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Unless you’re the saltiest of boat nuts – and there are quite a few out there – chances are the last thing you enjoy doing is cleaning your boat. But in order to keep your baby in tip-top shape and extend the life of its many parts, the occasional inspection and minor treatment is a must. Today, let’s talk about the exterior.

Start at the bottom and work your way up. If you see a layer of algae or scum forming at the waterline, there’s work to be done. For hard bottom paints, scrub lightly with a soft Scotch-Brite. For copolymer and ablative paints, simply taking the boat out for a spin should clean off the buildup. If it’s a stubborn stain, use all-purpose boat soap or stain remover, then apply wax, which will make it easier to clean later.

Be sure to rinse your gelcoat and painted areas to keep grime from drying on the surface; it can become difficult to remove over time. Apply a coat of wax at least once a year to protect the hull and topsides from UV rays. The topside sheen will start to fade first because it sees the most sun. You can use a wax sealer here to help the wax last longer.

Keep your varnish clean and repair any damage as soon as possible to prevent water from getting underneath, which can cause the varnish to lift. Keep varnish and brushes handy for immediate touchups. If you notice a nick or ding, give it a light sanding with 220-grit sandpaper and apply a couple of coats to the damaged area. This will protect the finish, so you won’t have to re-varnish at the end of the season.

Clean any teak and, when it begins to gray, scrub with teak restorer and apply a coat of teak oil. Scrub across the grain to avoid damaging the soft wood.

It’s not just the topside that counts: Don’t forget to check the lower outdrive unit or underwater running gear to make sure they’re free from fouling. Clean with a Scotch-Brite pad if necessary. Check any thru-hulls or exhaust ports for signs of staining. Use boat soap or stain remover and apply wax.

Remember, a little preventive maintenance now means even more good times on the water in the future.

United Marine Underwriters is more than just boat insurance. Browse our Used Boats For Sale at Boat Browser or our new Lakes and Waterways’ Guide at Lake Browser. Check out our True Fish Tales – the ones that did not get away – and share your fishing stories.

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