A Guide to Detailing Your Boat

Detailing your boat may not seem like a good way to spend the day, but it is very important to keep your boat looking as good as it runs. A boat that is not detailed on a regular basis can become compromised and deteriorate much faster than one that is detailed at least a couple of times each year.

Why Detail Your Boat

Your boat is exposed to the environment constantly, especially when you have it out in the water. This exposure can cause dirt and water to get into tiny crevices in the gel coating. The crevices become larger if the dirt and water and not removed, causing the boat to retain water and become less fuel efficient. Regular detailing removes the dirt and water from the crevices and renews the gel coat to minimize water retention.


Whether you’re detailing the boat yourself or taking it to a professional, the first step is washing the exterior with a cleanser that is designed for the material that the boat is made from. Avoid using a cleanser that is designed for fiberglass boats on your wood boat and vice versa. Some boat soaps are organic, which means they don’t add toxins to the water. Make sure to have enough water pressure to wash off marine life and salt water. The boat should be rinsed throughly until no traces of soap remain, then dried with a soft cloth so that buffing compound or wax can be applied to a completely dry surface.

Buffing compound or wax may be applied by hand, but it is much quicker and easier to use a commercial buffer. Circular movements should be used to apply the wax, and it should be wiped off with a chamois or cheesecloth after it has dried. Most experts recommend that the wax be applied in small areas so that it can be removed in a timely fashion after drying. The sun and air temperature should be taken into consideration when determining how long the wax should be on the boat surface before it is removed.

Upholstery Cleaning

The next step in the process of detailing your boat is wiping down all of the upholstery. You may want to use an upholstery cleaner, especially if the upholstery is leather. The cleaner will protect the seats and make them shine.

Boat Detailing Tips

Boat Detailing Tips

Other Interior Surfaces

Metal or chrome cleaner can be used to polish every surface on the interior of the boat. Make sure the cleaners you use are appropriate for the surfaces you are cleaning so that you don’t accidentally damage the surfaces. Use glass cleaner to clean the windows and wipe them with a lint-free cloth so that no streaks are visible. You can also use a dusting cloth to wipe down the instrument panel.

Inspect Your Work

After you have cleaned both the exterior and interior of your boat, make sure to step back and admire the work you have done. Walk all the way around the exterior and interior to ensure that you haven’t missed any areas of the boat. Repeat the detailing process at least twice per year to keep your boat looking great.

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