How to Detail a Boat

Your boat is regularly exposed to the harsh Florida elements. Heat, sunlight, air and water go to work on your boat, slowly deteriorating both its tough exterior and fragile interior. To keep your boat looking and performing well year after year, you need to detail your boat at least twice a year. You can save some time and hire a professional crew to detail your boat, orr you can attempt a DIY detailing.

Keep in mind that the boat manufacturer has specifications on how to detail your boat. Make sure to read the owner’s manual so that you use the proper cleaning materials that will preserve your boat’s finish. If you have any questions about how to detail your boat or need to hire a crew to do it for you, contact Pensacola Shipyard today. We provide comprehensive care for your boat, including washing, waxing and detailing.

What is Boat Detailing?

Boat detailing involves more than just washing your vessel with soap and water. Detailing is a highly involved procedure that keeps your boat in the best possible condition. Whereas boat maintenance focuses more on mechanical components, detailing is concerned with cosmetics and surface preservation. With proper care, you can keep your boat looking almost as new as the day you bought it. 

Detailing differs from cleaning in that you are protecting the boat from the outside elements while removing tough stains and smoothing out blemishes. It can restore your boat’s vibrancy, making it stand out in the shipyard. You can wash your boat in 15 to 30 minutes. If you are going to detail your boat, you need to plan on spending a few hours waxing and scrubbing the interior and exterior.

Detailing Tools and Supplies

When it comes to detailing, you are only as good as the tools you use. Fortunately, you do not have to spend a lot of money on quality detailing products. Your detailing checklist should look like this:

  • Microfiber towel
  • Waxing/polishing tools
  • Degreasers/cleaners
  • Stain removers
  • Brushes and applicators
  • Blower
  • Waxes and polishes
  • Water spot removers
  • Mops and sponges
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Gel coat protectant
  • Power washer

Avoid Common Household Cleaners

While it may be tempting to use everyday household cleaners on your boat, some products will do more harm than good. Avoid these household products when detailing your boat.

Dish Soap

Dish soap is caustic and will quickly strip the wax from the boat surface. Without wax, your boat will oxidize from the sun’s UV rays as dish soap eats into the boat gelcoat. Instead, use a dedicated boat soap. It will clean your boat without stripping the wax.


Bleach is a harsh chemical that dulls your gelcoat in only a few applications. It causes paint to fade, changes the color on your vinyl and corrodes your fittings. Instead, try a non-bleach based strong cleaner. It is designed to remove tough stains without the harsh effects of bleach. 

Windex / Pledge

When used on your isinglass, plexiglass, GPS screens or other boat surfaces, ammonia-based cleaners like Windex and Pledge will destroy the finish and leave a hazy and yellow appearance. A better choice is an aerosol cleaner designed for sensitive, transparent surfaces. 

Soft Scrub

Soft Scrub is one of the harshest chemicals you can use on a boat. It contains an aggressive grit that dulls the finish of shiny gelcoat and paint to a dull haze. If you need to use an aggressive compound, choose a product that breaks down to a fine polish to re-shine the surface.

Boat Detailing Tips

To get the best results, follow these yacht detailing tips

Remove the Old Wax First

Before you wash the boat or apply new wax, make sure you remove the old wax. Wipe the hull with acetone or a dedicated dewaxer. Use several rags and turn them frequently so that you do not reapply the wax you just removed. By removing the old wax, you avoid wax buildup.

Use a Polishing or Waxing Machine

Save time and energy by purchasing a waxing or polishing machine. A polisher reduces your detailing time and does a better job of removing compound or wax than doing it by hand. Choose a rotary polisher. It does the job faster and doesn’t kick when working around certain boat components. 

Use Cotton Gloves for Hard-to-Reach Areas

Your polisher may have difficulty reaching tight areas. If so, you will need to polish the areas by hand. Instead of regular towels, use cotton gloves and work around the areas with your fingers. You’ll get the results you are looking for with this method.

Cleaning Vinyl Fabric

Vinyl is the one material that you can clean with soap and water. However, make sure that you rinse off all residue, as the vinyl will absorb the soap. Afterward, use a specialized vinyl cleaner or protectant cream. Since vinyl is easy to damage, avoid using degreasers, bleach, household cleaners or a magic eraser. 

Why You Should Detail Your Boat

There are several benefits of boat detailing.

  • Your vessel retains a higher resale value.
  • A freshly waxed hull reduces drag.
  • Your boat maintains its beautiful appearance.
  • You extend the boat’s life.
  • A clean boat reduces marine growth, mold and algae.
  • The paint lasts longer and retains its vibrant appearance.
  • Your guests will enjoy their boating experience more.

Professional or DIY Detail: Which is Better?

In today’s DIY-driven culture, people take pride in undertaking projects on their own. However, what many DIYers quickly discover is that the results are rarely satisfactory. Detailing is more than just a job, but rather it is an investment into a high-priced boat or yacht that you plan to keep for many years. As such, nothing can replace Boat Detailing.

Our professionals have the experience and equipment necessary to detail your boat without damaging the components. Plus, they can perform the job in half the time, giving you more time to enjoy your boat instead of spending hours trying to maintain it. 

Need a Professional Boat Detail? Contact Pensacola Shipyard

Pensacola Shipyard is the Emerald Coast’s premier shipyard. Whether you need ongoing boat maintenance, resources or facilities, we have everything you need for a complete boating experience.

To find out more about our marina and boating services, call 850.780.8441.