12 Step Boat Detailing Guide


No matter how well you maintain your boat, it’ll still need an efficient boat detailing regularly to keep it looking good and free of mold.

In this article, you’ll find a step-by-step boat detailing guide that will walk you through the entire process from cleaning to waxing. 

Whether you’re a boat owner or boat detailing enthusiast, you’ll find helpful tips in this post. Let’s get started!

How to Boat Detail Like a Pro

Here are 12 steps to boat detail like a pro:

Step 1: Preparation

If you’re new to the world of boat detailing, here’s a list of the must-have tools and products:

When you’re boat detailing, make sure you’re not wearing expensive clothes and shoes that you don’t want to get wet and dirty.

Step 2: Empty All the Compartments

Whether you’re cleaning your own boat or you’re doing this for a client, it’s important to empty all the compartments first before starting the cleaning process.

Sometimes you might find something that needs to be thrown directly in the trash that isn’t in your favor to start cleaning while it’s still there.

You also might find some belongings that the owners forgot to take out before handing you their boat. 

Step 3: Remove All the Loose Dirt and Leaves

If the boat is filled with loose dirt or leaves, it’s important to get rid of them with your hands or using a broom and a dustpan.

Of course, always have your gloves on. You don’t want to touch the dirt with your bare hands. 

A pro tip for you here is to keep a trash bag beside you to throw the dirt in them. It’s better than throwing all the loose dirt and leaves outside of the boat on the sidewalk and then having to clean them later.

Step 4: Vacuum

Of course, you won’t be able to get rid of all the loose dirt and debris with a broom or your hands. That’s when a utility shop comes in handy. 

Go with the shop vac over all the areas of the interior. Don’t forget the inside of the compartments as well. 

The reason why you should start with getting rid of loose dirt and debris first is to not clog up the drain. Besides, water and dirt create mud. And trust me, you don’t want to deal with mud piles and stains.

Step 5: Pressure Wash the Exterior 

A pressure washer is a must-have tool for every detailer whether you’re a boat or car detailer. It just makes the cleaning process so much easier.

Pair it with a pressure sprayer and you got yourself an undefeatable team. 

Some detailers like to use a mixture of bleach and Purple Power diluted with water to clean the exterior. An all-purpose cleaner, such as EZ-ON EZ-Off is also a great product to use. 

Here’s a thing to always remember when detailing boats. Do not let any cleaning product dry on the surface, especially on a hot day as it can mess up the paint.

So, here’s how to do this step successfully. The best thing to do first is to hit the exterior with your cleaning product of choice using the pressure sprayer.

Then, use your pressure washer to wash off all the stains as well as the products. This is the most satisfying part. Just enjoy all the mold, stains, and grime washing off easily with the power of your pressure washer.

Work in sections to make it easier on yourself.

Step 6: Clean the Trailer and Wheels

All you need to do to clean the trailer is to hit it with your pressure sprayer and then your pressure washer. Remember to check if your cleaning product can be used on your trailer’s material.

As for the wheels and tires, spray them with a tire and wheel cleaner, then scrub with your favorite detail brush. Finally, wash them off with the pressure washer.

Step 7: Scrub the Lower Part of the Hull

The lower part of the hull is the most susceptible to oxidation. So, it usually has yellow stains all over.

Acid cleaners like EZ-ON EZ-Off work best to remove these yellow stains. Spray the cleaner on the lower part and scrub it off with a short handle brush for a stronger grip.

Step 8: Clean the Interior

Just like you did with the exterior, you’re going to pressure spray every part of the interior. Scrub the interior with a long handle scrub brush.

Then, with your pressure washer, wash off all the stains and the product residue. Note that it can be hard to angle the pressure washer in a way to avoid splashing water on you when you’re working on the interior. 

If you’re concerned about your clothes, you might want to switch to a water hose for interior cleaning.

Step 9: Clean the Compartments

Every detailer has his own technique when it comes to cleaning the inside of the compartments. For smaller compartments, it’s easier to spray your cleaning product and scrub with a microfiber cloth or a scrub brush.

If there are any rust marks, make sure to treat them with a rust remover.

As for larger compartments, spray the cleaning products with your pressure sprayer and then use your pressure washer to wash them off. 

This is because some large compartments are deep and you might not be able to reach them well with your hands.

Lastly, shop vac all the compartments and make sure that they’re stain and water-free.

Step 10: Clean the Seats

You can clean vinyl seats with a degreaser and then follow up with a detail brush. Make sure that you’re not using a degreaser that is too strong for the seats.

Diluted Purple Power works great for vinyl seats. If there are stubborn stains, a magic eraser will help a lot in this case. 

Regarding upholstery boat seats, you might need a steamer if they’re so dirty and full of stains.

Step 11: Treat Black Spots on the Exterior

After you pressure wash the exterior, you might notice black spots. These spots result from oxidation. 

The best treatment for them is bleach. Spray diluted bleach on the exterior and scrub with a long handle scrub brush. Then, with your pressure washer, wash everything off. 

Step 12: Wax and Seal Your Boat

Waxing your boat is what is going to protect your boat from the sun and water stains. You’re not going to actually use wax on the boat. Instead, you’ll be using a polymer sealant. This type of sealant lasts the longest. 

You can use the pads that come with your buffer machine. However, microfiber pads work the best and provide even strokes.

Once you have your pad ready on the buffer machine, apply your sealant and start sealing (waxing) your boat. 

The technique here is important. Dap your buffer on the section you’re working on. Then, turn on your buffer at a lower speed. Using a side-to-side motion, spread the product evenly.

At a higher speed, go with an up-down motion on your section then follow up with a side-to-side motion. 

You don’t only wax the exterior, but you need to wax the topsides of the interior as well, such as the non-skid toe rail. 

Let the sealant sit for 30 minutes, then take it off with a dry, clean microfiber rag.

Final Thoughts

Don’t forget to clean the glass parts and the steering station. In addition, always check your work before handing over the boat to its owner.

Remember to be flexible and follow your gut when it comes to boat detailing. You don’t have to stick to a specific technique. Create your own technique and detailed plan that works best for you.

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