The Definitive Guide For How to Clean Aluminum Boats

Aluminum boats are among the most common in the recreational boating world, but even the smallest aluminum dinghies can be a pain to clean.

In this article, we’ll explain how to clean aluminum boats in depth so that you’ll know exactly what to do to keep your cherished vessel in good condition. Frequent cleanings help your boat to maintain its value, and you’ll also have an easier time selling a clean boat.

You’ll learn how to remove big clumps of dirt and barnacles, how to apply an aluminum cleaner without hurting yourself, and how to give your boat a smooth and shiny surface when you’re


First Pass Washing

The first step in your boat cleaning process will be to gather the materials that you’ll need. In particular, you should grab:

●  A big sponge

●  A scrubber brush

●  A hose

●  A bucket

●  Car soap

●  Hot water

●  Protective gloves

●  Protective goggles

●  A smock or throwaway set of garments

●  Aluminum cleaning solution

●  Steel wool

●  Buffing shammy

Before you begin, don your protective gloves, goggles, and whatever rags you like to wear when you’re working with chemicals that might leave stains on clothing.

There’s nothing very dangerous in the boat cleaning regimen, but you don’t want to get any soap or aluminum cleaning solution into your eyes, and it might dry out your hands if you’re not careful.

Add some of the soap to the to the hot water and start working with the sponge. The point of this step is to remove all the largest pieces of debris or dirt that have accumulated on the hull of the boat. You may need to put your back into scrubbing from time to time.

If any particular area has grime that is heavily resistant to being scrubbed off, you can jump in with the steel wool or hold off until later when you’ll be applying the aluminum cleaning solution. 

If you have one of those used outboard motors, you can clean the exterior gently during this step too. Don’t crack open the hood while there’s a lot of soap suds flying around, though.

Making And Applying the Aluminum Cleaning Solution

Once you’ve finished with the first pass using soap and hot water, turn on the hose and wash off all of the excess soap suds that may have accumulated. Next, it’s time to use the aluminum cleaning solution.

Most aluminum cleaning solutions are sold as concentrates which you must dilute using water before they are ready for application to your boat. If you prefer, you can make your own aluminum cleaning solution, but its quality may not be the same as store-bought varieties.

Ensure that you have an aluminum cleaning solution that is intended for use on boat hulls and read the instructions carefully before making the dilution.

Most aluminum cleaning solutions are diluted by a factor of 3 or 4, which means that you’ll need to put about 500 milliliters of the cleaning solution into a bucket then dilute it with 1.5 or 2 liters of water.

Once you’ve made the solution, dip the scrubber brush and go to town on the hull.

You can expect the application of the aluminum cleaning solution to take about twice as long as it took you to sponge down the boat because you’ll need to spend some serious time scrubbing any patches which didn’t get washed out entirely during the initial step.

After you’ve completely brushed down every inch of your boat’s hull, you should check the instructions of the cleaner to see whether it requires time to set in through the layers of metal or whether it can be washed off immediately.

Shining Up

Hose down the boat’s hull one last time to remove excess cleaning solution which may be remaining. Then, grab a buffing shammy and start working.

Depending on how old your boat is, you may need to spend a lot of time with the buffing shammy before your boat has a healthy sheen. For personal watercraft, you won’t need to spend very much time at all because of how small they are.

Buffing after a cleaning can take a very long time, and you may want to introduce a few buffing chemicals if you’re having a hard time getting a shine to come out. Either way, you’ll need to set aside an entire afternoon for the cleaning process.

When you’re done, you should take a photo of your boat to commemorate the apex of its cleanliness. Especially if you’re interested in selling your boat, you’ll find that people appreciate viewing your boat much more when they can see it at its best.

While it goes without saying that you’ll need to clean your boat before trying to sell it to someone, there are a few other considerations regarding boat cleaning and boat selling which you should be aware of. 

Cleaning won’t show up on a boat history report, so you should be sure to advertise that you have a history of keeping your boat clean if you decide to sell it.

Some potential buyers may be interested in the chemicals you used to clean the aluminum if you’re trying to sell your boat. This will help them to gauge whether you used potentially caustic chemicals which might damage the hull.

They’re also probably interested in knowing how frequently your boat was cleaned because it’s a good indicator for how much the seller took care of the boat in other dimensions too.

Motoring Away

Frequent cleaning with a good aluminum cleaner will ensure that your boat doesn’t lose its value faster than it should. Now that you’ve learned how to clean aluminum boats, you’re ready to grab a bucket and a sponge and get down to business on your own boat.

If you’re considering purchasing a boat that won’t need a wash-up, check out the guide to new boat prices and run them through the boat payment calculator so that you’ll know what you’re getting into.