6 Best Boat Cleaners: Reviews and Buying Guide for 2020

It's only natural to want to keep your boat clean. If you don't, dirt, debris, and mildew can ultimately cause damage—not to mention a shiny and well-maintained vessel just looks appealing. However, to get the best look out of your boat, you need to have the right product for the job.

Our guide to best boat cleaner options is here to help.

Things to Consider When Shopping for Boat Cleaners

Before we get into evaluating products, it's essential to know precisely what makes a boat cleaner one of the best. Numerous factors play a part in this, and below we take the time to break them down.

Composition

Just what goes into your cleaner of choice can make a big difference. After all, it's the combination of chemicals in the product that make it work. Especially when dealing with your boat, you'll want to ensure a couple of factors:

  • A non-abrasive formula, which can still clean without damaging your boat
  • A biodegradable cleaner, especially for your hull, which regularly comes into contact with the water

The goal is to clean your boat without causing any undue harm in the process.

Response Time

"Response time" refers to how quickly your cleaner can break down dirt and stains. The faster this time is, the quicker your cleaning will go overall. Especially since boats can be quite large, you don't want to spend an entire day scrubbing when your cleaner can help hasten the process. However, don't neglect to check the composition, as some fast-acting cleaners can cause damage in the process.

Effectiveness

There's no sense in buying a cleaning product that won't help your boat look its best, so your cleaner of choice needs to be effective. This factor is even more critical when dealing with stubborn stains. Our best boat cleaner picks aim to be the most effective you can get, without compromising your boat in the process.

Ease of Use

If you want a sparkling clean boat, you will need to do your due diligence with cleaning rags and brushes in hand. Even so, cleaning products should make this process as simple as possible. Spray bottles work well for cleaning smaller areas, like vinyl seats, while gel-like materials pair well when cleaning larger surfaces, such as the hull.

Material Compatibility

What may clean one part of your boat well does not necessarily mean it's suitable for the other. For example, fiberglass hulls require unique products so that their surface and gel coats do not become damaged during the process. Other surfaces, like vinyl, have their considerations.

You always want your cleaning product to be suitable for the area you wish to maintain. For those who like the extra convenience, there are boat cleaners out there that are suitable for many materials and surfaces.

Cost

Lastly, you should always consider the price point—especially for those who live on their boats, where there's a lot to keep on your budget. There's no sense in overspending for a great clean, and you don't have to, either. With the right research and this guide to help you, you can get the best of both worlds with effectiveness and affordability.

Best Boat Cleaner Under $25

Simple Green Marine Cleaner

The Simple Green Marine Cleaner is a reliable option for your boat cleaning needs. It's secure with cleaning up all kinds of messes, especially when it comes to greasy messes. Whether you just want to keep the grease at bay or you go fishing enough that you need to have a reliable solution for fish blood, this cleaner can do the trick.

The formula of this cleaner won't cause any damage to your boat, plus it's also biodegradable so that it won't damage the environment in the process, either. You have the option to purchase it in gallon jugs or ready to use spray bottles.

The one drawback is that, while it won't damage your boat, it can strip wax, so keep that in mind whenever you use it.

Pros:

  • Handles grease and fish blood well
  • Doesn't damage your boat
  • Biodegradable formula
  • Available in larger and smaller spray bottles

Cons:

  • Can strip off waxwork

Meguiar's Marine APC

For those who want a versatile purpose cleaner to use on any area of their boat, Meguiar's Marine APC cleaner is a reliable choice. You can safely use it on even sensitive materials like fiberglass and boat vinyl, as well as other places on your boat. You can also use it in your kitchen, which makes it handy to have around if you live on your boat.

As a cleaner, it is overall very effective at cleaning up most messes you'll encounter on your boat. It's particularly useful for clearing out watermarks and helping with vinyl.

The only stains that this cleaner has trouble with are leftover black marks from spiders, but its vast effectiveness otherwise makes it a reasonable contender.

Pros:

  • Usable on most surfaces on your boat
  • Removes most messes
  • Even safe for use in your boat kitchen

Cons:

  • Can't clear up stains left by spiders

Best Boat Cleaner Under $50

Star Brite Ultimate Vinyl Guard

Vinyl is easily one of the most common materials you'll see on boats thanks to its resistance to taking water damage. Even so, without proper maintenance, even vinyl will start to deteriorate. That's where Star Brite's Ultimate Vinyl cleaner comes in. In a simple to use spray bottle, you can quickly apply it to any vinyl surfaces on your boat.

Additionally, you can also use this cleaner on any plastic, rubber, or leather surfaces on your boat. As expected of a Star Brite product, it also cleans well, taking care of most stains without issue. This product also gives UV protection, so it not only cleans your boat vinyl, but it also helps keep it in top shape as time goes on.

You will need to clean stubborn stains more than once, but that's usual of non-abrasive cleaners, and it's worth it not to have any additional damage done to your boat.

Pros:

  • Effective on vinyl, plastic, rubber, and leather
  • Reliable brand
  • Cleans most stains without issue
  • Provides UV protection

Cons:

  • Some stains will need another round of cleaning

3M 09009 Marine Cleaner and Wax

For those with fiberglass boats, 3M provides both a marine cleaner and wax in one. While this product is active on other surfaces, it does work well on fiberglass overall. Because it combines both soap and wax, it helps save time on the maintenance of your boat, so you can enjoy being on it more.

Though it's a two-in-one, this 3M cleaner isn't low in quality. It's useful for clearing out stains, and there aren't any streaks leftover when you've finished, either. This product is also easy to use, and you can quickly spread it out over the area you want for a comprehensive clean.

While this product can clean various surfaces, it's not particularly useful on aluminum, so it's not an all-rounder product if you were searching for one.

Pros:

  • Doesn't leave streaks
  • Will help restore fiberglass hulls
  • Spreads evenly over messes
  • Versatile on some other surfaces

Cons:

  • Doesn't work on aluminum

Best Boat Cleaner In Class

Star Brite Ultimate Fiberglass Stain Remover

Fiberglass boat surfaces are some of the most particular to clean, so you want a cleaner that can handle the job well. Star Brite gets our top vote in this category, thanks to its excellent performance. The formula of this cleaner won't cause any sort of damage to the fiberglass surface of your boat, but it's effective at helping clear out yellow water stains.

The spray bottle design makes the cleaner easy to apply to your boat. The gel-like texture of the cleaner also helps it cling to even horizontal surfaces. This way, the soap can stay on stains longer to break them down.

The only downside to this cleaner is that stubborn stains will take more than one cleaning to get done. However, if it were any more abrasive, it could cause damage to your boat, plus a second cleaning will clean up most messes.

Pros:

  • Sticks to surfaces well
  • Easy to use
  • Safe to use on fiberglass hulls
  • Effective on clearing off yellow water stains

Cons:

  • Stubborn stains may take extra cleaning

Thetford RV Wash and Wax

While this product isn't specifically for boats, it does an excellent job of helping clean them. Thetford's Wash and Wax is a two in one product that helps clean up messes while also providing a secondary level of waxing for protection. If you want the full benefits of wax, you'll need a more specialized product, but it's still a nice touch in a cleaner.

As you'd want from any boat wash, the formula of this cleaner is biodegradable. You can use it to clean your boat with no worries about how it will affect the environment. We're also fans of how you can use this product on other big vehicles, like your car or RV, making it an excellent multipurpose pick for that reason.

Even so, this wash isn't going to be suitable for every surface on your boat, so you'll likely need another product to handle those other areas.

Pros:

  • Biodegradable
  • Cleans and Waxes
  • Usable on other vehicles outside of boats

Cons:

  • Not suitable for all boat surfaces

Conclusion

All these options can help clean your boat, but we give Star Brite Ultimate Fiberglass Stain Remover our winning vote. Its flexibility between working on fiberglass without damaging it and other surfaces on your ship is excellent. Additionally, it's easy to spread out over surfaces, and it's a quality cleaner all around.

Of course, depending on your boat and the surfaces you need to clean, one of these other cleaners will suit your needs better. Regardless, you should find something helpful in this guide!