Monday Minute - Cleaners That Really Work

Monday Minute lets me pass on tidbits from marine folks I have known over the years. While not meaty enough to fill an entire blog post or command an entire article, they are pearls of wisdom you will want to know.

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Anyone who cruises inland waterways, especially those rivers, creeks, and canals that travel through many of our states, such as Georgia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee, knows that dark brown tannin-colored water leaves an unpleasant brown mustache on the bow of your boat. Some may argue it represents a badge of accomplishment, proving that one completed the trip successfully on one's own bottom. But for the rest of us it is an ugly stain on our beloved boat and a reminder that some of our waterways are best left to the natural ecosystem. I have never found these waters particularly inviting for a late afternoon swim off the boat, alligators notwithstanding.

I'm sure there are other cures for this brown stain, which is especially noticeable if you have a white or light beige hull. I drove around our area boatyards looking for boats to photograph, but the sail/power boats out of the water around Annapolis are kept pretty shipshape, so I had to look for imagery off the Internet. Bear in mind these images only serve to show the mustache and do not reflect on someone's boat in less than ideal fashion, which is not my intent if it is your boat. But as you can see, this scummy film covers whatever wax job you last applied, and it not so easy to remove with normal boat soap, brush, and water.

The product I want to pass along is an acid wash generally well regarded to quickly remove this brown mustache off gelcoat. It is consistently recommended by a number of sources, so I want to pass it along as their collective first choice to remove this stain. While it may also remove the wax off the hull's gelcoat, it works effectively, quickly, and seems to please most everyone who uses it.

MaryKate On & Off Hull & Bottom Cleaner, available as a liquid or gel, is an effective acid wash that removes that brown stain quickly and easily off a hull without damaging the gelcoat. Brush or wipe it on, wait a few minutes, then wipe and liberally rinse it off. Use plenty of water to rinse off the intended area, which dilutes the acid wash so it causes little or no harm to bottom paint, nearby metal surfaces, or on the ground or in the water. While there are other suggested products to do this task, MaryKate On & Off is the preferred product of many people who deal with this on a regular basis.

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Obviously, it is important to follow the instructions and precautions on the container, and to wear gloves and arm protection (long sleeve gloves or an old jacket/shirt), as well as a mask to maintain your distance while working with strong chemicals.

I know some people will throw in their support for another great cleaner, and it's one I happen to use all the time, just not for this purpose. Bar Keepers Friend has been around for a long time for cleaning and polishing. It is a versatile cleaner and polisher that does many things well, on and off the boat. It contains oxalic acid, so it is less aggressive than the MaryKate product, and may works just as well, but it will take more time for it to remove gelcoat stains. However, and this is my important caveat, Bar Keepers Friend contains abrasives, so I caution against using it on shiny gelcoat. But if you are really careful, it can do the job as well.

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Another cleaner worth passing along is a miracle product from the makers of WD-40. It is called X-14 Professional, and it is an instant mildew stain remover. I can tell you this product works amazingly well. I have not found anything as good for doing this specific task.

The flybridge on a sistership to  Spitfire , our PDQ 41 power catamaran, shows its many cushions, which are backed with a coated mesh that can develop mildew over time. With X-14, this is entirely managebale.

The flybridge on a sistership to Spitfire, our PDQ 41 power catamaran, shows its many cushions, which are backed with a coated mesh that can develop mildew over time. With X-14, this is entirely managebale.

Our flybridge and cockpit cushions had textilene-like, coated mesh backing. Towards the end of the boating season, or after being stored off-season, little black spots of mildew begin in the corners of the weave of the back side of the cushion material.

When it got to the point of being an issue, I took all the cushions off the boat and spread them out onto the dock. That is when I pull out my blue bottle of X-14 Professional. Being careful to not overspray on furniture or other fabrics, I spray this liquid remover directly onto to mildewed sections of the cushion backing material and watch the black mildew disappear in seconds. It happens so quickly and thoroughly that within minutes I am hosing off the cushions with fresh water and then let everything air dry. The cushions look new again.

X-14 professional mildew remover.jpg

There are some precautions to follow for some applications, of course, but I have not used this spray on any of the other uses listed on the container. But it sure works well for what I use it for. And as I do this outdoors there are no ventilation issues, and I do not get this product all over me and my clothes. Cleaning our plastic mesh covered cushions could not be easier or less troublesome. Definitely a product I recommend if this is an issue you deal with.

I'm sure you can find YouTube videos on the above products. Trust me, they work really well and my respected marine resources agree that these cleaning products are worth checking out.

Have a great week!