It's In The Details

It's In The Details

Keeping your boat clean through periodic, aesthetic maintenance



Your bass wagon is a matter of personal pride, and if you're like me, the cleaner it is, the better you feel. No one has time to clean a boat every day, but periodic washings and scrubbings will help it retain that brand-new look. For this project, we give up details on detailing. Water spots, bar-roller grime, road tar and carpet care - with just a little elbow grease, and the right cleaners, your bass boat will be shining in no time.

Step 1: Preen Your Powerplant

Boat cleaning

Outboard engines get grimy quick. Most offensive is the scum that collects along the water-line, and water spots on the cowling itself. We used L&L Wonderfoam, which performed admirably. After applying the cleaner, scrub the spots clean, then wet the motor with mild, soapy water, clean thoroughly, hose down and dry.

Boat Cleaning
Be careful when spraying cleaners. For the first application, have a fresh rag handy, and minimize drips. Bare plastic and anodized metal can suffer spotting if subjected to harsh cleaners.


boat cleaning

Step 2: Sidewall Scrub

Use a similar process for cleaning the sidewalls; however, wet down the entire side first. Then, while still wet, use a boat-cleaning product to spray tough grime along the waterline. Next, using a towel or soft scrub brush, scrub the whole sidewall. After scrubbing, rinse down the whole side, then dry with a soft towel and buff to a shine.

Step 3: Trailer Tips

Your trailer may already be wet from rinsing the sides; if not, wet it down. The biggest problem with trailers is road grime - bits of tar and insects that collect from extended travels. The best bet for removing all the grime is a mild soap, like dish detergent, mixed with water. Also clean the step pads and wheel wells with detergent. Avoid using rubber conditioners that leave step pads slippery - the results can be dangerous. After scrubbing, rinse the whole trailer down, then dry.

Step 4: Tire Shine

Boat Cleaning

Trailer tires are expensive, and it pays to take care of them. Plus, they can really sharpen the appearance of your whole boat-and-trailer package. First, scrub the tires and rims with soapy water, then dry completely. Next, spray the tires down with a tire detailing product, like Westley's Foaming Tire Care, and wipe with a rag until outside tire wall is shiny.

Step 5: Rubber Removal

Boat cleaning

One of the toughest spots to clean on any boat is the contact area between bow and bar roller. Usually, rubber residue gets caked onto the hull, then baked-in by the sun. Over the years, acetone has proven the best bet for muscling off this tough stuff. Use sparingly, with a small rag, to rub and scrub the area. Be careful not to drip acetone on any rubber, or other sensitive materials, and minimize hand contact.

Step 6: Rub Rail Rubdown

Boat cleaning

Tough streaks can occur whenever the rub rail scrapes against docks, dock buoys or other boats. For tough streaks, try acetone in limited quantities. To renew the look of the original rub rail, BTS will help it shine. Don't spray the rub rail, though. Instead, wet a small cloth with BTS and wipe the rub rail, being careful not to drip.

Step 7: Console Conditioning

For all the plastic and glass located in and around consoles, use Windex. If your console, or other parts of the boat include woodgrain, use a mild detergent, like dish soap, to clean, then wipe with clean water and dry.    For graphs and other electronics, use a mild detergent, or vinegar-and-water combination, and with a soft cloth, wipe the electronics in one direction. This avoids grit marks and streaks that can occur when wiping in a circular motion.

Boat cleaning

Step 8: Walk The Walk

At this point, your periodic detailing is almost complete. Do a thorough walkaround and note any spots that didn't come clean. For any areas that require tougher cleaning, use a product like Goo Gone, or non-abrasive rubbing compound. Always test a small, inconspicuous area first, before applying these harsher cleaners.

Optional: Further Cleaning

Seat Scrub

Avoid using Armor All, or other vinyl conditioners, that leave seats slippery. Instead, use a product like Formula 409. Spray the seats, scrub with a soft scrub brush, hose down or wipe with clean water, then dry very well with a clean towel. Treat with BTS.

Carpet Cleanup

A simple Shop Vac can be used to vacuum carpets, but avoid using the readily available carpet shampoos. If used too often, shampoos and carpet conditioners can soften the fibers and create a worn-in look. Instead, wet the carpet, then vacuum with a wet vac. For tough spots, like blood, use small, confined bursts of Spot Shot or other carpet cleaner.

Liven Up Livewells

Livewells need to be cleaned often, both to curtail the smell, and to ensure their proper operation. Fish scales, regurgitated forage and other items can clog filter screens. To clean the livewells, first remove all filter screens, both from the livewell itself, and the intake. Make sure the livewell is dry, then vacuum out any residue. Next, scrub the interior with mild detergent, then flush thoroughly with a hose. Make sure all soap is removed, then replace screens.

Wax, If You Wish

After your boat is completely detailed, you may choose to apply a wax to the hull. We recommend BTS, but a number of great products are available, just remember to use a soft cloth for application and buffing, taking care not to collect grit or small rocks.

Reprinted with permission from Bass West Magazine

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