What are boat clears made of?
Pressed polished clears, extruded clears, calendared clears, Crystal Clear, Strataglass, Vybak, Sea Flex, Plexiglass, Lexan… confusing right? Let's simplify things!
Clear vinyl boat windows or “clears” are generally made from polyvinyl chloride “PVC”. Plasticisers are added to the PVC during the manufacturing process which give it its pliable properties.
The exception to the above are some flybridge clears. Whilst these may be PVC, they may also be a semi rigid polycarbonate or acrylic material.
If you are unsure of the material and brand of your boat clears, then the first step is to identify whether they are PVC or acrylic / polycarbonate.
How to identify your boat clears
PVC or vinyl clears are soft and easily rolled up when unzipped.
Semi rigid acrylic and polycarbonate are not able to be rolled. Larger windows are generally clipped up to the flybridge ceiling when underway.
Required tools to clean and protect boat clears
- Bucket and PH neutral boat soap. - Chenille microfibre wash mitt or ultra soft boat brush. - Hose, hose fittings and plastic spray nozzle (avoid metal spray nozzles to prevent damage if dropped. Your spray nozzle should have a handle you can hook over a rail or deck fitting so it is easy to reach) - Dedicated chamois and soft, clean microfibre cloths. - Protective products to apply on completion of cleaning.
Cleaning boat clears
Clears are extremely susceptible to scratching and great care should be taken when cleaning.
Step 1. Preparation Add your PH Neutral boat soap to your bucket and dilute with water inline with the manufacturers recommendations. Rinse your wash mitt or ultra soft brush with fresh water to remove any loose dirt or dust.
Step 2. Rinse Thoroughly rinse your clears with fresh water to remove any lose dust from the surface. Don't attempt to brush off any dry, loose dust with your hands or any other tools as they may scratch.
Step 3. Wash Place your chenille microfibre wash mitt or ultra soft boat brush into your soapy water and wash the clears using light pressure. Use plenty of soap and vertical or horizontal motions. Try to avoid circular motions as any scratching will be highly visible.
Wash one panel at a time and load your wash mitt or brush with more boat soap on each new panel.
It is important not to let the soapy water dry on the clears. Rinse each washed panel with fresh water as often as required to avoid this.
We recommend using a chenille microfibre wash mitt or ultra soft brush to clean your clears as any dirt that comes off the clears during the wash falls into the lower sections of the mitt or bristles of the brush to minimise scratching.
Step 4. Dry
Use a clean, dedicated chamois or microfibre cloth to remove excess water from the clears. Letting your clears air dry will likely introduce mineral deposits that will become abrasive and cause scratching in later steps.
If the clears are easily accessible then we recommend blotting them dry. If not, use light pressure and vertical or horizontal motions to avoid introducing any scratches.
Tip: Make sure you remove any tags from your microfibre cloths and if you drop your cloth, get a new one to avoid introducing any grit that will cause scratching.
Don't forget the zippers
Zippers are just as important as the clears themselves. Be sure to rinse them off while washing the clears and give them a coat of silicone spray or Shurhold zipper lubricant each quarter to keep them in good working order.
Protecting Boat Clears
If you know the brand of your boat clears, we strongly recommend consulting the manufacturers documentation and only using the recommended products. If your clears are new, this will ensure that you do not void any warranties.
PVC (Vinyl clears)
There are many plastic protectants on the market however we recommend products that are designed specifically to protect flexible PVC and its plasticisers rather than products that are designed to protect plastics “but also suitable for clear vinyl”.
The products we use and recommend for protecting any brand of vinyl clears are produced by IMAR.
IMAR Protective Polish #302 should be used on a monthly basis to maintain a protective coating over the clears. This ensures the plasticisers inside the PVC do not deteriorate. PVC relies on plasticisers to remain soft and if left unprotected, UV will break down the plasticisers, turning the vinyl cloudy and brittle over time.
Apply a thin film of IMAR Protective Polish with a clean microfibre cloth or applicator to the inside and outside of your vinyl clears. Buff off the excess with a clean microfibre cloth. Work on one panel at a time and remember to remove all tags to prevent scratching.
The polish will not only protect from UV but also create an anti static surface to help prevent dirt and dust sticking to the clears.
IMAR Stataglass Protective Cleaner #301 can be used between polishes to remove contaminants such as sunscreen or oily fingerprints.
Acrylic or Polycarbonate clears
Apply a thin film of Novus No.1 Clean and Protect with a clean microfibre cloth or applicator to the inside and outside of your vinyl clears. Buff off the excess with a clean microfibre cloth until dry.
Never use generic cleaners such as Windex or acetone to clean your clears as these will damage the plasticisers and cause premature cloudiness and eventually, cracking.
Restoring Boat Clears
Visual clarity can be restored to clears that have become cloudy however results will vary greatly. There is no real miracle cure to cloudy clears. If left too long without protection, replacement may be the only option to ensure your safety on the water.
Novus No.2 or No.3 can be used to restore cloudy PVC, acrylic or polycarbonate clears and remove minor scratches. Should you use Novus Plastic Polish on PVC clears, we highly recommend following up with IMAR Protective Polish #302 as a protective coating.
As mentioned, we don’t personally recommend Novus Plastic Polish for vinyl clears however if they are in bad shape then they can’t get much worse by trying to restore them using Novus products.
Storing boat clears
Should you need to remove your clears and store them for a short period of time, we recommend following these simple steps:
- Ensure you have clean hands.
- Never fold clears. Vinyl clears can be rolled up however be careful of zips as these could mark or scratch the surface.
- Don't roll up vinyl clears while they are wet as they may go cloudy.
- Store acrylic and polycarbonate clears on a soft flat surface and place a towel between each panel to prevent scratching. Don't place anything on top that may deform the panels.
Disclaimer: The information contained in these blogs is for general purposes only. Boat owners should do their own research and obtain professional advice specific to their requirements. Under no circumstances will Gold Coast Boat Detailing be liable for any damage.