How To Clean An Aluminium Boat [Step-By-Step]

Sun and water affects the life of every marine vessel. When it comes to aluminium boats, saltwater, in particular, can have a marked effect due to galvanic corrosion, so your pride and joy does need regular maintenance. 

However, with the right products and a little know-how, you can give your boat the treatment it deserves, which will keep it looking its best and protect your long-term investment. Here are some tips on how to clean an aluminium boat.

Cleaning your boat

What you use to clean your boat depends on the material your boat’s hull is made of. With aluminium boats, don’t be tempted to use household cleaning products as they are highly alkaline and may strip away wax, as well as etch or “blotch” its surface. You should only use specialised marine cleaning products as they generally have a neutral pH—marine aluminium cleaner will remove oxidised dullness and water-line staining without damaging your boat’s surface.

However, because most of these products contain acid which strips away staining and oxidation, it’s essential you use eye protection and chemical-resistant gloves. 

To clean, use a scrubbing pad and apply the amount of pressure needed to remove any stains. To avoid leaving permanent drip marks, start at the bottom of the area you’re cleaning and work upwards in small sections. Ensure the cleaner doesn’t dry on the surface—keep rinsing with fresh water as soon as you’ve cleaned each section. Every few weeks, rinse your boat thoroughly with fresh water to remove contaminants from the surface, which will also help minimise the oxidation process.

Detailing your boat

Detailing your boat after washing can help maintain its finish. Again, use a specialised product suited to aluminium as it will not only enhance the look of your boat, but the polymers they contain will also provide some UV protection. These products will essentially neutralise any acid wash that hasn’t rinsed off. Apply the polish with a clean cloth and replace the cloth when it starts showing traces of oxidation.

Managing corrosion

As we’ve mentioned, saltwater is the main culprit for corrosion, which often appears on the inside of your boat first. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly inspect it, both inside and out! 

To avoid corrosion, boats need a steady supply of oxygen, which provides an oxide layer and offers natural protection. “Oxygen starvation” occurs when water is trapped in the crevices of your boat, the hull is covered by items such as rod holders, or metallic items like sinkers, coins or hooks come into contact with its aluminium surfaces. Add moisture (particular saltwater) and corrosion can take hold.  

Signs of white paste or powder are often the first signs of the corrosive process. To manage it, complete the following: 

  • Wash your boat with fresh water after it’s been in contact with saltwater.
  • Leave the bow in the air and the bungs open to drain any remaining water.
  • Repaint any scratches and chips and scratches in the boat’s paintwork as soon as possible to avoid the chance of moisture being caught between the paint and the aluminium.
  • Regularly clean any metal surfaces with a polish and a soft, clean cloth by rubbing in a circular motion. Make sure you use the right product for the right type of metal, whether it’s aluminium, nickel, stainless steel, or brass copper.
  • Keep your boat as clean and dry as possible. If there is no moisture, corrosion will be minimised.
  • Ensure any major holes, dents or scratches are repaired as soon as possible by an expert boat specialist (like us!)

Cleaning other surfaces

You should regularly maintain other parts of your boat as well, but regardless of what you’re cleaning, you need to use a product that’s suitable for the type of material you want to maintain.  

Wood

If your boat has a wooden deck, use a teak cleaner to remove any signs of wear or staining. Oiling the wood will protect it from salt, sun and acid, and prevent it from ageing prematurely.

Vinyl

Vinyl seating can quickly wear due to saltwater and also contaminants like grime, tanning lotions and sunscreens. You should clean seats and cushions regularly with an appropriate vinyl cleaner. Avoid bleach-based products and those containing alcohol, chlorine or ammonia as they can chemically dry out vinyl and potentially cause cracking and deterioration. 

When cleaning, use a soft bristle brush or sponge to remove stubborn dirt, paying particular attention to seams and piped edging. Rinse to remove all traces of the cleaning product and then dry with a towel.

Carpet

While carpet is typically hard-wearing, wet feet and baited fish hooks that leave burley behind can soon take their toll (including on the nose). Spot clean to remove any stains, and use an appropriate carpet cleaner regularly to keep it in tip-top shape!

References

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