If you keep your boat in a marina that’s either in a river or at least subject to the periodic intrusion of fresh water, chances are your fenders are, or at some point in the future will become, a mess. They’ll be coated with a sludgy, sticky, darkish sort of crud, and the buildup will be the worst at the very top and at the very bottom.
Products like Seapower’s Inflatable Boat Cleaner & Preserver work well once the worst of the grunge has been removed. But what do you do to initially cut the worst of the worst, prior to using products that undeniably nix the niceties, such as oxidation, grease and plain old caked-on dirt?
I suggest you fill a pump-up spray bottle with a 50/50 solution of Clorox ProResults Outdoor Bleach (available at most hardware stores) and water, lightly spray your fenders with the solution, and, once the really hard-core crud is totally softened and dissolved (you may need to employ a scrub brush to encourage the dissolution), rinse everything with fresh water. Of course, you’ll want to wait until your fenders are thoroughly dry before proceeding with the Seapower or whatever other cleaning product you choose, and you should wear rubber gloves to protect your skin any time you’re working with Clorox ProResults.
Go with the backyard approach for this particular chore, too. It’s safer, easier and more manageable when done in a garage, driveway or some other open, well-ventilated place. There’s no sense addressing all of your fenders at one time, either. Rotate them. Take one or two home every weekend for a good, solid refurbishment. And if you have a bicycle pump around the house, use it to make sure each fender is not only squeaky clean when you’re done, but as firm as it needs to be to do its job.
Capt. Bill Pike is deputy editor of our sister publication Power & Motoryacht magazine.