Boat Bilge Cleaning: Everything You Need to Know!


The bilge, which collects and removes excess water, is important. However, due to its location on the ship, the bilge can get unclean quickly. Oil and dirt buildup can obstruct water drainage, causing damage to the boat. As a result, it’s critical to clean it thoroughly.

It’s simple to clean the bilge of a boat. All you need to do is scrub and rinse with a bilge cleaner. The process, though, could take some time. However, after you’ve gotten through the long phase, the rest is a breeze.

Now, you just need to maintain the cleanliness of the bilge to avoid any future build-ups. In this article, we’ll talk about the process of boat bilge cleaning. In addition, we’ll discuss what to avoid and other helpful tips for a comfortable sailing experience. Let’s get started.

How to Clean Boat Bilge

Although cleaning the boat’s bilge is far from pleasant, it will improve your boat’s health a great deal. Therefore, it’s critical to clean the bilge after every few sails. If you don’t know how to clean the bilge, follow this guide.

Choosing the Right Bilge Cleaner

The first thing you’ll need to do is purchase a quality bilge cleaner. Bilge cleaners emulsify oil and grease into a single unified fluid. When it becomes a fluid, it’s easier to pump away as oil doesn’t mix with water. These products will clean your boat and also keep it odor-free.

It’s best to use biodegradable bilge cleaners. These cleaners leave no long-term residue on your vessel. Many people say it’s safe to get rid of the liquid in water. However, this is false. The oil and bilge cleaner mix isn’t biodegradable as the cleaner retains the oil in suspension.

As a result, you should dispose of the emulsified liquid in a safe location rather than in the water.

Applying the Cleaner

The next procedure is to implement the bilge cleaner’s guidelines. Just uncover the bilge compartment and apply the bilge cleaner to all surfaces as directed. You can also add extra water to ensure that the cleaner covers all areas.

Allow the bilge cleanser to penetrate the dirt and debris for a few hours after application.

Usually, immersing in the bilge cleaner for two to three hours will yield the best results. Yet, the longer you leave the cleaner to infiltrate the grime, the better the outcomes will be.

Scrubbing the Bilge

After the bilge cleaner has completely seeped into the dirt, it’s time for you to scrub the boat. Since there will be a lot of debris to scrape away; a rough cloth or sponge is usually the best option. You can also use nylon brushes or scouring pads.

Make sure to scrub thoroughly and in all of the difficult-to-reach areas.

Rinsing the Bilge

After scrubbing, wash the ship using clean water to remove any remaining grime. Use as little water as possible, though. If the pressure of the water is too high, it can damage the area.

Disposing of the Bilge Water

Now that you’re done with the hard part, it’s time for you to get rid of the dirty water. It’s crucial to remember that in most regions, it’s illegal to pour oil into the seawater. Furthermore, dumping oil into the public wastewater system is prohibited.

As a result, it’s advisable to move the unclean water into a container and discard it with a small hand bilge pump. You can dispose of the water at an oil-contaminated water disposal site in your area.

Prevention from Getting Dirty

Now that you’re done, the only thing left to do is keep your bilge clean. While it may be hard, you may reduce the amount of oil and chemicals that enter the system. You can do this in several ways.

The first way is to avoid oil leaks. Always check on your engine, and make sure it’s constantly leak-free. You should also perform routine maintenance and ensure that the bilge pump is functioning.

The second thing you can do is to keep oil-absorbent pads on deck. These pads are made of highly absorbent materials that can store a big capacity of oil. So if any sudden oil spills happen, you can use the pads to wipe it to avoid accumulation. 

Additional Tips

Now that you’ve cleaned your boat, it will be good as new. Boat owners, on the other hand, frequently do things that hinder the cleaning process. Thus, there are some extra considerations to keep in mind to preserve your boat in the best possible shape.

What To Avoid When Cleaning

Although using a pressure washer may expedite the process, it isn’t best to use it. This may cause damage to the surface as well as the spread of harmful oils. Furthermore, if it comes into contact with any wiring, it may cause harm to the connections.

Another thing to avoid is using bleach regularly. Bleach is a powerful chemical that can react with other substances, causing harm. Bleach is quite corrosive. Therefore, it can corrode copper cables and ground strips, which can ruin the bilge material.

When it comes to environmental risks, bleach can damage water if it escapes into the ocean. Instead, you can use dish soap as it isn’t as harsh as bleach.

Test the Pump Often

A bilge pump is a type of maritime water pump that removes water that has accumulated in bilge wells and discharges it. So, it’s critical to inspect the pump regularly to ensure it’s in good operating order.

The water should flow swiftly when the pump is running. If it fails, water will pool in the bilge, and the boat will not sail. As a result, make sure that you get routine maintenance to keep your bilge in good shape.

Watch for Damage to the Outlet Hose

An outlet hose aids in the water drainage process. In most setups, the water is sent overboard via the hose. If damage occurs to the hose, the operation may become considerably more difficult.

Before each sail, inspect the hoses for tears and other problems. If you find even a minor rip in the hose, change it with a new one right away. Pick a hose with an abrasion-resistant cover and strong flexibility for an optimum flow.

Add Drip Pans for the Engine

Oil leaks are common in engines, especially when they’re overloaded. All that oil can clog the drainage system and cause a big accumulation of grease on the pump and its housing. Therefore, you should add drip pans.

These pans serve as collect basins for oil dripping from the engine. To protect the pump and other components, place the drip pans below the engine. That way, no build-up will occur, which would make the disposal easier.

Wrap Up

The bilge of a boat can quickly get dirty. However, the boat bilge cleaning process is straightforward. Simply buy a biodegradable cleaner and use it to clean the bilge. Then, scrub the bilge till it’s clean and wash it.

Make sure you safely dispose of the water, as it’s prohibited in most regions to discard it in the open sea.

Avoid using a power washer or bleach on the boat since they can cause damage. In addition, inspect the pumps and outlet hose. This will ensure that the drainage process runs without issues.

Now, your boat will look brand new and ready for smooth sailing.

Recent Posts