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Safe at Sea: Homespun boat cleaning tips

By Staff | May 5, 2020

A few weeks ago while I was shopping at Bailey’s, I remembered to pick up the annual five boxes of baking soda for the fridges-freezers. Then, I remembered I had seen an article years ago that addressed “homemade” boating cleansers, most of which centered on baking soda. (Grandma would be proud.)

With all the time we are currently spending at home, now seemed to be the perfect opportunity to review a few cleaning techniques that rely on items most likely right in your kitchen.


For rust on your stainless (and other metals), get out your baking soda. Mix one tablespoon of baking soda with one teaspoon of water to make a paste. Wipe down any rusted metal with a clean damp cloth, then scrub it gently with a piece of aluminum foil – that’s correct – and your paste. Buff with a dry paper towel and admire how your boat gleams.

If for any reason you are cleaning gold, do not use the aluminum foil; use a clean soft cloth, rinse with cool water, and then buff dry with a chamois.


Adding a generous amount of baking soda to your regular hull wash will make removing greasy stains easier – from petrochemicals in the water you boat in, for instance.


Clean your mesh engine filers by soaking them in a pan filled with hot water and baking soda. The oily residue should separate and float to the top of the pan.


Clean up gas and oil spills on a fiberglass deck by pouring a tiny amount of paint thinner over the spot and covering it immediately with a generous amount of baking soda. Let it set for a couple of hours. If the spill is small, baking soda alone should do the trick.

After filling your tank, get that awful smell off your hands by taking a handful of baking soda and rubbing your hands together; then wipe them off with a moist paper towel.


To remove most black scuff marks from a fiberglass deck or hull, dip a rag into concentrated lemon juice and buff well. The mixture will also remove some marks from vinyl.


If birds have been targeting your deck, place a rag that’s been dipped in cooking oil over their droppings. Keep it covered until the hardened droppings loosen enough to be wiped up. (It also works with squashed bugs and tar spots on the hull.)

Don’t think you have to spend hundreds of dollars on cleaning supplies made specifically for boats! Head to your kitchen and check out what you already have on hand!

Pat Schmidt is a member of America’s Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva. For more about the chapter and the courses it offers, visit www.sancapboating.club or contact education@sanibelcaptivasps.org or 612-987-2125.