SJ23 Tech Tip G07, (Updated 2023-03-07) Bob Schimmel


Cleaning Solutions, (in Alphabetical order).
INDEX - Solvents, Soaps, Protective Coatings, Cleaning Techniques, Safety Warnings.

The following suggestions have been supplied by various members of the SJ23 fraternity.  (feel free to send me more ideas.   I'll add them to the list). 

See "SAFETY WARNINGS" about mixing cleaners at the bottom of this list!


  • Acetone - Use to sanitize a surface prior to applying epoxy or polyester resin.  Dries very fast.  Can also be used to clean a spill or tools coated with resin.

  • Mineral Spirits - Good for thinning varnish & enamel paints, cleans brushes, wipe up stray polyurethane sealants and general cleanup.

  • Vinegar - Don't use epoxy without it.  This is very effective to clean tools and skin.  It may take a few minutes of soaking to soften the epoxy so it can be cleaned with scrubbing.  Vinegar can also clean bronze.

    Vinegar can also remove the patina from bronze by letting it soak overnight in a 50/50 blend of water & vinegar.
    Below is the result of soaking bronze anchor rollers overnight.  Cleaned is on the left.

  • Xylene - Reduces most top side paints, bottom paints, removes a smudge & is perfect to remove fender & black heel marks from gel coat.


  • Brush Cleaner - (not to be confused with turpentine or mineral spirits).   This stuff is made to clean or restore a paint brush where the paint has hardened in the bristles.  But it also removes exhaust stains from fibreglass/gel coat, cleans uncured fibreglass resin or epoxy, good for cleaning vinyl and gel coat stains, great for removing adhesive left from a label or price sticker, removes wax prior to paint or epoxy jobs and best of all it rinses away with water. 

  • Camco Black Streak Remover - Removes black streaks, bugs, tar, grease, oil & dirt from window trim, gutter rails and fibreglass hulls.

  • Engine Starting Fluid (Ether) - Use to clean the cured butyl rubber sealant after you remove the fitting. 

  • Denatured Alcohol - A cleaner that is sold at most any hardware store.   This is ethanol with some methanol added to make it poisonous (not taxable as liquor!). 

  • GOOF-OFF - Is a latex paint remover that is great for cleaning vinyl fenders.  Follow up with a coat of Armor All.   This stuff is really volatile so use in open air. 

  • Scrubbing Bubbles Bathroom Cleaner - Works great on fibreglass surface and leaves a nice shine.  It also works well on Life Lines and the vinyl trim on the canvas dodger.  If you are going to try another bathroom cleaner be sure it is OK for use on fibreglass. 

  • Soft Scrub with Bleach - Used for cleaning lifelines or an inflatable boat. Spray Nine - Is excellent for removing a stain on a vinyl awning.  Simply spray on, let soak for a few minutes and hose off with water.  For a really stubborn stain use a small brush and some elbow grease. 

  • TSP and a dollop of dish soap - Mix the detergent in a bucket of warm water.  It cleans a deck better than anything else I've tried.  I use this concoction a few times a season.  For the normal deck scrubbing I use Soft Scrub. 

  • Vanish Toilet Bowl Cleaner - Cleans scummy boot stripes and hulls.   Especially if you use the gel cleaners. 

  • Wesley's Whitewall Cleaner - Great for removing bird poo. 


  • Future Wax - Returns shine to old fibreglass non-skid areas. 

  • Pledge Furniture Polish - To preserve clear vinyl windows.  Use the plain stuff not "Lemon Pledge."

  • Sun Tan Lotion with SPF 30 - This stuff does a great job of protecting a bungee cord from UV damage.   Just stretch the cord a bit, rub it on and you are good to go.   (OK to let go of the cord now!)

  • Varnish or Paint Touch up - Fill an empty nail polish bottle for easy touch up, anytime.  Rather than clean an old nail polish bottle, buy a new one at a beauty parlour supply shop.  Fill it using a plastic syringe.  For a small touch up, using a nail polish bottle beats opening a can of paint, mixing it, cleaning the mixer, cleaning a paint brush, and sealing the paint can. 


  • CLEAN the DECK (Portable Deck Wash Pump) - It is incredible how well rain water can clean a deck, or anything else for that matter.  Morning dew has a similar property.  Most people don't see this because they go inside during the rain or sleep in till the dew evaporates.  Next time, go on deck just after a heavy down pour to see how clean it is.  That pristine clean deck is the cleaning power of rainwater.  I'm not about to suggest you stand in the rain with a deck brush, but try cleaning with the dew.  It sure works.  To be even more effective, wipe the rain or dew off to remove the dust particles imbedded inside each rain drop. 
    For many years I've used a bucket of lake water and a brush to wash Panache's deck.  A bucket is OK but frankly the swoosh doesn't wash debris away very well and the brush is wanting to remove grunge from a tight hole.  A steady stream of water from a hose is superior as it can be directed into a crevice to force debris out and float it away.  The stream can also be used to follow the debris to where it flows overboard.  A deck wash pump is also quick and easy to use for a spill or dirty foot prints from shore bound shoes. 
    - To create pressure water on board I fabricated a portable pump as per Tech Tip E19

  • CLEAN the DECK (Coal Dust) - We have two coal mines next to our lake which is a necessary evil, since the thermal plants generate the majority of electricity here.   Thankfully they use low sulphur coal.  Problem is, this dust leaves a light smoky haze over gel coat and settles in the dimples of the none skid.   Repeated soaking and scrubbing will remove most of it but it is best to scrub with a stiff bristle brush every two weeks to stay ahead of it.  For a tight inside corner cut a Scotch Brite pad cut into a suitable size and rub lightly.  A long strip is very effective to clean in a space too tight to get your hands in.  The liquid cleaner called Fantastic that can remove coal dust in a flash.  Doesn't affect gel coat unless you scrub ridiculously hard. 

  • CLEAN DECK (Lichens) -  If the Fantastic you buy contains bleach it can easily remove 30 years of lichens.  It may require a small scrubbing brush and a bit of elbow grease.  The clean deck is really impressive.  You might need sunglasses.

  • CLEAN the BOTTOM (Pressure Washer) - Pressure wash the hull before waxing or using other cleaners to see the true bright color of your gel coat.   Also great on lifelines, fenders, stainless steel, shroud covers and to remove old Armada finish.   Careful of the high pressure (1000 psi) from the nozzle.   I watched a friend of mine go right through the dirt of his Westerly 26, then the paint and finally through the gel coat.   I don't know what pressure that pump was set for, but it worked like a belt sander.  So keep the nozzle moving and back off from the surface to use the minimum force required to clean the hull.

  • CLEAN BOTTOM (Boat Floating, 2021) - I used my new Scrubbis Brush to clean Panache's bottom just before end of season haul out.  The >2Kg of buoyancy of the brush pushes against the hull as you slide it across the bottom.  The brush is reversible from 3 foam blades to 1 vinyl blade and a foam blade.  I used the latter combination from the dock thinking it to be the most aggressive to remove the grunge from floating in warm shallow water over the season.  Once I retrieved Panache from the water I had a pleasant surprise.  Her hull has never been this smooth at the end of a season.  It feels like was sanded smooth with 200 grit paper.  One cleaning totally removed several seasons of wet slime and grunge with minimal effort.  It was much cleaner than power washing in a truck wash ever did.  Less hassle too.  Granted it is a lot easier to remove slime and grunge while the hull is still wet, but that is the best time.  I'm sure glad I found this product.  I will likely dispense with using anti-fouling paint in the future.
    - This is the link to a Scrubbis retailer in North America.  Easier to understand than the Swedish web site where it is manufactured.

  • CLEAN BOTTOM (Dried Sea Weed & Other Dead Things) - Every once in a while a tiny critter slithers out of the water or is splashed against the hull to get baked under the sun.  Scrubbing with a stiff bristle and water usually removes them.  The more stubborn ones are easy to remove with a Scotch Brite pad and water. 

  • CLEAN BOTTOM (Soap Scum from Water) - If you haul the boat out late in the Fall after motoring down the lake for 20 KMs you may discover that "soap scum" from the water has left an ugly brown stain that follows the bow and quarter waves.   It is advised to remove this ASAP because leaving it will ensure lots of elbow grease if you remove it later.  The only solution I could find to soften it was "Pink Stuff" (industrial degreaser) or Lysol Gel toilet bowl cleaner.   The "Pink Stuff" worked slightly better but is more difficult to find.  Where the elbow grease comes in is scrubbing the hardened stain off with a 3M heavy duty stripping tool (a scouring pad with course Scotch Brite).  Stop scrubbing when it gets easy otherwise you will go through the gel coat.  Scrubbing was the only way I could remove the 2 year old scum. 

  • CLEAN BOTTOM (Dirty Rub Rail) - Use acetone and a Scotch Brite pad to clean the vinyl insert of a rub rail.  Then apply two coats of Penatrol to preserve the vinyl which also puts a nice shine on it.  I use the same rubbing compound to restore gel-coat, etc.  Cleans the rub rail and is very easy to use.  Then coat it with the same wax that you put on the boat.  Looks great.


    To remove rust from stainless steel tubing use "Bar Keepers Friend". 

    Mix the powder in water, make a paste, rub with Scotch Brite pad and rinse off.  It does an immaculate job.

    The main component is oxalic acid that occurs naturally in rhubarb.  The before and after photos speak for themselves.


  • STANDING RIGGING (Preserve) - SS standing rigging may look great covered with plastic shroud covers, but the covers should be removed occasionally to kill the growth that develops underneath.  Similarly with SS Lifelines, and antennas.  Stainless steel MUST be exposed to air to remain stain free! Use any mild soap to kill the growth. 

  • FIBREGLASS (Spilled Diesel Fuel) - Use Rubbing Alcohol to clean up minor diesel fuel spills and to eliminate the smell.

  • FIBREGLASS (Mildew) - A 50:50 solution of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide will kill mould or mildew (or any other growth for that matter) in porous material, wood, fabric or in a fissure. 

  • FIBREGLASS (Rust Stains) - To remove rust from fibreglass use Lime-Away or Bar Tenders Friend.  I have seen the "Bar Tender" do an immaculate job.  Mix the powder in water, make a paste, rub with Scotch Brite pad and rinse off.

  • FIBREGLASS (Silicone Spray Lubricant) - Over sprayed silicone will prevent paint from wetting a surface properly and therefore reduces adhesion.   This is the primary cause of fish eyes (small paint free areas).   Mask off areas you may be painting in the future. 

  • FIBREGLASS (Vinyl Decals) - Really old decals are difficult to remove.   The longer they have been exposed to the sun the harder they are to remove.   Apply heat with a heat gun, moving it constantly to avoid over heating.   Pry up a corner and gently pull up.   You will likely have to use a razor blade in a holder to assist with "lifting" it off.   Chemicals generally don't work because the front of the decal is sealed to water ingress.   Good luck. 

  • PROPELLER (Keep the barnacles off) - Smear a very light coat of axle grease on the prop blades to keep the barnacles from sticking.

  • UPDATE  REMOVE CURED ADHESIVE (3M 5200, 4200 & Sikaflex 291) - Spray on DeBond Marine Formula and bonds are broken in minutes.  It is specifically formulated to remove cured polyurethane adhesives marketed as forming a permanent bond.  It can also make keel removal easier and to remove old hardware and transducers.  Safe on fibreglass, gel coat, powder coated metal, aluminum, 2 part paint, polycarbonate lenses, and clear coat finish.  When done, simply clean up with soap and water to neutralize DeBond Marine, then wipe down with denatured alcohol.


  • REMOVE VOMIT SMELL - Use a weak solution (a handful in a quart of water) of Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) to remove the smell of vomit, toilet smells (human or pet) or any similar odors.   Store the soda in a moisture proof container. 

_________________________________ SAFETY WARNINGS ____________________________________

  1. DON'T mix a soap that contains bleach with another soap or detergent.  Bleach is a very powerful chemical, capable of all kinds of reactions so DON'T mix it!  For example, NEVER, NEVER, EVER, mix bleach (contains a "hypochlorite") and an "ammoniated" cleanser.  Bleach plus ammonia yields free chlorine gas, which is a nasty way to die). 

  2. To kill mildew use a soap that contains bleach and wear gloves and a mask.  The bleach kills the bacteria and the suds prevent bacteria from becoming air borne so you don't breathe it in.  The mask helps to stop air borne droplets from entering your lungs.

  3. While many of the cleaning suggestions are low impact to the environment, it is prudent to perform these jobs when the boat is on land, NOT on water.   The life forms in water CANNOT tolerate cleaning chemicals, while the life forms on land can at least get away from the chemicals.  We have no business destroying their environment so think about what you are going to do!

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