Gelcoat Protection and Maintenance
As colder weather moves in many sportsmen put away their boats until spring rolls around. Taking a little time to perform some basic maintenance during the off-season will ensure that your boat is looking its best when the bows, shotguns and rifles go back in the closet.
Whether your boat looks brand new or several years old, now is the time to maintain that beautiful gelcoat finish. Some easily curable eye sores include rust stains, rub marks, scum lines, and oxidation. Keeping your boat in top shape can be a lot easier than you think and any of the products mentioned here can be purchased from your local marine supply store.
Rust Stains: No amount of soap and elbow grease is going to remove rust stains. We recommend using a hull cleaner product called ON & OFF which is an acid based liquid, alternative cleaners do exist and are less toxic, however this is what we find works best. This chemical is dangerous! Wear rubber gloves, avoid contact with skin, and avoid fumes. ON & OFF can also remove surface rust from stainless steel. Moisten an old rag with ON & OFF and wipe the area to be cleaned. Be sure to wash off all acid after use.
Rub Marks: These can be caused by shoes, bow rollers, or anything that might rub your boat and leave a mark. Using a cleaner with bleach can remove rubs, also acetone works very well. If acetone or bleach cleaning agents fail, use 2000 girt buffing compound and some elbow grease.
Scum Lines: Scum lines can appear after just one day on the water and are not easy to clean. Once again we recommend ON & OFF to remove these unsightly surface blemishes. Wipe the ON & OFF on a section of the discolored area and follow it immediately with soapy water or an acetone soaked rag. You should do 2-3 ft sections at a time so that acid is not left on the boat any longer than necessary. The scum line should disappear before your eyes.
Gelcoat Oxidation: This is one of the toughest eyesores to make disappear. It occurs with exposure to sun, age and neglect and is identified as a chalky buildup over the once slick surface. Before you start buffing, use the ON & OFF or bleach to clean the oxidized surfaces. A commercial grade buffer with 1000 and 2000 grit compound will make quickest work of the job. Using an inexpensive chip brush, spread the 1000 grit compound on an area about 2 feet square. Move the buffer along slowly and steadily working the compound into the gelcoat. You should make a couple passes over the oxidized area until the chalky appearance is gone. Before you use the 2000 grit compound, wipe down the area previously buffed with a moist rag to remove any remaining compound. You should also switch to a clean buffing pad free of 1000 grit compound. Follow the same steps with 2000 grit compound for a polished showroom shine.
REMEMBER: Harsh chemicals such as acetone, bleach, and ON & OFF strip protective coatings. Be sure to follow up with a marine wax or polish after using them. DO NOT use any of these chemicals on painted surfaces, gelcoat only.
Prevention: Preventative maintenance is the best way save your boat from rust stains, scum lines, and oxidation. A protective barrier of wax goes a long way when its time to clean your boat. Gelcoat without a protective wax coating is a porous surface that is prone to staining and discoloration. A high-grade marine wax or polish fills the pores and provides a durable finish that will repel water, stains and help guard against oxidation and marring. We recommend using a carnauba/teflon based wax to provide the best protection and keep your boat looking showroom fresh.
We will do our best to provide effective, high-quality solutions for the most common boat related problems. We would appreciate any input or questions about boats so that our articles can efficiently help the most people.
Here is a preliminary listing of topics we hope to present in future issues:
- Minor gel coat repair
- Getting rid of carpet
- Rotten decks, stringers, and transoms
- Buying a used boat
- Casting and poling platforms
- Performance and protection products
GFY (Go Fishin' Ya'll)
Fibertex & Supply
Corpus Christi, TX 78414
Office (361) 991-5956