How To Clean An Aluminum Boat

From small dinghies to bowriders, the recreational boating world is filled with all types and sizes of watercraft. The hulls of these boats are made up of an internal network of frames that extend transversely and run the boat's length. They are commonly plated or made from fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP), steel, polyethylene, or aluminum. Each of these hulls has pros and cons, and it has its unique maintenance routines to preserve the boats’ value and appearance.

This article will focus on cleaning aluminum boats as they are among the most common types of boats on the waters.

Importance Of Cleaning An Aluminum Boat

Boats, especially ones made out of aluminum, tend to lose their shine and accumulate big clumps of dirt on their hulls after continuous use. These boat hulls are constantly exposed to saltwater, polluted water, or freshwater, containing algae, marine life, and barnacles. These organisms often attach themselves to the hull, resulting in discoloration. It also results in harmful bacteria penetrating through the hull, excess vessel weight, and added resistance. It goes without saying, this is a nasty recipe for the boat's engine and will cause more fuel consumption. Clogged and dirty hulls will also create drag and reduce speed. Therefore, reducing the overall performance of the ship.

Cleaning these clumps of dirt from the hull of your boat isn’t as arduous of a job as it may sound. As long as you are transparent with the process, a clean hull can give you many benefits:

  • A common reason sailors keep their boat hull clean is to improve fuel economy.
  • It also helps your boat glide through the water smoothly and keeps the entire boat in peak condition.
  • If you ever consider selling your boat, frequent cleaning will help retain its value, and your boat will be more appealing to potential buyers.

There are few methods you can use to clean an aluminum boat effectively. Let's find out how to bring back that satisfying, shiny, and smooth surface without too much hassle.

Using Car Soap — The Easiest And Cheapest Method

If your boat is well maintained and not taken out in the water frequently, it might not require a deep clean. You can prevent spending too much money on cleaning products for your boat and go for the option of using regular car soap. Before applying any product, make sure it is not harmful to any material in your boat. Also, remove any expensive electronics from the boat’s interior before starting the cleaning process.

For the car soap method, you will need a garden hose, scrubber, biodegradable car soap, bucket, and water. The process of this method is no different than cleaning a car.

  • Step One: Rinse the boat off with the garden hose.
  • Step Two: Fill the bucket with water and car soap. After mixing the two, dip the gentle scrubber into the soap, and give a good scrub down the boat's hull.
  • Step Three: Rinse the soap and dirt off the boat thoroughly. If the hull is not clean enough, you can go through the same process again or move on to a more powerful method.

Use A Pressure Washer

Having a power washer can come in handy for a boat owner, as it can reduce the time or effort needed to clean your boat. Power washers can also be used to maintain your boat’s regular maintenance, so you won’t have to undergo an expensive cleanup after prolonged use. 

  • Step One: Once your thrilling sailing session is over, get the boat to land and attach the pressure washer soap nozzle to the garden hose.
  • Step Two: Spray the boat starting from the bottom with biodegradable car soap and let it soak in for about 5 minutes. Ensure it doesn't dry, as it will only add an extra layer for you to clean up.
  • Step Three: Rinse off the boat from top to bottom using the pressure washer. Double-check if you washed all the detergent off the vessel and flushed out the motor.

Use An Aluminum Cleaning Solution

Using products specially made for cleaning aluminum is the most common and recommended method for cleaning aluminum boats among boat owners. Fiberglass cleaner, Toon-Brite, and Star Brite are some of the popular options available. You should avoid using these chemicals more than once or twice a year, as they are strong enough to damage the hull if used too frequently.

Before using these chemicals go ahead and put on protective gloves, footwear, goggles, and other protective clothing to keep your regular clothes free from stains. While these chemicals are not very dangerous, it's always good to be on the safe side.

  • Step One: Read the instructions carefully and prepare the solution. Most aluminum cleaning solutions will require about 500 ml of aluminum cleaning solution and 1.5 or 2 liters of water to dilute.
  • Step Two: Dip the scrubber in and start scrubbing the hull just like you did with the car soap. You might want to grab yourself a steel wool scrub to address the patches that the car soap mixture wasn’t able to clean.
  • Step Three: If you notice any rust, take care of it immediately, as it can spread throughout the hull. However, don’t scrub that spot too hard since the area may be weak.
  • Step Four: After a satisfying scrub down of the whole hull, read the instructions to find out if the solution needs time to set in the metal layers.
  • Step Five: Rinse the boat thoroughly to wash out the chemicals immediately or after the required time to let the solution set in.

However, a clean hull is not enough for some boat owners. And, especially if you are thinking of advertising, your boat needs to be a shiny attention grabber.

Time To Shine

Depending on the age and size of the boat, the time you need to spend polishing the ship varies. You will need a buffing chamois and some buffing products to get a good shine. Read the instructions of the buffing chemicals and start polishing the boat. When you have finished, leave the boat to dry according to the instructions. 

To maintain your boat's appearance and value, use boat wax at least once a year. You can apply the boat wax one or two days after it is cleaned and dried out. Follow the instructions of the boat wax you selected and ensure you avoid non-skid surfaces.


Following proper maintenance of your boat will increase its longevity and its value and improve its appearance. A clean boat will look better, and at the same time, perform at its peak while making you the envy of your peers. As a boat owner, you must know how to clean your boat correctly. And it could end up saving you a lot of money!