Cleaning, compounding, polishing and sealing will make our boat shine, but also protects fibreglass gel coat and plastics, making them last longer. Here are a few things that can harm your boat: industrial pollution, car exhaust, jet planes, and the sun, which can degrade most materials used in a boat. You also want to remove these immediately as they will break down gelcoat: paint thinner, styrene, acetone, MEPK, MEK or brake fluid.
Note: I leave it to the reader to find quality cleaning and protecting products. Try to find ecologically friendly products that will be easy on your health and the water's health too.
Even in Canada, the sunny side of a docked boat develops a chalky surface before the shady side. Protecting the gel coat requires waxing or sealing at least once a year in Canada - more often farther south.
First you need to clean dirt from the surface with a lubricant, being careful not to rub dirt into the surface, then you remove the lubricant. Soap and water is a lubricant, but there are boat cleaning products that do a better job. Use clean microfiber cloths. And of course, read the instructions on the bottle. Twice!
Next, compound the gelcoat if it's chalking. This is a sign the gel coat is slowly disintegrating.
Last, wipe down the gelcoat with clean cloths using a 50:50 mix of isopropyl alcohol and clean water. Finally seal the gelcoat with a polymer sealant, which magically bonds with the gel coat. Not only does this last much longer than wax, you may not ever need to compound the gel coat if you use it from the start.
Some old salts use bleach (sodium hypochlorite) to get rid of stains. But it has several problems. It removes wax so your fibreglass needs to be re-waxed. It's corrosive to pumps, wiring, and clamps. And it is very toxic to all forms of life if spilled or rinsed off the boat. So if you pour it on, leave it on. It will eventually evaporate.
Don’t be afraid of sealing nonskid surfaces. The right product will protect the surface but still prevent the surface from being slippery. Again, there are special sealers made just for nonskid surfaces.
Plastics, are especially susceptible to scratching, especially soft vinyl panels in bridge enclosures and dodger windows.
Using the wrong cleaning product can cause premature cracking, cloudiness, and discolouring. Hard plastics like Lexan requires a different product than the softer clear plastic panels used in bridge enclosures (isinglass or Strataglass). Look for a special soft plastic cleaner with UV protectants, which can prevent premature aging of the clear panels.
Clean, polish, repeat. Of course there are special products for this too. (Is your storage locker full yet?!) If you spend time in salt water, there are very useful products that seal boat fittings and prevent corrosion. We used a simple spray for a one-year snowbird cruise and were impressed - not a single fitting had corrosion. Even the best stainless will eventually corrode, so cleaning or protecting it is time well spent.
You may be lucky to find a company that will clean boats using steam cleaning, used by many hospitals, health clubs, etc. It can remove germs, mildew (a problem on most boats), and bugs.