Whether you own or use a personal or commercial boat, keeping it clean is a vital part of maintenance. It’s no secret that boat ownership can come with challenges, and these vessels typically encounter an array of potential debris that results in unsightly or unsanitary conditions. Several factors impact boat cleaning routines, such as where they are used and how frequently. Those boating in saltwater or brackish areas like swamps or lakes will want to regularly remove marine growth, algae, fish scales, and other sea debris after each use with a quick brushing.
However, when the grime is really intensely stuck on or requires deeper cleaning, pressure washing boats may be more effective. Yet, not all boat materials and surface types can be safely power washed, but most of them hold up well in the process. Other materials may be best cleaned with soft washing methods. Let’s explore what types of boat materials are optimal for professional pressure washing, and those experts might advise soft washing instead.
Common Materials Used in Boat Design
From small personal watercraft like fishing boats, canoes, and kayaks to large yachts and commercial ships, four materials dominate the marketplace in boat design: aluminum, steel, fiber-reinforced plastics, and polyethylene.
Aluminum Boats and Pressure Washing
While aluminum is lightweight, many prefer it due to its stability and reliability in the water. Aluminum boats travel fast, use less fuel when motored, and are resistant to corrosion and chemicals. However, because this is such a soft material, only reinforced aluminum boats should be washed using high pressure. Typically, aluminum abrades and dings easily, so a soft washing approach is best for smaller vessels and personal crafts.
Pressure Washing and Steel Boats
Durable, strong, and resistant to abrasions, steel is one of the most popular boat construction materials, especially in the realm of large sea-traveling vessels. Due to its strength, boats crafted from steel can often safely undergo professional pressure washing without suffering damage. One should take care of painted areas to avoid peeling and chipping during the process, so speeds up to 1500 psi shouldn’t be exceeded.
Fiber-reinforced Plastic (FRP) Boats
FRP has come to strongly dominate the boat material sector in recent years. Ideal for solid hulled crafts such as kayaks and high-performance boats. The strength of these polymers is impressive, making pressure washing a good option for cleaning FRP boats.
Can Polyethylene Boats Be Pressure Washed?
Polyethylene is highly versatile and offers a tremendous level of chemical and impact resistance for boats. It’s best to consult with a professional pressure washing service before attempting to tackle the task. This material is not as stiff as fiberglass or aluminum and cannot be power washed (hot water pressure washing) without risking deforming the vessel. Because adhesives, epoxy resins, and other bonding agents don’t adhere to boats crafted of polyethylene, soft washing approaches should be strongly considered.
Think Twice Before Pressure Washing Certain Boat Materials
Traditional wood boats are gorgeous specimens that require a good deal of craftsmanship, sanding, and staining to keep them looking so remarkable. However, pressure washing can strip the stain off the wood along with water-resistant sealants.
Gelcoat has long been a popular hull and boat bottom addition that provides color to the surface. Over time and after repeated washings, the old gelcoat tends to bubble and chip. Pressure washing can further erode the coating or cause damage. Even gelcoat in good condition shouldn’t be pressure washed above 1500 psi to avoid erosion and unwanted porosity.
Let the Experts Assist with Boat Cleaning Efforts
Pressure washers can be excellent tools for boat cleaning, but their use can be risky. Not only are injuries common, but so are mistakes that professional pressure washing technicians avoid making. These experts have the right equipment such as washers and safe and effective cleaning solutions. Their experience and training let them inspect the boat’s surface applications and materials to determine cleaning methods.
Many professional pressure washing companies offer a gentler form of cleaning called soft washing. After determining the best way to clean the vessel, they will take other steps beforehand, including:
- Inspecting for any current peeling, stains, and dents.
- Removing any loose items such as canopies, cushions, and equipment.
- Closing and securing hatches, doors, windows, entryways, and portholes.
- Selecting the proper ammonia-free and environmentally safe cleaning products.
Need a Pro to Clean Your Boat?
Before attempting a go at pressure washing boats on your own, consult with a professional pressure washing company. You’ll likely find out that it’s a solid investment to leave this task up to experts. Find a location near you today to discuss your pressure washing and exterior cleaning needs.