How to Wax a Boat and Keep Your Vessel Looking Sharp Longer
It seems like there are two starkly different approaches when it comes to "waxing" boats. We are going to use the term "wax" loosely here. Mostly for SEO purposes. We are referring to a 3 to 6 month sealant. Typically a crème based polymer. We really don't call it waxing any more. But we know there are alot of folks who still do.
You’re either the perfectionist who takes pride in fine detailing, maintaining a mirror finish throughout the year; or you’re the unenthusiastic servant to the creaking needs of your hull, begrudgingly slopping products onto your boat out of necessity, whenever you can get around to it.
Either way, the right maintenance regime is an essential part of protecting and maintaining your favorite toy, and as such, it’s a good idea to know how to wax a boat. In this article, we’re going to look at the whys and the how's of boat waxing, whether you like it or not.
The Importance of Boat Waxing
On fiberglass boats, the gel coat outer layer stiffens and protects the fiberglass from the effects of water and UV. However, it is porous, and the gel itself needs to be conditioned and sealed to keep it from being damaged by oxidation, scratches, and general grit and grime. For this, your standard paint corrections and sealants come into play.
Your boat’s wax coating acts as a sacrificial barrier between the environment and your boat’s gel coat. It’s the layer that weathers the storm so that your finish can remain intact. If you’re the first kind of boat owner, you might know this already. If you’re the second, chances are, you might need a refresher.
There are countless forms of sealants out there. However, for boat wax, we can generally split the products into three buckets:
- Traditional carnauba paste wax – This is a natural wax that is rubbed into a gel coat after polishing to create a mechanical bond with the surface of the boat, being pressed into pores during the machine application procedure.
- Crème polymer-based – This chemically adheres and binds to the surface with deeper penetration into the gelcoat pores. These synthetic sealants typically last longer than traditional wax and are harder-wearing.
- Combination cleaner waxes – these can contain additional cleaning or polishing compounds (or both) and are designed to save time in the maintenance process. They’re typically best used on boats already in good state of repair and can handle fine swirls/holograms and light levels of surface oxidation, as well as providing a short term protective sealant.
So, depending on the state of your boat, you’ll choose the appropriate wax for your needs. And once you’ve got it, there’s the matter of how to apply it. Remember, waxing is typically the final step of the process, so you’ve probably got to do some prep work before you start the application process.
How to Wax a Boat: What You Need to Know
Waxing a boat is a simple, but sequential process. The first thing to remember is that coatings don’t adhere well to dirty surfaces, and if they do stick, they’ll likely make that dirt a semi-permanent feature. So, as any bikini model worth their salt will agree: the trick to a pain-free waxing job is all in the preparation.
Clean your boat!
You know how to do this. Soap it up and get scrubbing. Use a multi-purpose cleaner or degreaser along with light acid to chemically decontaminate the finishes.
Secondly, make sure to dislodge and remove any and all bits of embedded oxidation on the boat surface. If there’s any grime that’s too stubborn for the chemicals, use a light or heavy compound to remove any minor surface imperfections or oxidation.
If you don’t get it removed in this step, the next steps will end up locking it down, so be sure to get the boat clean if you want it to look sharp. Once it’s done, dry the boat down.
It’s a good idea to use a special biodegradable soap for this. It will help protect your garden, the waterways, and the environment.
Time to polish!
Polishing helps remove small scratches, swirls and holograms in the gel coat before applying a stand alone sealant.
Using a dual action orbital polisher and polishing pad, polish the surface to a mirror finish free of any swirls, haziness and holograms.
Follow a systematic grid pattern or circular arm motion that ensures total coverage, and aim to cover about one 2’ section at a time.
Begin the next section with a 6” overlap of the previous section to make sure not to miss any sections.
Starke Revolution Cleaner Wax is a synthetic polymer that’s particularly useful in areas that don't need to be compounded. We’ve been talking a lot about gel coat here, but it’s equally applicable on marine and auto paint, and should last you many months.
Further, the formula contains a soft polymer that leaves behind a protective layer, which means you could save time and end on this step.
Time to Wax!
If your boat is regularly maintained, and you’re using a 3-in-1 product like Starke’s Cleaner Wax, you might be able to call it a day here.
If, however, the job’s been left for a long time, and you’ve had to compound and polish using multiple steps to get that mirror finish then this is the stage where you’ll need to add your final protective layer.
Just like when polishing, add the sealant to a foam pad and spread the material at a slow speed very thin and evenly. Give the material 10 to 30 mins to set up and then remove with a microfiber towel by hand.
Multiple coats aren’t necessary with a good wax or polymer. The local climate will determine how often you need to wax your boat, so ask around for local advice.
Typically, the hotter and sunnier it is, the more frequently you’ll want to apply a sealant. In tropical or subtropical climates, this means maybe 4 or 5 times a year. In temperate or subarctic climates, you may only need to coat at the beginning and end of the season.
Of course, marine and freshwater bring their own distinct challenges and will affect the rate at which you have to apply your coats, as will the number of times you use the boat, and how well you store it. There’s no single rule for this, but in general, a single coat will last you months.
Boat waxing doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, it’s an act of care for anyone who wants to improve the look and longevity of their vessel. The steps are pretty straightforward, and with the proper cleaning and polishing procedure, a nice wax coating will quickly add shine and lasting protection to your surfaces.
Starke Revolution Cleaner Wax is called a cleaner wax but the sealant used is a polymer sealant. Polymers are newer technology that is more durable and much easier to apply.
Knowing how to wax a boat is a critical component of boat care, and with the right products, it’s a breeze. Use traditional wax for a cheap and ready coating, synthetic polymer sealants for after a deep clean, and combination cleaner waxes as a semi-regular top-up that serves as a cleaner, a polish, and a wax in one.
Are you looking for the perfect product to do quarterly cleaning and quick one-step jobs? Then Starke Revolution is the answer. Pick up a bottle of Revolution Cleaner Wax. Have questions? We’re always available to answer them and help you with your order. Call 800.203.5315.