How to Wax a Boat Properly

Like cars, boats need regular cleaning and waxing to prevent early signs of wear. It will also require buffing if the fiberglass gel-coat has become lackluster. Damage, haze, or oxidation can be the culprit here. And good old wax in its more updated form can come to the rescue.

The waxing process is pretty simple. All it takes is one afternoon and a dash of enthusiasm for you to finish this task. So hop on as we take you quickly through the basics of how to wax a boat properly.

How To Wax A Boat Properly Infographic

The Process

Washing

Do a thorough cleaning of the boat before waxing.

  • Cleaning it in the water is out of the question. Place it on the trailer, on secure, flat ground, to ensure stability. You may want to cover the interior to preserve it as you focus on the exterior the whole time.
  • Perform a pre-rinse. Loosen the debris, dirt, and gunk on the boat surface by hosing them down. Gently scrub them off from the top down with a wet sponge. If the buildup is difficult to remove, you can use a fine-grain 220 sandpaper but never a power washer.
  • Get rid of old wax remnants using rags doused in a dewaxing solvent like toluene.
  • Then, wash the surface with warm water and dishwashing detergent or special boat soap. If some spots are stained, you have to apply bleach sparingly – skip this if the boat surface is made of untreated or unstaid wood. Alternately, you can try a degreaser if the buildup is sticky. Rinse thoroughly. Use a boat brush to cover more area faster. 

Buffing

To buff or not to buff? Okay, if you happen to be interested in car detailing, you may answer that it’s buffing all the way. This abrasive can help restore the glossy shine of fiberglass surfaces, including that of your boat, by eliminating flaws. 

However, if you’re dealing with minor imperfections, you have another option: Boat Polishing. The main difference between buffing and polishing is that the polishing is more intense. Either way, the two compounds can damage the gel-coat if you apply them aggressively.

Follow these steps for proper buffing/polishing:

  • Work from the transom to the bow, covering 2 square feet of surface at a time. Apply the polish or rubbing compound on a soft cloth or a foam pad attached to a buffer
  • Then, wipe the area in a gentle, circular motion, allowing the surface to smoothen like glass. To avoid streaking, get a low-speed buffer if you’re doing things mechanically.
  • Spray down the surface to remove dust caused by buffing or polishing.

Waxing

Finally, it’s time to apply wax to your boat’s exterior!

  • Each boat is unique. Find the right boating wax for yours to coat the fiberglass with. This solution can preserve the shine of the surface for a long time.
  • Make sure to follow the instructions of the wax you chose, allowing them to override the steps here as needed.
  • Use a light, circular motion when applying the wax to prevent swirls from forming. 
  • Leave the wax to set properly. When the surface starts to appear hazy, that is your cue to do another buffing. Buff away the haziness using a clean towel or hand buffer/electric polisher. 

Tips

  • Prepare everything you need before the day of waxing. Some of the essentials you must have are boat wax and polish, boat soap or dishwashing detergent, dewaxing solvent like toluene or acetone, sponges and rags, soft towels or buffing pads, an orbital buffer as needed, and protective gear.
  • If you see fit, perform a couple or more wet sanding rounds to prep the surface before moving on to polishing and buffing.
  • If you’re using an oxidation remover and accidentally spilled a lot, let the liquid blob a few feet down and use the excess in those spots.
  • You can hire a detailing service provider if you want to skip the long afternoon. Find boat professionals as it won’t the same if you get your service from car detailers.

Warnings

  • Waxing should be done in an open or well-ventilated area. Cover your eyes, hands, nose, and mouth if you can with protective gear while you work.
  • Be careful when you reach fittings in tight spots. Do not use the electric buffer or polisher when dealing with these parts to prevent damaging the fittings. You can remove them if you want before cleaning.
  • Use only a small amount of bleach when treating difficult stains. Never apply bleach on an unstained or untreated wooden boat.
  • Do not hold an electric buffer still on top of the gel-coat to prevent it from burning a divot in the affected area.

FAQs

How often should a boat be waxed?

It depends on your boat’s model and built. Manufacturers apply gel-coat differently. But you can peg high-quality waxing at an interval of 4 to 6 months. You can do a quick wash-and-wax more regularly, such as once a month.

Can I use car wax on a boat?

Most wax products use natural wax such as carnauba, which means they can be used across a range of fiberglass surfaces. However, you can look for a dedicated boat wax option to ensure that it meets the specific needs of your sea vessel.

How long does boat wax last?

If you take out your boat to the waters moderately, you can make the effect of the wax last for up to three years.

Takeaway

There you have it: the necessary steps to proper boat waxing. You see how it’s essential to go through cleaning and buffing first to ensure the wax sets in well and keep the gel-coat shiny for a long time.

For first-timers, we cannot stress enough the importance of finding the appropriate wax. With the many options out there, the high-quality ones should give you an edge in terms of output and durability.

If you have your own tried-and-tested steps or tips to add, let us know in the comments section. We’d like to know what else are you doing to maintain the luster of your boat’s fiberglass.

Last Updated on August 23rd, 2020

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