Filed Under (Boats and Boating Gear) by Debbie on 01-08-2008

Being Green (environmentally thoughtful) has re-surfaced and like the 60’s and 70’s, is being embraced with gusto.  It’s good for our waterways and since that it the most treasured location on the planet for boaters, we need to keep working to improve how much carbon footprint (or wake-print?) we leave behind us.

In a recent survey done by this site, 65% of boat owner are concerned and trying hard to be responcible in the ways they boat.  What with the passage in Congress of S 2766, I felt it would be good to look for ways to improve how we clean our boats and leave the least wake-print behind us.  So below I’m going to list off green cleaning for boats.

 I’m using products that are safe, easy to find and work.  As an added benifit, you’ll find some spare change lurking in you pocket when you look at the price differences between these products and ‘marine’ products.  While all the items listed are low toxicity it’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves, the right clothes and in some cases eye protection.  When trying out a new product pick an inconspicuous spot to test first to be sure it doesn’t negitivily affect the surface.

Many of these items would have been found under Great Grandma’s kitchen sink and while having become less used by the masses over the decades are still around and more importantly, still work.  Using these items and a bit of elbow grease will keep your boat clean and impact the waterways in the least possible way.


Topsides and Deck:  What did G-Grandma use to clean her windows?  Ammonia and white vinegar.  So mix 1/2 cup of each in a gallon bucket.  Then rinse down and brush off the deck and hull with fresh water to prep-up for cleaning.  Don your gloves and using a big sponge wash the topsides, then rinse with fresh water.  Use a soft brush for the the deck, I like a long handled RV type brush so I’m not on my hands and knees.  Be sure to rinse thoroughly.  If you find a hard to clean spot try a dab of ‘softscrub’ with a cloth and work in a small circle.  Once the area is clean wipe up with a wet cloth before rinsing with fresh water.

Boot Stripe:  If you’ve a boat that stays on the water always, then you probably have that lovely line of grime along the waters edge.  The sun light helps grow a forest of slime and algee amoung other things.  If you can run a brush along the boot stripe often you can stay a bit ahead of the game.  However, we all have to scrub clean at some point.

  Are you old enough to remember “20 mule team”?  Yep, I’m talking good old fashion borax.  Grab your bucket and fill up with about a gallon of hot water, then pour in at least 2 cups borax and stir until it dissolves.  You’ll find it dissolves faster if the water is really hot.  Then once it’s dissolved and the water is cooled down hop in the dink and use this solution with a bit of elbow grease.  Find there’s a spot with a bit more grime?  Try a sprinkle of good old baking soda on a damp cloth or sponge.  You’ll be amazed what a handy thing baking soda is when combined with a bit of elbow grease.

Rust:  All of us find rust from time to time on the stainless parts of our boats.  Long ago we used ‘Navel Jelly’ and woosh it was gone.  Well, those days are gone!  However, in the grocery store you’ll be able to find ‘Barkeeper’s Friend’.  I’ve used this for years on the stainless sinks I’ve had in my homes and it’s a great product.  So, the next time you’re ready to battle the invasion of the rust monster try this.  Rinse down the stainless with fresh water and then sprinkle on some Barkeeper’s Friend.  Then find something else to do for the next 20 minutes or so.  When you come back lightly scrub around with a cloth or sponge and then rinse with fresh water. 

Canvass:  Biminis, dodgers, wheel covers, winch covers and the like need cleaning too.  So, grab that one gallon bucket and fill it with fresh water and pour in about a cup of white vinegar. Rinse down the item first and then pour the vinegar/water solution on and scrub lightly with a brush and rinse with fresh water. 

Teak:  Cleaning your teak is easy if you pop by the grocery store and pick up a box of ‘White King’ natural laundry soap.  This product has biodegradable surfactants to eliminate suds and foaming in our lakes and streams.  Fill your gallon bucket with warm water and mix 4 tablespoons of White King into it.  Then scrub your teak with a soft brush, a toothbrush work well for small hard to scrub spots.  Then rinse well with fresh water.


Bulkheads and Overheads:

Use your gallon bucket filled with really warm water and dissolve 2 cups of Borax in it.  Then use a sponge or cloth to clean your bulkheads and cabin ceilings.  This mix will also help remove teak oil drips.  It’s good to for those pesky mildew stains and really dirty areas.  Be sure to rinse well with fresh water.

Cushions and Carpets:

Mix 1 cup of white vinegar in a gallon of warm water and use a sponge or cloth to clean soiled spots.  If you’ve a really stubborn spot on your cushion you can apply the vinegar straight and rub in a circular motion.  Be sure to rinse well when done.  Another technique is to sprinkle baking soda on dry cushions or carpets and work the baking soda in with a very soft brush again using a circular motion.  Let it sit for a couple of hours then vacuum it off.

White vinegar is also a great item to use to freshen the air.  I like a sponge soaked in vinegar in a non-breakable container to sit out and grab the smelly stuff.  Also don’t forget to pour a bit of vinegar into the toilet and pump through to the holding tank.  Looking for more information on managing that toilet?  Then you might want to read my post about marine toilets.

Ports:  Clean your ports with 1 cup white vinegar to a gallon of water, use a sponge or cloth to apply and then rinse with fresh water and dry.  Squeeky clean!

Galley:  Mix equal part white vinegar and ammonia to clean counter tops and cutting boards (if you’ve cut raw meats on those boards wipe them with bleach and rinse!).  Baking soda on a damp galley sponge works to clean those stainless sinks and if you’ve a really tuff spot use Barkeeper’s Friend.  Don’t forget too, for the fridge you can always place an open box of baking soda to absorbe the odors.  Yes, you’ll loose a small bit of space but what a difference.  If you’ve problems with melting ice and wet soda boxes then simply trade out the cardboard box with a plastic container…attach sticky back Velcro to the side of the fridge and the container to keep in place.

Cabin Floors:  If you have teak or glass floors you can mix 1 cup of vinegar to a gallon of warm water and clean your floors with a sponge or mop.  Be sure to rinse well with fresh water and then dry with a soft cloth.

Vinegar is a great old fashioned cleaning product so keep a bottle aboard for those little clean ups.  Baking soda is a mulit-purpose item you might be surprised by reading the box how many uses it has, toothpase…antiacid….etc.  Are your drains running a bit slow?  Dump some baking soda down the drain and pour in a bit of vinegar.  Let it sit until you can’t hear any more bubbling then flush with hot water. 

 There are lots of thing we boat owners can do to help keep our waterways clean and reduce our carbon footprint.  Many of the ‘marine product’ are home products just repackaged and priced much higher.  So not only will you be Green Clean, you’ll also be saving your green, which maybe gets you to that new piece of equipment you’ve been eyeing!

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