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Boat Detailing Tips and Procedures: Everything You Should Know!

Fact checked by William Hart

boat detailing tips and procedures

After a time of use, your vessel’s interior and exterior might begin wearing out. The color looks faded and lackluster, green mildew spots may develop here and there. Because of regular UV ray exposure, water pollution, salt corrosion, and even animal droppings, a boat requires periodic detailing.

Boat detailing can be complicated and time-consuming. In the past, detailing a boat took up to a day, and only professionals were able to get the job done properly. But now, thanks to the development of new products, every boat owner can do it themselves in a few unchallenging steps.

In short, you will need to wash the exterior thoroughly using specialized detergents. Then, repair the gel coat on the hull and deck. After that, deep clean the interior and reapply the protective coatings to damaged surfaces. Finally, polish all metal to ensure the vessel is always clean and shiny.

In this article, besides providing a quick guide on boat detailing, we will give some pro tips and product recommendations for the most time-saving and effective detailing job. Dive in for boat detailing tips and procedures!

Table of Contents

Exterior Boat Detailing Steps


Choose a nice, sunny day to detail a boat so that you won’t be interrupted by the weather and the protective coatings can dry fast. Another option is to work indoors and use the help of big electric fans. When you have decided on the best time and place, grab the products and follow the procedure of skillful boat detailers below.

Step 1: Wash the boat thoroughly

First and foremost, the boat needs to be deeply cleaned from the inside out. Before you begin, prepare the work area by:

  • Parking the boat on a slight slope so that water can easily drain out.
  • Removing the drain plug.
  • Removing all obstacles like appliances, chairs, or lying stuff on the floor.
  • Putting on safety gear as needed, especially if you have sensitive skin.

For optimal cleaning, you should work in this order:

  • Top of the boat, deck, hull, and bottom.
  • While you are here, give the engine an overall wash.
  • Make sure all dirt accumulation, debris, and pollutants are removed.

This step seems like a lot of work, but these tips should make it easier:

  • Instead of a regular brush, use a long deck brush for large surfaces. The long handle allows you to reach high areas and quicken the cleaning process.
  • Boat soap is designed specifically for marine conditions. Hence, it is more quick and efficient. Don’t just use any random detergent.
  • Keep a stain remover handy. As you go, there will be stubborn spots that can’t be removed by regular boat soap.
  • Don’t neglect the edges and curves. Those are where dirt and grease tend to accumulate most.

When you are done, let the vessel air dry completely. Wipe dry glass and fiberglass surfaces to prevent water marks.

Step 2: Repair the exterior gel coat

You don’t have to reapply the gel coat to the whole vessel; only repair the damaged areas. A clear gel coat or marine varnish paint protects the boat exterior against weathering and aging. Over time, this final coating can crack, fade, or come off when the vessel pumps into hard surfaces. Without it, the topside paint will soon crack and discolor. Always repair it in time to avoid more cost.

For fiberglass hulls and decks, buy the West Marine or Evercoat Marine Gelcoat Repair Kit. One complete kit contains basic color agents, gel coat paste, hardener, mixing sticks, and a release film. Use the blending chart and instructions that come with the kit to mix the matching colors to your hull and deck.

The best part is these products don’t require sanding the areas before applying. This simple step will repair all nicks and scratches in no time. Finally, you can apply an extra layer of paint protection on top if you wish. But that is not necessary.

Interior Boat Detailing Tips & Procedures


1. Deep clean the interior

Interior boat detailing is going to take time. To begin, you need to clean the seats, storage departments, carpets, and floor thoroughly. To treat tough spots, use white vinegar, baking soda, or special cleaning agents like the Magic Eraser sponges. Also, here are some tips that everyone can benefit from:

  • Always vacuum the surfaces before washing and scrubbing them with water and soap.
  • As in the case of exterior cleaning, keep a stain remover handy.
  • Wipe dry surfaces like vinyl seats, glass, and wood right after cleaning to avoid water marks.

2. Repair the interior protective coatings

Now, the surfaces are squeaky clean. You can proceed to repair the interior protective coatings. Use a multi-purpose interior protectant like the STAR BRITE Ultimate Xtreme Protectant or 303 Marine UV Protectant Spray. These products can be used on leather, vinyl, plastic, carbon fiber, rubber, and fiberglass. When you spray protective coatings, remember to spray a small amount and move steadily to avoid dripping.

Unlike regular household carpets, most marine ones are high quality from plastic fiber to withstand all kinds of weathering at marinas. So, give them extra care. You can use a fabric guard like the 303 Marine Fabric Guard. After cleaning and letting the carpet completely dry, spray a thin layer of this product. It will help restore the fabric’s moisture and put a shield against oil or stains.

3. Polish all metal surfaces

Last but not least, polish all metal surfaces to revive the brand-new look of your vessel. You will need a metal polish. We recommend this article will help you choose the right boat polish that you need.

Read the label on your metal polish for detailed instructions. Most of the time, all you need is to spray it on, leave for a few minutes, wipe off the mess, and buff gently. For a step-by-step guide, watch this video on How to polish stainless steel on a super yacht.

Besides getting rid of imperfections, this step will add a lustrous shine to any metal surface.

When all the hard work is done, don’t forget to do one final spot check. This is what professionals always do before handling the finished product.


Regular boat detailing is crucial to keep its top shape and value. If you decide to hire a boat detailer, it can cost four to fifteen dollars per foot. But services will charge separately for each procedure. For example, the fee for general wash and cleaning is four to eight dollars per foot. After cleaning, if you wish to hull detail, they will charge another eight to fifteen dollars for one foot. Summing up, that can be a few hundred dollar bills.

Investing in products and doing it yourself might take time and effort. But trust me, the result is always worth it. If you own a relatively small vessel, I’ll say give it a try. Hope you like this article on boat detailing tips and procedures. And before you leave, feel free to leave questions should you have any. We are more than glad to assist. See you then!

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