Top Ten Cleaning Products on Board

(Check out my article about the things to consider for a good galley I published before. I thought that this would be an appropriate add-on).

I am a stickler for cleanliness and quite honestly, I used to be a little OCD at times, but I have calmed down now. I am working smarter, not harder. With the cleaning materials and supplies discussed here, one can clean almost anything and keep it clean longer with proper maintenance. I don’t like using harsh chemicals on the boat, not only because it is harmful to us and the environment, but also because chemicals strip the protective layer of wax off the gelcoat and leave it porous and discolored over time. Harsh chemicals can also ‘corrode’ the hoses in the head allowing smells to permeate the pipes and eventually escape, leaving a bad sewerage odor hanging in the air all the time. For those reasons, I try to use ‘natural cleaners’ as often as possible and the sea creatures thank me for it! The ten products discussed here are pretty much all I need to clean everything on board.

1. distilled white vinegar is perfect for cooking and cleaning on your boatVinegar is amazing, it’s economical, environmentally friendly, all natural, and non-toxic. I keep a gallon on board and use it for cleaning, disinfecting, cooking and all of the 1001 uses for distilled vinegar. I wipe down the interior wood work with a water/vinegar solution to retard mold growth, freshen wilted vegetables by soaking them in cold water containing a spoonful or two of white distilled vinegar, use it as a fabric softener for laundry, add a little in the head to break up any calcification and so much more. It’s amazing! Try it and discover all the other uses for vinegar.

Fun Tip: When a recipe calls for buttermilk and you don’t have any on hand, just add a tablespoon of White Vinegar to a cup of milk. Voila!

2. baking sodaBaking soda (bicarbonate of soda) is second on my list for it’s deodorizing qualities. It will get rid of almost any smell! It is also a good cleaning product mixed with vinegar. In a pinch it could be used for anything from a dish washer, pot scrubber, hand cleanser, deodorant, toothpaste, and fire extinguisher. I always keep a few containers on board.

simple green

3. Simple Green is our number one cleaner for everything and anything on the boat. It’s an extremely versatile cleaner and de-greaser, it’s biodegradable and non-toxic and it smells great. I regularly toss a cupful in the bilges to swish around while underway so that it can de-grease, clean and deodorize and it’s a pretty good general deck cleaner. Get the concentrate so you can make it stronger for tougher jobs and it takes up less storage…just add water when you need it.

black streak remover4. Black Streak Remover and De-greaser has been formulated as an extremely effective and powerful multi-use cleaner and is biodegradable. It is great on the tough black marks on the hull or deck and cleans the waterline pretty easily. I spray full strength solution on black marks, leave for 20 minutes or so and wipe with a soft cloth and rinse. It’s like magic! I was introduced to it by friends who owned an RV. They used it for the RV and now their boat and they swear by it.

5. oxicleanOxiClean is my number one use for it is to soak my laundry in. It gets rid of ANY stains. I managed to clean a canvas Bimini that was almost pitch black from the soot from a cargo ship’s smoke stack that the boat was transported on. It took me three tries but it looked as good as new at the final try. It will also clean most stains on fiberglass, teak, and sails. I love this stuff. OxiClean does not ruin clothes when used properly. Like most “oxygen bleaches” it is simply a sodium percarbonate compound which, when dissolved in water, breaks down into sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). The latter doing the real work, and as you’re likely aware H2O2 is used in whitening toothpastes, creams, and all manner of stain removers because it is able to essentially bleach color from many materials, making them less absorbent to visible light.

orpine wash wax

6. OrPine Wash and Wax – I cannot say enough good things about this product. It is a wash and wax all in one for everyday washing of the boat and it works! Just one ounce mixed with three gallons of water will clean and protect your boat from harsh marine elements and it’s biodegradable. Great on fiberglass, painted surfaces, plastic, metal, and wood. Also protects glass enclosures and windows from water spotting. Removes musty mildew odors and leaves your boat smelling fresh. Love it!

scotchgard liquid wax

7. Scotchguard Liquid Wax should be applied once or twice a year to the topsides and hull of the boat. This product is a durable wax that actually bonds to your boat’s surface by reactive chemistry. It provides exceptionally high gloss with lasting durability. Protects gelcoat and topside coatings from damaging ultraviolet radiation, and is excellent for use on gelcoat, topside paints, painted aluminum and marine metal parts. It also makes cleaning dramatically easier as no dirt seems to really stick after a good application of this product. The results are fantastic.

ospho rust treatment8. Skyco’s Ospho: Stainless steel has superior corrosion-resistant properties which is why it is such a popular material to use on boats. However, stainless steel is not completely stain or rust proof. When the boat is used in a corrosive environment such as saltwater, the stainless steel will periodically develop surface rust stains. Ospho is mild phosphoric acid solution used for treating rusted metal and preparing it for painting. Ospho also does an excellent job of removing the rust stains on stainless steel or gelcoat. It is great for cleaning rust stains off cockpit soles, deck nonskid and stainless steel screw and bolt heads. Not only does Ospho remove the rust stains, it passivates the surface of the stainless steel, which reduces future staining. Dab it onto the rusty spot, leave it for a few minutes, rinse and polish. It’s that simple. This is an acid, however mild, so I try not to over use it.

boat squeegee

9. Boat Blade Silicone Squeegee: The Boat Blade by Star brite is a flexible, surgical grade silicone blade with a T-shaped edge that conforms to curved boat surfaces. It does not scratch glass, fiberglass or painted surfaces. I love this blade since I have huge, weird shaped windows and sliding door on our catamaran and it used to take me forever to clean and shine the windows. With this blade, I literally swipe and forget about it, no streaks, no spots!

starbrite teak cleaner and restorer

10. Star brite Gel Teak Cleaner and Restorer is eco-friendly so it does not contain acids or harsh chemicals and does not raise wood grain. It really cleans and brightens the teak with very little effort. I use it twice or three times a year to lift out the dirt and brighten the teak.

microfiber cloths

BONUS. Microfiber Cloths are the best cleaning rags ever invented. While you don’t think of it as a cleaner (hence it is a bonus), they actually clean most things quite well with nothing but water and some elbow grease. It gets especially high marks for cleaning stainless steel, glass, granite, and wood. With proper care, each cloth will last for years. The key is to never dry them in a machine, air dry only. I love these cloths and have a whole stash on board. Tip: Don’t put these in the dryer! Hang to dry and they will work better and last longer.

Please send in your comments and recommendations!


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