Good boat maintenance starts with a boat's gelcoat. The best maintenance plan will preserve the shine and integrity of your boat's gelcoat through a two-part process: cleaning and protecting. Cleaning your boat's gelcoat thoroughly by removing dirt and debris will help protect the gelcoat.
Part One: Cleaning Your Boat's Gelcoat
Use specially designed fiberglass cleaners - do not use household cleaners. Although household cleaners like Soft Scrub and other abrasive cleaners seems to be a good solution to remove tough stains, they scratch as they clean. Tiny scratches will speed oxidation and dull your boat's gelcoat quickly. Once a boat oxidizes, the hull is vulnerable to greater damage from water penetration. If your boat is showing signs of oxidation, follow a gelcoat restoration plan that includes part two of this maintenance plan - protection.
To remove dirt and mild stains, many fiberglass cleaners are available at marine supply stores. There are many types of specialty cleaners, including some with wax to protect the gelcoat. Others are a two part process of cleaning and waxing. Both come in handy during Part Two of the gelcoat maintenance plan - protecting.
Part Two - Protecting Your Boat's Gelcoat
After thoroughly cleaning the gelcoat with a fiberglass cleaner the next step to protecting your boat's gelcoat is waxing. At this stage of the game, experts vary on the type of wax, but most generally agree that applying wax is essential to maintaining the integrity and shine of your boat's gelcoat.
Most fiberglass boat waxes are beeswax based, carnuba wax, silicone or a combination of the waxes. All of the products are designed to protect the gelcoat from ultraviolet rays and the marine environment. For a glossy shine, according to Boating magazine, you should apply two coats of a beeswax-based paste which provides a protective barrier coat. Follow the beeswax with a carnuba-based liquid wax to bring out the gloss. You will need to wash with a carnuba-based soap every week. Sound like too much work? The folks at Boating magazine suggest using a marine polish instead, although you will sacrifice the shine that comes from carnuba wax.
Like cleaners, protectants are plentiful on the shelves of boating supply stores. The most important advice to keep in mind is apply the wax or polish to protect the gelcoat according to the directions on the package.
Other ways to protect your boat's gelcoat is to use fenders with washable covers to ward off accidental dings and scrapes. Since ultraviolet rays do the most damage, covering your boat or keeping it in a boathouse will also preserve the life of the gelcoat and keep it beautiful for many years to come.