When it comes to boat cleaning and maintenance, a trip to the local grocery store yields several useful items. White vinegar, Dawn dishwasher detergent and canning wax are cheap, yet effective. Here are their best applications:
White vinegar: Vinegar has many uses besides pickling and coleslaw. Add a good splash to the five-gallon bucket when washing the boat helps reduce the calcium and spots associated with hard water. It won’t damage gel coat or brightwork. Vinegar is also a useful additive to periodically de-scale outboards. Add a gallon to a 55-gallon drum or plastic barrel filled with water, tilt the engine into drum and crank it up. The warm, recirculating flow with the cleansing properties of vinegar will remove crud from the cooling system and leave it shiny clean.
Dawn Detergent is biodegradable, yet it cuts grease efficiently. Use a soapy solution to clean the engine of excess grease or exhaust soot. It does double duty for trailer hubs and wheels. A squirt of Dawn makes a great hand-cleaner after changing the lower unit oil or greasing the engine. It can also be used as a bilge cleaner. Add a generous amount to a bucket of water, along with a splash of bleach and dump it into the bilge to soak briefly. Rinse and open the garboard plug to drain.
Household paraffin wax has many uses besides canning and candle-making. It’s cheap, comes in handy bar sizes and works well to lubricate and waterproof zippers on boat cushions or weather curtains. Waxing the carpeted bunks on boat trailers makes launching and recovery easier, too. To apply, launch the boat, park the trailer in a sunny spot and go fishing. When you come back, before re-loading, use a bar to liberally rub the carpeted horizontal and side guide bunks. Carpet warmed by the sun makes spreading easier. It may take a couple applications to thoroughly embed the wax into the carpet, but once applied it lasts for months. A word of caution, though: Make sure the boat is over the water before unhooking the tow strap or safety chain or the hull may have an unwelcome encounter with concrete.