Tips for Pressure Washing Your Boat

It may seem odd, the idea that a boat can need to be washed when it spends so much time in the water. However, boats can pick up grime when loaded onto a boat lift for an extended period of time, or from the water itself when put in on a regular basis.

It turns out, pressure washing your boat is more than just aesthetic, it can actually increase the overall longevity of your vessel, but it’s important that you employ proper habits when taking on this practice, to protect both yourself and your boat.

Why Pressure Wash A Boat?

Outside of the obvious reason to pressure wash, which is that dirt and sludge make a boat look poorly, making it a habit to pressure wash regularly helps prevent contamination from different bodies of water.

For example, zebra mussels can be rather damaging, and a good pressure washing ensures that they don’t make their way into any bodies of water that aren’t currently infiltrated by them. It also protects your boat and engine from any long term damage caused by these unwelcome hitchhikers.

Beyond these important factors, though, pressure washing your boat on a regular basis may actually help you keep it intact for long. When grime and debris are allowed to fester along your boat’s exterior, they do more damage than you might realize, sometimes causing staining or eating away at the finish.

It’s clear that pressure watching is a great practice for boat owners to engage in, but many still aren’t sure how to go about it—especially how to go about it in a way that won’t do more damage than simply leaving well enough alone. If you’re a novice to the world of pressure washing boats, you probably feel a bit out of your depth.

Once you’ve decided that pressure washing your boat regularly is the right move, here are a few helpful tips for getting the job done correctly and for avoiding any unnecessary damage in the process.

BoatWash Pressure Washers

Make Sure to Use The Right Pressure Washer

While a simple hose or a bucket and a sponge obviously won’t suffice when it comes to thoroughly cleaning your boat, there are certain pressure washers that will miss the mark, too. Be sure that you’re using a pressure washer which can generate a minimum of 2000 PSI, as this is generally considered the smallest amount of pressure that will clean your boat effectively.

If you’re not experienced with pressure washing boats, that number might seem high, but grime can build up in small crevices, and it takes much more water and pressure than you might imagine; to remove it completely.

Using a pressure washer with a higher level of pressure will prevent you from having to use way too much water to complete the same cleaning job. It’s a good idea to assess your boat prior to pressure washing so that you have an idea of which spots need the most attention, and you can develop a game plan for how to tackle them.

Beware of Vulnerable Materials

If your boat features certain types of wood, such as teak, which require a varnish layer in order to maintain their appearance, be especially careful of pressure washing them. Too much pressure can wash away that varnish, leaving the wood vulnerable to quick wear. In this case, pressure washing can do more harm than good without proper attention.

Additionally, canvas and plastic can incur a great deal of damage if pressure washed too heavily. Windshields can be scratched, canvas can be torn, and decking can be worn down with excessive or unskilled pressure washing. All of this is to say that pressure washing is an important part of boat maintenance, but only when handled carefully.

In this sense, pressure washing your boat can feel like a rather delicate balance. You need to make sure that you’re using a pressure washer with enough power to get rid of grime hidden in small areas, but you need to wield that pressure carefully so as not to damage critical components of your boat.

Just as it’s a good idea to take stock of your boat and see which areas need the most work to clean, it’s a good idea to look around your boat for any materials that could potentially be damaged in the pressure washing process and avoid hitting them directly if possible.

Remove Items That Can’t Get Wet and Close All Windows

You wouldn’t take your car through a car wash with the sunroof open, or jump in the bathtub fully clothed, so use that same common sense when it comes time to power wash your boat. First and foremost, make sure that all windows and doors are closed so that the interior of your boat isn’t subjected to water.

Next, remove any furniture or items that you don’t want to get wet from the boat, or at least place them in an enclosed area, so they won’t receive any accidental splashing. Even if you don’t aim the pressure washer directly at an item, there’s still a possibility that it will receive mist when other areas of the boat are being cleaned.

Always err on the side of caution when considering which items to protect from the water—it’s better to be safe than sorry. Things like radios and other electronics might be especially vulnerable. Finally, make sure that your boat deck has sufficient drainage, as you don’t want to wind up with standing water once you’re through pressure washing.

Consider Hiring a Professional

While it’s certainly possible to perform your own boat pressure washing services, sometimes it’s simpler to just hire a reputable pressure washing contractor. When you consider the cost of renting or buying a pressure washer coupled with the potential risks of pressure washing ineffectively or causing damage, it’s sometimes simply less expensive to hire someone to do it for you.

Not to mention, it’s hard to put a price on the assurance that your boat won’t be damaged while you’re attempting to keep it clean and free of contamination. Pressure washing regularly will save you money in the long run as well, especially when it’s handled professionally. 

If pressure washing your boat sounds like a daunting undertaking, simply outsource the job so you can enjoy the benefits with none of the stress. That way you don’t have to consider things like which vulnerable materials might be damaged, which items need to stay dry, or how much pressure you’re using—you can simply kick back and enjoy a clean boat at the end of the process.

No one wants to unwittingly damage their boat through negligence, or cause it to look less than stellar. For these reasons (and many others) pressure washing on a regular basis, especially if you use your boat often, is critical. Still, there are some important factors to be aware of when pressure washing, and these simple tips will help you navigate them.