Back in a previous life I cleaned boats for a living, roaming the docks of Newport, Rhode Island, with my bucket, a coiled-up hose, and various and sundry brushes, chamois, rags, polishes, waxes, soaps, and the like. I loved the long days outside in the sun and being on or, at least near, the water. And 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. I recently went back to West Marine, roamed the aisles once again, and went down to the docks to put the old favorites to the test on a 21-foot Pro Sport, owned by my friends Bill and Bob Albro. Here’s what I found.
♦ 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 (I had a car once whose trunk became permanently funky after packing a wet one and letting it marinate).
♦ 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.
OrPine Wash & Wax
$24.99 (quart), $74.99 (gallon); www.hmmarine.com
When it comes to boat soap for the overall washdown, 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 (depending on how dirty the boat you’re cleaning is, but no more than that is needed) 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.
Collinite No. 925 Fiberglass Boat Wax
After I washed down the boat and got her nice and dry some folks wanted wax anyway, so I busted out the Collinite No. 925, a staple in the boat-wax game. Shake the bottle well before you start and make sure not to go overboard when it comes to applying the stuff, and work with a manageable amount of surface, say, 2 feet by 2 feet. Nothing is worse than putting on too much wax and having it dry up on you. That’s one step forward but two steps back. If you do your boating in the nortern climes, probably one thorough waxing each season will be fine unless for some reason you really need another. If you’re boating 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.
$11.99 (quart), $25.99 (gallon); www.westmarine.com
You’re always going to get a few spots on a boat that need a little extra attention in the cleaning department—runs down the hull from drain holes, drips from around screw heads in deck hatches, maybe a certain area of your deck particularly favored by the avian sort. Every boat has these problem areas. I’ve used Roll-Off for a long time now to get out stains that just won’t budge after a normal washdown. (I like Roll-Off as opposed to say, a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser which can, don’t get me wrong, work wonders, but will break up if you’re trying to really scrub nonskid.) Spray a bit on the stained area and, depending on how dirty it is, wait a little while before you scrub it off. Then give it a scrub down with a brush and a good rinse. This stuff is pretty heavy duty, so again, grab a gallon and throw it in the lazarette, you’ll be set for a year. (Unless birds really like your decks.)
Magic Bling and StarGlow Extreme Polish
$19.99-$24.99 for Magic Bling; $34.99 for StarGlow; www.magicbling.com
Anyone who has ever wandered the tents at a boat show to look at cleaning products and other marine goodies will no doubt recognize the purple bottle of Magic Bling seen here (heck, they may have even cleaned your shades as you perused). Silly name? You bet. Silly product? Not at all. During a stint in which I lived aboard and maintained a 63-foot Trumpy I would use Magic Bling to clean all of the windows and, in a pinch, shine up the metal as well. It’s a great glass cleaner. But when you combine it with the company’s new StarGlow Extreme polish, which is a new product to me, 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. When I did it I came away with so much black gunk on my rag you’d have thought I was taking off paint. In my test it shined up a particularly oxidized piece of stainless as well. 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 from minor scratches and keeps your metal shining longer.
Plexus Plastic Cleaner
Whenever I had to detail a boat with aging isinglass onboard I turned to Plexus Plastic Cleaner. Worked then and it works now. You use an easy spray-on-wipe-off application method and it not only cleans the plastic but polishes it as well and seals its pores to protect for longer periods than, say, Windex (which is really just for glass). Also, make sure you don’t use paper towels when you go to buff it off. Use a clean rag or a microfiber cloth instead. Paper towels will leave behind fibers that will stick to the plastic and are a real pain to get off. Believe me. With general cleaning a can should last you a season at least, depending on how much isinglass you have onboard and how sparkling-clean you like it, but if you want to make sure that you have enough to clean your boat, and maybe every other boat in the marina, for the foreseeable future, the company sells the stuff in bulk on its Web site (www.plexusplasticcleaner.com).
This post originally appeared here.