How to Keep Your Boat Spotless (& Wildlife-Friendly)

How to Keep Your Boat Spotless (& Wildlife-Friendly)

 Fish slime-approved: Vinegar, water and a long-handled scrub brush are effective cleaners for a boat deck after a day of fishing. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

Fish slime-approved: Vinegar, water and a long-handled scrub brush are effective cleaners for a boat deck after a day of fishing. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

This week we’re sharing a list of water- and wildlife-friendly boat cleaners that you can make at home.

As we noted last week, South Carolina is home to over 500,000 boaters. What goes on the hulls and surfaces of their boats ultimately ends up in our creeks, rivers and estuaries. Harsh, toxic cleaners can be harmful to marine life and water quality.

“There are lots of products and options available that are less damaging to marine environments,” said Beatriss Calhoun, who does outreach for SCDNR’s Clean Vessel Act program. If purchasing commercial cleaners, Calhoun suggests that you carefully read the labels and ask questions about the safety of cleaning products before you buy. The safest cleaners are phosphate-free, biodegradable and nontoxic.

Fortunately, frequently rinsing your boat with freshwater and wiping it down with non-abrasive sponge can be very effective in minimizing the need for stronger cleaners.

Calhoun adapted the below list of homemade cleaners from a similar list compiled by Sailors for the Sea.

These options are not only safer for your family, our waterways, and wildlife – they’re also extremely inexpensive to make. And they rely on supplies you likely already have at home: baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and salt.

Let us know in the comments if you have experience or suggestions for using these cleaners!

 Just add water: here's all you need for a basic 'green' boat cleaning kit. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

Just add water: here's all you need for a basic 'green' boat cleaning kit. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

Alternative Boat Cleaners

Instead of ...

Use...

Detergents and soap

Water, clean sponges, and elbow grease

Scouring powders

Baking soda paste

Floor cleaner

One cup white vinegar in two gallons of water

Window cleaner

One cup vinegar in one quart warm water, rinse and squeegee

Head cleaner

Pour in baking soda and clean with a brush

Shower cleaner

Wet surface, sprinkle on baking soda rub surface with a scouring cloth

Aluminum cleaner

Two tablespoons cream of tartar in one quart hot water

Copper cleaner

Lemon juice and salt

Brass cleaner

Worcestershire sauce or paste made of equal parts salt, vinegar and water; rinse thoroughly

Chrome cleaner/polish

Apple cider vinegar to clean; baby oil to polish

Fiberglass stain remover

Baking soda paste

Drain cleaner

Disassemble or use a plunger and/ or a plumber’s snake; toxic substances should not be used on a thru-hull drain

or...

Vinegar and baking soda

Mildew remover

Paste using equal parts of either lemon juice and salt, or vinegar and salt

Wood polish

Three parts olive oil and one part white vinegar; almond or olive oil (interior unvarnished wood only)

Hand cleaner (for removing sticky substances)

Baby oil or margarine

A Related Lesson Plan for Teachers

The Estuaries 101 Curriculum offers dozens of lesson plans and activities designed to help educators bring science into the classroom. In this activity, chosen by SCDNR educator Julie Binz to complement this blog post, students play water quality limbo to learn the ways we impact our estuaries and how we can help keep water clean.

8 Ways to Be a Better Boater This Summer

8 Ways to Be a Better Boater This Summer