Clean Before Winter’s Nap

By: Zuzana Prochazka

QuestionHow important is it to deep clean the boat before I put it away for the season? I’m planning to wash the salt off, but do I need to wax it or do other major cleaning?

AnswerMany people take a haphazard approach to a winter boat cleaning. After all, it’s going to be followed by a significant spring rubdown, right? But there are reasons to take your time in the fall and make sure everything is shipshape, if only to make it easier to relaunch four or five months later.

Rinsing salt crystals off is a given. Salt forms prisms on all surfaces and amplifies the sun’s rays, which burn through gelcoat, so start with a thorough washdown with lots of fresh water. A trailerboat doesn’t take long to wax, so put that on your list as well, because a waxed boat stays cleaner longer, meaning bird droppings, leaf stains, fish guts and dust will slip off easily with the next season’s first wash. If you keep the boat covered, still consider waxing, because the boat will gather dust even under the cover. One-step cleaner waxes are easy and worth it.

Get to the root of rust marks around metal attachment points, yellowing at the waterline and exhaust stains with FSR gel. Don’t let those stains set. This is also a good time to eliminate any racing stripes with a black-streak remover.

Finally, don’t let your canvas and cushions get stinky during a winter cooped up in the garage or down in the boat cabin. Attack stains with 303 Cleaner or something similar. Give your cushions a scrub and make sure they’re dry inside and out. Most vinyl cleaners will do a good job on stains and will bring vinyl back to life by restoring the shine.

Don’t forget the zippers and snaps, which have a way of freezing up when not used, sometimes even requiring replacement if you let them go too long. Rinse zippers thoroughly with water, let them dry and then lubricate with beeswax or silicone. Open and close them repeatedly to work the material in. Snap-Stick is another option for snaps, and it won’t stain the surrounding canvas.

A couple of hours of preventive maintenance now will make spring cleaning a breeze and will be better for your boat all winter long.


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