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From the SIERRA Experts

How to Perform Routine Boat Care & Cleaning

A man standing on the bow of a boat using a long scrub brush to clean the boat's windows

Modern boats are extremely durable and built from advanced materials made to withstand the elements. With proper cleaning, care, and maintenance, they can be kept looking showroom new for many years.

Wash your boat thoroughly after every trip.  

Cleaning your boat from stem to stern, inside and out after each trip is not only important for appearances, but it also helps keep your boat in good working order, preventing water damage, mildew, corrosion, and other issues. It is also a great time to inspect your boat up close, keeping an eye out for potential problems. Leaky hydraulic lines, missing bolts, or screws, frayed or loose wires, and other potential issues can all be discovered while washing and drying your boat.

Many boaters wash their boats with liquid dishwashing detergent, which can strip away protective wax. It’s better to use specialized boat soap that removes dirt, salt, and grime without being too harsh. You may need to use a soft bristle brush on the deck to remove ground-in dirt, fish scales, or dried blood. On smooth fiberglass surfaces, outboard engine cowlings, and metal work, you’ll want to use soft microfiber cloths to avoid scratching or pitting the surfaces. There are many specific cleaners and products designed for different cleaning tasks, such as cleaning the bilge, cleaning polycarbonate windshields and spray screens, polishing aluminum and anodized metalwork, cleaning vinyl upholstery, etc. Contact your local Sierra dealer and ask about pre-assembled boat wash kits to ensure you have the correct products for your boat.

Air-dry your boat before putting on a cover

We recommend storing your boat under a quality, custom-fitted canvas cover. But it’s important to let the boat air-dry before adding the cover. Otherwise, you’re inviting the formation of mold and mildew. Open lockers, bait tank hatches, deck hatches, console doors, and other enclosed spaces after washing and let the boat air dry for up to 24 hours before covering.

Keeping your boat covered whenever it’s not being used

Covering your boat when not in use is the best way to protect from the elements. It’s worth investing in a premium quality cover that is custom-made for your specific boat. This will ensure a good fit and prevent rainwater, leaves, and dirt from accumulating on the cover during the off-season. If you notice water puddling in low spots on the cover, tighten it up and use braces underneath it to prevent low spots where rainwater and dirt can collect.  

Use manufacturer-provided covers to protect your helm electronics displays such as MFDs, autopilot control heads, sonar, and other systems during storage.  

Protect your boat from sun damage by applying wax

The sun’s UV rays can cause fading and oxidation of your boat’s fiberglass surfaces. Applying a coat of specialized marine wax to your boat twice a year will keep it looking good and prevent your hull and topside gelcoat surfaces from becoming chalky. There is a range of Carnauba wax and synthetic polymer wax products available to use.  

Gelcoat repairs

Over time, any fiberglass boat will get nicks, cracks, and gouges in the thin gelcoat surface. Gelcoat repair kits are available to help boaters color match and repair damage. These repairs help restore the appearance and prevent water instruction below protective coatings. Most repair kits have detailed instructions. When in doubt, consult your owner manual or contact your local service dealer.



Fix rusty parts when you see them

Always be on the lookout for any spots of corrosion on metal fittings, latches, rod holders, railings, and other metal components. If you find rust, deal with it right away by cleaning, polishing, or replacing affected parts. Look for streaks of rust on fiberglass surfaces. This often indicates where water is getting underneath screws where metal components such as bow rails, door hinges, and flush-mounted rod holders are mounted. Remove these screws, replace them with new stainless-steel hardware, sealing them with a marine bedding compound to prevent further water intrusion.

Caring for Boat Upholstery

Helm seats, leaning posts, coaming pads, lounge seating, and other upholstered surfaces are subject to damage from dirt, sun, and salt. Keeping them clean and dry during storage will go a long way to extending their life. Small tears or cracks can be treated with Liquid Stitch or other sealing products.

Consider Boat Detailing Services

If your boat is already suffering from faded color, chalky, oxidized gelcoat, rust streaks, pitted metalwork, and other signs of severely deferred maintenance, consider hiring a professional boat detailing service. These services can be expensive, but once you have your boat restored, it will be easier for you to keep her looking good with routine care and a little TLC.


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