing conditions for mold and mildew.
Problem: Mold thrives in enclosed spaces, like compartments.
Solution: Open the hatches at home—even if they have watertight seals—so compartments can air out. Any circulation with open air or electric vents and fans can help speed the drying out and ventilation process. So can a dry vac with enough horsepower to pick up any water from porous surfaces like carpet.
Problem: Wet life jackets, ski gloves and other waterlogged gear are seeds of growth for mold and mildew. Left inside a compartment, these items meant for fun can become your worst enemy.
Solution: Unload wet gear and allow it to air out from outside the boat before the next trip.
Problem: Water rich in minerals like limestone and salt can leave a spotty film on fiberglass and glass surfaces. Stains really stand out on darker surfaces such as outboard cowlings.
Solution: Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar. Spray affected areas, wait a few minutes and then wipe dry.
Problem: The action was fast and furious in the offshore waters after you dropped lines over that underwater wreck. Some fish bled on the deck and inside the cabin, which is an eyesore, especially on white surfaces.
Solution: Use the washdown hose before the blood has a chance to dry. For dried blood, a freshwater/hydrogen peroxide mix is great for tougher or dry stains.
Problem: Powdercoated aluminum boats and pontoon logs are easier to just wipe down than bare aluminum. But, whether you keep your aluminum or pontoon boat in the water at all times, or keep it on a trailer, sometimes you’ll find scum, dirt or stains on the powdercoating that you can’t just wipe off.
- For light cleaning, use soap and water cleanup with a quality brand, such as Dawn dish soap. Follow up with a marine wax to help prevent future buildup.
- If the finish has staining the dish soap does not remove, clean it with Simple Green—which has been found to cut through the buildup—and follow up with soap and water cleanup. Apply marine wax to help prevent future buildup.
- If these steps do not remove the buildup or staining, use CLR. Try it in a non-visible area first, though, to ensure it won’t harm the finish.
Problem: How did all those ants get in the boat? They marched aboard on dock lines, shore power cords and battery charger extension cords.
Solution: Where cables touch the dock or ground, spray them with ant repellant.
Problem: You can hone in on mold and mildew inside the boat. An entire growth area—inside and out—is the canvas boat cover. Mold and mildew can spring up in a boat cover and spread into your boat.
Solution: While you’re cleaning the boat, wet the canvas and use the deck brush to remove loose dirt, bird feces and other debris. Use a marine-grade mildew cleaner and protectant. Most of all, allow the cover to completely dry inside and out before you reinstall the cover.
Problem: White surfaces easily show stains and dirt. Even worse, dust, sand and dirt can harm gelcoat finishes when ground into the surfaces.
Solution: After each trip, take time to hose down the boat inside and out. If time allows, get out the dry vac and remove any standing water. The old saying holds true—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Problem: Not all cleaners are safe for use in a boat. Some can do more harm than good.
Solution: Carefully read the labels of any chemicals before you buy them. If the label says “new and improved” the formula might have changed. First, test any product on a small, inconspicuous area before using across the boat.
Avoid using sprays or liquids with the boat in the water. Those products might be safe for use on the boat, but they can pollute the water. When removing mold and mildew, you should wear a particulate mask, rubber gloves and protective eyewear.
If you have needs beyond what can be performed at home visit your nearest Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Boat Center. You will find friendly and practical advice and factory-trained Power Pros technicians that can handle any maintenance needs, regardless of the brand.