Bass Fishing

The Tidy Boat Man

Bass Boats & Boating Care
Boat cleaners

After a hard few days fishing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, on mineral-filled freshwater lakes that left hull and outboard flecked with water spots and white scale, you'd think it would have taken a chisel to pry the crud loose. But Joe Beech, maker of JNB Originals specialty walleye tackle and all-around handyman, pulled out a spray bottle, spritzed the stains, and wiped clean with a towel. His magic elixir? Toilet bowl cleaner ($1.89 for 32 ounces) diluted with water. In keeping with Beech's resourcefulness, we've assembled a collection of unexpected cleaners and solvents that do the job quickly and inexpensively. Best of all, these boater's little helpers are waiting in the cupboard or under the kitchen sink, ready for serious action beyond their everyday uses.

The Works

With The Works Toilet Bowl Cleaner, elbow grease is minimal when swabbing a water-stained fiberglass hull, the plastic hood of an outboard, or an engine's metal driveshaft housing where heat bakes on white gunk-like cake frosting. After all, the solvent removes the lime scale and hard water buildup. To press into action, dilute The Works in a spray bottle 4-to-1 with water, then squirt on and wipe off. Warning: Be sure you get toilet bowl cleanser, not drain cleaner, which might very well eat a hole in your hull.

Lemon Juice

It's no secret that fish and lemon juice go together. But in this case, citrus doesn't complement fish - it eliminates the smell of it. When your livewell reeks like a cannery in the hot sun, first rinse thoroughly with water and clean of any detritus such as scales. Next, pour half a bottle of lemon juice from concentrate and fill it with fresh water. Run the liquid through the pump on recirculate mode and leave overnight if particularly nasty. Meanwhile, save some of your leftover juice for the cutting board. Scrub with salt and a wet towel, rinse and wipe with lemon. Your cutting board - and your nose - will thank you.


Plexiglas windshields commonly get gunked with rain and spray - sometimes so much so that it's hard to see where you're going. Enter Pledge, the lemony-fresh furniture polish that not only lifts smudges from wooden tables but also cleans Plexiglas and helps water bead and run away. To remove the Rorschach-blotolike water stains, spray on them and wipe them with a clean cloth. Now you'll know what you're seeing.

Easy-Off Oven Cleaner

Want to remove or change the painted-on name of your fiberglass boat? Easy-Off Oven Cleaner on a rag will remove it faster than you can say HMS Fearless. When the paint is off, wipe away excess oven cleaner and rinse well. It's time to get creative and come up with a new name. Sorry, "Serendipity" doesn't cut it.

Dawn Dish Soap

Mmmm, bilge water. There's nothing as nasty as the oil and funk dwelling down there. To cut through it, squirt a hefty load of liquid soap made to cut grease in dishwater, and foam it up with a hose. If the boat's on a trailer, drive it around the block to jounce the bubbles. Grease and grime will solidify, and you can remove chunks of oil by hand. Rinse thoroughly, and you're on your way to a cleaner, better bilge.


There's nothing like the real thing about removing the most stubborn corrosive buildup from battery terminals - that thick crust too stubborn even for baking soda. Pour some Pepsi on your problem, and watch the acid in it melt the mess away. (Pepsi also removes rust from, say, a trailer hitch.) Be sure to rinse well with fresh water to avoid any sticky, sugary leftovers. Now, baking soda and water, plus a stiff brush, is the best bet for the finishing touches.

Baking Soda

What's not to love about baking soda, perhaps the best cleaner in the boating universe? For mild corrosion on battery posts, mix one part powder with three parts water and scrape with a brush. Beyond batteries, turn to baking soda for an excellent all-purpose cleaner. Mix 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup white vinegar, and 1 cup ammonia with 1 gallon of warm water poured into a spray bottle. The potion works on hull stains, not to mention general cleaning. It's ready if you are.

General Boat Maintenance and Winterizing

To properly winterize your boat, you'll need more than a few household cleaners. Here are a few things that you (or your boat dealer) should do if you plan to store your boat through the winter:


Boat cleaning
- Place fuel stabilizer in your tank according to the manufacturer's specifications. Run your outboard for at least one hour on the last outing before you park it for the winter. After running your boat with added fuel stabilizer, top off each tank with additional fuel and stabilizer. Leaving the tanks full will minimize condensation in the fuel system.
- Top off your oil tank.
- Fully charge your batteries, and, if needed, add fluid according to the manufacturer's specifications. These are good tips the improve battery life year-round.
- If you will be storing your boat outside, remove the batteries and store them in a location where they will be protected from freezing temperatures.
- If you will be storing your boat in a garage equipped with an electric door opener, you can remove the courtesy bulb from the opener and replace it with a screw-in electrical receptacle. Plugging your charging system into this receptacle will give your batteries a few minutes' charge every time the garage door is opened. Suppose the batteries were fully charged before being stored. In that case, this should be enough maintenance to keep them in top shape all winter.
- Disconnect your batteries with the outboard in the down position after the boat has been placed in storage.
- Change the gear lube in your lower unit and check for problems such as excessive metal filings on the magnetic drain plug or water in the lubricant. Changing the lube may seem intimidating to the novice boater, but it is a relatively simple procedure. Your owner's manual will walk you through this process.
- Remove the prop and greasing the prop shaft. Again, a relatively simple procedure will be outlined in your owner's manual.
- Only use NMMA- or ASE-approved, brand name oil, and gear lube in your outboard. Check the specifications in your owner's manual to determine your exact needs.
Boat maintenance
- Wash your trailer to remove all possible road substances before parking your boat for the winter.
- Service your trailer bearings to ensure no moisture is present.
- If your trailer has brakes, and ensure the brake system is full of fluid.
- Check your tires to ensure they are fully inflated.
- Lube your trailer hitch receiver and assembly.
Boat maintenance
- Make sure the drain plug in your boat is removed and that the plug port is free of trash. Be sure to store the plug in a safe place.
- Wash your boat hull and vacuum the carpets. This will make your first outing in the spring much more enjoyable.
- If your boat is stored outside, ensure its cover is on correctly and pulled tight to shed water. Ensure the boat is completely dry inside before covering it.
- Remove articles from your boat that moisture may damage (life vests, tackle, pliers, etc.). Store your boat with the bow slightly higher than the stern.

Content provided by Bass Fishing Magazine, the official publication of FLW Outdoors