Protecting your investment

Cleaning a boat not only makes it look good, but it preserves that appearance for years to come.

Today's bass boats are extremely well built, but they need attention to keep them looking good and functioning properly.

Here's how to do it the right way.

Use elbow grease

Washing and waxing the hull once a season isn't enough. It should be done at least three times a year — but only with products designed for fiberglass.

"Don't use cleaners or waxes that contain silicone," says Don Stevens, former owner of a Michigan boat repair shop.

Silicone is added to some waxes to help penetrate the surface and enhance the shine, but the silicone interferes with fiberglass reconstruction. His recommendation? Carnauba-type waxes without silicone will enhance the shine and protect the glass. The wax fills fiberglass pores and keeps undesirable residue out.

Waxes with sunscreen additives are helpful, too, especially where boats are exposed to sunlight for long periods. Sunscreen protects the finish from ultraviolet rays that can dull the finish.

You can enhance and protect upholstery by using vinyl and leather cleaner with sunscreen protectant. In this case, silicone additives are OK, provided the cleaner doesn't get onto the boat. After cleaning, apply a conditioner to the upholstery; it seals out dirt and restores the material.

"If you've got a stain on a seat, use a little Soft Scrub (with bleach) before applying the conditioner," Stevens says. "Test it in a small area to make sure it won't blemish the material, then rub it gently into the stain and it should come out. Don't get it on the carpet; the bleach could discolor it."

Revive those carpets

Vacuuming boat carpets isn't good enough, and merely hosing off carpet could complicate problems in regions where lake water contains lime. Invisible lime deposits are driven into the matting and make it look more worn than it actually is.

In fact, you can revive old carpet by mixing a 50/50 water/white vinegar solution and scrubbing it with a circular motion. Stevens says vinegar/water solution and elbow grease also removes watermarks from the hull and motor housing.

Saturate and scrub the carpet, then rinse it out. If necessary, wash again with a low-suds detergent.

"The carpet will fluff and look like it did the day you bought the boat," Stevens says.

Don't forget the trailer

If you tow over roads that have been treated with salt during winter, wash the boat before storing it. Salt attacks nicks and scratches and eats away at the metal frame.

Also, hose off gravel and grime before scrubbing with a rag or sponge. Otherwise, hard particles stuck to the frame will scratch the finish during scrubbing.

And don't forget the carpeted trailer bunks.

"It's easy to forget trailer bunks, but they need to be cleaned periodically," adds Stevens. "Sand and tiny rocks gather in the carpet during the loading and unloading process. So, when you drive the boat on, the debris can scratch the hull. It's like sanding the bottom of your boat every time you load."