Keeping your boat clean is important part of maintenance. But soaps and harsh cleaners running off into the water can have a negative impact on our waterways. While a few bubbles in the water seem harmless, soaps work by breaking down cell membranes, that is why most cleaners are toxic to marine life. Here are few tips to minimize the impact of boat cleaning:
- If your marina has a designated wash down area use that for all boat cleaning.
- Regularly rinse the boat with fresh water to avoid needing harsh cleaners.
- Power washing or high pressure washing can remove bottom paint so it is especially important to save pressure washing for when your boat is in the washdown area.
- When you must use soaps, read the labels carefully. Look for non toxic and biodegradable products and use them sparingly. Don't believe all environmental claims. Most products require treatment in wastewater treatment plant to be truly non toxic and biodegradable, so use them in an area that doesn't drain directly to the water. Grassy areas can help absorb runoff.
- Look for phosphate and chlorine free products. Phosphates promote algae growth and chlorine, while good in a swimming pool is harmful to natural waterways.
- Soaps that require dilution in a bucket can be many times less toxic than spray or wipe-on cleaners. If there are multiple dilution strengths usually the weaker strength works just as well as the stronger.
- Use spray or wipe on products to target troublesome stains, but wipe up the cleaners with a rag instead of rinsing.
To learn more about green boat cleaning visit: www.boatus.org/findings/47
If you don't mind a little extra elbow grease consider trying some of these alternative cleaning products:
All Purpose Cleaner- Mix one cup white vinegar with two gallons water.
Aluminum Cleaner- 2 Tablespoons cream of tartar in 1 quart hot water.
Ammonia-Based Cleaners- Vinegar, salt, and water.
Bleach- Borax or hydrogen peroxide.
Bronze Cleaner- Lemon juice and baking soda. Or equal parts of flour and salt with enough vinegar to make a paste.
Chrome Cleaner/Polish- Apple cider vinegar to clean; baby oil to polish.
Fiberglass Stain Remover- Baking soda paste.
Head Cleaner- Put in baking soda and use a brush.
Mildew Remover- Paste using equal parts of lemon juice and salt or white vinegar and salt.
Rug/Upholstery Cleaner- Sprinkle on dry cornstarch and then vacuum.
Stainless Steel Cleaner- Baking soda or mineral oil for polishing, vinegar to remove spots.
Varnish Cleaner- Wipe with 1⁄2 cup vinegar and 1⁄2 cup water solution.
Window Cleaner- Mix two tablespoons vinegar in one quart of water or rub glass with newspaper.