Boat Detailing Checklist
When detailing your boat, pay special attention to the brightwork — the wood and chrome — to ensure that everything is shined and polished.
Washing the Marine Canvas and Isinglass
Clean all canvas, vinyl, and isinglass. See Marine Canvas and Isinglass Care for helpful information on cleaning and caring for your boat's canvas and isinglass. Don't forget to clean fenders, fenderboards, and other accessories that may be stored away in lockers or lazarettes.
Cleaning the Gel Coat and Fiberglass
Marine gelcoat is tougher and thicker than automotive paint. Blisters or serious oxidation in your boat's gelcoat is likely to require the services of a professional who specializes in gelcoat repair and refinishing, but you'll find that you can buff out most of the surface oxidation and imperfections and restore a shiny, glossy finish by following some basic steps.
First wash the gelcoat thoroughly, using a soft-bristle scrub brush and a gentle cleaning solution such as Simple Green diluted in water (follow manufacturer's instructions for dilution strength).
Then apply a buffing compound with a non-abrasive wool or foam pad. Marine supply stores carry a variety of buffing compounds suitable for marine gelcoat, and most automobile buffing compounds will suffice for light gelcoat oxidation. After buffing, polish with with a gelcoat polishing pad.
You may wish to apply a coat of wax to the gelcoat after buffing and polishing. Waxing will give it a glossy, shiny surface, and will help protect the gelcoat and slow future oxidation.
Teak and Mahogany
Teak is popular on boats because the natural oils and waxes it contains hold up well in a marine environment. Nevertheless, over time teak will begin drying out and turning gray. You can restore the teak's natural color and shine by scrubbing it with a very fine grit sandpaper, washing it thoroughly, and then applying a coat of teak oil.
Teak can be varnished, but most yachtsmen prefer the appearance of teak in its natural state, and a light coat of oil applied annually will maintain the teak on your boat for many years.
- Clean the heads
- Wipe down entire interior
- Clean and polish all interior wood
- Wash windows and mirrors
- Clean blinds curtains
- Clean out all drawers, cabinets, storage lockers and compartments, and hanging lockers
- Wipe down, brush off or vacuum all cushions and pads, and remove to clean underneath.
- Vacuum and sweep all flooring. Considering shampooing any carpeting.
- Clean out refrigerator and freezer
- Clean stove and burners
- Wipe down bilges
- Clean thru-hulls, strainers, and other fittings
Topsides, Deck and Cockpit
- Wash and dry (with a chamois cloth) every exterior surface of the boat from the fishing tower or flying bridge down to the bottom of the keel, or to the waterline if your boat is in the water.
- Clean everything in the cockpit thoroughly, including the helm station, seats and seat cushions, lazarettes and lockers, tiller or steering wheel, companionway opening and panels.
- Scrub the deck, wash the hatches. Wet down, clean, and rinse small areas at a time, so as not to let the soap dry and create spots on the surface. Wetting down the entire deck, and re-wetting periodically, will allow surface dirt and particles to soak loose, making it easier to remove them when you reach that part of the deck.
- Pay special attention to non-skid surfaces — and use only mild cleaners (no bleach or abrasives). There are special non-skid cleaning compounds available from marine supply stores.
- Flush out and clean any livewells, bait freezers, and built-in coolers
- Don't forget winches, rigging, lifelines, turnbuckles, rails, blocks, pulleys, cleats, jam cleats
- Running rigging and standing rigging
Mechanical and Electrical
- In the engine room: Clean up all oil and fuel spills, and remove stains if possible
- At the nav station and help: Wipe down surfaces of all electrical equipment. Remove crumbs and other particles. Remove fingerprints or other oily residue.
- Clean props, shafts, and rudder.
Stainless Steel and Chrome
- Use only a soft cloth to clean steel and chrome on the boat. Anything else is likely to cause scratches.
- Special polishes can be used to remove or reduce rust and stains.
As you proceed with your cleaning and detailing, you will likely discover a variety of repairs and maintenance that your boat needs. Be sure to have a pad and pen handy to make notes of these, so that you can tend to them later.