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How to wash a boat

Fresh Water Rinse

Every good boat wash starts with a fresh water rinse of the external surfaces to remove any loose contaminants. Be sure to check that all windows and hatches are closed and secure prior to commencement.

Thoroughly rinse delicate surfaces such as clear vinyl, plastic and glass windows.

Check for any leaking windows or hatches once you have completed the fresh water rinse.

Non Skid

There are several types of non skid surfaces however, we will discuss non skid that is moulded into your boat during the build process.

Dirt and contaminants tend to get trapped in the lower valleys of the non skid surface. A deck brush with medium strength bristles, plenty of boat soap and some elbow grease can remove the majority of dirt.

For best results, scrub in the same direction as the valleys in the non skid surface.

Stubborn dirt and contaminants may require a pressure wash prior to scrubbing. This can make the cleaning process a lot more efficient and improve the overall result.

Non Skid on the Bow of a boat
Non Skid on the Bow of a boat

Top Down

Add your boat soap to your bucket and dilute with water inline with the manufacturers recommendations.

Start at the top of your vessel and wash your way down. Don’t let the soap dry on the vessel so rinse as often as required. Once you are at deck level, thoroughly rinse the higher areas and chamois dry.

Pay special attention to the clear vinyl and glass windows as described above. Drying these areas properly will greatly reduce water spots and additional cleaning.

Sunbrella Covers

For general cleaning, Sunbrella recommends rinsing the fabric to remove loose dirt followed by scrubbing with a soft brush and soap solution. Let the soapy water sit on the canvas for a few minutes and rinse off.

Water should bead on your Sunbrella covers, if not, it may be time to apply a protective treatment using 303 Fabric Guard.

For cleaning stubborn stains and mildew, refer to the Sunbrella cleaning guide.

Water beading on Sunbrella boat cover
Water beading on Sunbrella fabric

Bow to Stern

Once you are ready to wash the deck areas, start at the Bow and work towards the stern. Water will naturally flow this way and drain via the transom or scuppers.

Avoid dragging the hose over your rails, gelcoat or paint. A dirty hose can leave marks on your boat that won’t wash off and require additional cleaning.

Painted / Gelcoat Surfaces and Stainless Steel

A microfibre wash mitt should be used to wash the stainless rails, deck hardware and any tight areas where a deck brush won’t fit.

Lift up hatches to the anchor locker, ski locker and live wells to wash around the gutter and underside of the hatch to remove dirt and mould. Keep these hatches open to dry thoroughly.

Care should be taken when walking around the deck with hatches open.

Try to avoid wetting the clear vinyl and glass windows as you may introduce water spots.

Once you have washed your boat to the rub rail and thoroughly rinsed with fresh water, use your chamois to remove excess water. Pay particular attention to stainless rails and deck hardware to minimise water spotting on these areas.

Remember, boat soaps aren’t magic. They won’t remove all stains, however scrubbing gelcoat or painted areas with anything harsher than a soft brush or wash mitt may cause damage to the finish of the boat.

Clear Vinyl and Glass Windows

Use the soft microfibre wash mitt or ultra soft boat brush to wash the clear vinyl windows and windscreen. Start with fresh water and new boat soap for washing these delicate areas to minimise the risk of damage from any contaminants.

In an ideal world, have a dedicated wash mitt and ultra soft boat brush that you use for these areas of the boat only.

Use a clean chamois or microfibre cloth to remove the excess water from the clear vinyl and glass windows. A squeegee way be used on the glass windows if preferred.

For a streak free shine, wipe the clears and glass windows with a soft, clean and dry microfibre cloth.

Tip: Make sure you remove any tags from your cloths to prevent scratching your clear vinyl windows.

Water Spots

What are water spots? Water spots can occur when hard water from the tap on your dock is left to air dry on your boat. As the water evaporates, the minerals in the water are left behind and can etch into the surface. These mineral deposits are known as ‘water spots’.

Water spots are most prevalent on dark coloured hulls, stainless steel rails and deck hardware as well as clear vinyl and glass windows.

There are chemicals designed to break down and remove water spots from glass and metal surfaces however they generally don't remove them completely. Polishing may be required.

Drying your hull, clear vinyl and glass windows as well as your stainless steel rails and deck hardware after rinsing your boat is the simplest way to minimise water spots and avoid extensive polishing.

Water spots on glass
Water spots on glass

Black streaks and stains on painted and gelcoat surfaces

Once you have washed and rinsed your boat, you can identify any harsher stains. There are several products on the market that “remove stains without removing protective coatings”. Most of these products contain chemicals that are harmful to yourself, the marine environment and most likely your boats protective coating.

Our preferred method for cleaning stubborn stains is to use a light polish (by hand) followed by re-application of the protective coating.

If your hull is not anti-fouled and has yellow staining around the water line, use a hull cleaner (oxalic acid) to remove the staining with very minimal scrubbing. Don' forget to wear safety protection and follow the manufacturers recommendations.

After cleaning your hull with acid, rinse your hull and surrounding areas thoroughly to remove / dilute the acid. You will need to re apply your protective coating to the hull once complete.

If your vessel is protected by a polymer sealer or ceramic coating, staining should be easier to remove without the use of oxalic acid if you are taking care of your protective coating.


Teak decking can look amazing for many years with proper maintenance.

Clean your teak each time you wash your boat. Use some fresh or salt water and a soft brush to scrub across the grain of the teak to remove any dirt and contaminants from the surface. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water on completion.

Teak will grey naturally which is preferred by a lot of boat owners. If you want your teak looking 'like new' for as long as possible, you will need to seal it.

Once or twice a year, we recommend cleaning your teak with a teak cleaner and brightener system. There are several brands on the market today including 2 step and 3 step solutions.

Never pressure wash your teak, use stiff brushes or scrub with the grain as these methods can damage the softer fibres of the teak which will lead to the need for sanding much sooner.

Always aim to use the least aggressive methods to produce the required results.

Teak cleaning and brightening
Teak rejuvenation - before and after

Be sure to come back soon as we have a detailed look at how to care for the various materials on your boat such as clear vinyl windows, glass windscreens, Teak, stainless steel and more.


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.



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