DIY Cleaning Methods for Marine Stainless Steel

DIY Cleaning Methods for Marine Stainless Steel

As it turns out, calling it “stainless” is a tad misleading—despite the name, you do need to routinely apply some elbow grease to keep stainless steal clean. And when you’re using it on a boat, where it’s consistently being exposed to corrosive elements like wind and ocean water, upkeep becomes an especially integral part of vehicle ownership. As experts in what makes for the best boat cleaning products available, here are some tips and tricks for keeping your craft sparkling, courtesy of Clean Boat US!

What Causes Corrosion? 

In marine applications, stainless steel is an alloy made up of low-carbon steel, nickel, and chromium. It relies on oxygen combining with the chromium to form a thin surface film of rust-resistant chromium oxide. This layer is easily damaged but reforms so long as it has access to oxygen—something it loses if covered by debris of any kind. So long as that debris is removed in a timely manner, the film will be able to mend itself before the elements have a chance to damage your metals.

Some of the most common sources of corrosion on a boat include: 

  • Chemicals: Steel becomes damaged if it comes into contact with highly corrosive substances (bleach) or materials with a chloride-heavy makeup.
  • Other Metals: Even microscopic pieces of other metals (carbon steel, copper) will start causing damage if they become lodged in the steel.
  • Atmospheric Conditions: The source that’s hardest to avoid! Airborne materials—sea spray, dirt, salt—will inevitably find their way onto your boat, so you will need to frequently wipe down your craft to remove them before they have a chance to cause lasting damage.

Cleaning Frequency 

When it comes to managing stainless steel, consistency is key, particularly if your craft is being exposed to salt water. Collapsable boarding ladders, for instance, are especially prone to rusting, as are any components that contain movable parts. By default, you should be hosing down your boat with fresh water after each use, but plenty of other factors can determine if you need to give it additional TLC while it’s in storage: where it’s stored, whether it’s covered or not, when it was last waxed, and so on.

You want to keep your parts unblemished enough that they’ll rarely (if ever) require deeper sanitization using strong cleaners, as more potent products carry a greater risk of damaging your craft, and many marinas are becoming increasingly more strict on what can be used while on their premises out of consideration for the environment. Generally speaking, a wash every three/four weeks is satisfactory to remove accumulated chaff if you’re not out on the waves every week. 

Cleaning Products 

For the best results, a combination of products should be used to ensure you’re caring for every facet of your boat. The most common are:

  • Detergent soap: Breaks up surface dirt.
  • Wax: Creates a protective barrier to protect surfaces from damaging elements.
  • Polish: Smooths surfaces and removes contaminates.
  • Chemical cleaner: Acidic mixtures that remove surface materials like rust.
  • Soft towel or sponge: Avoids scratching your steel components when removing contaminates and salt crystals. Remember to finish with a clean cloth to give your boat a glossy shine and remove any lingering residue from cleaners!

 And, of course, don’t forget the fresh water for thorough rinsing! Seawater leaves behind salt and other corrosive concentrates when it evaporates, so get it off before it has a chance to dry. We carry one of the best boat cleaning products to utilize if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution—it washes, removes stains, degreases, and leaves behind a waterproof coating! Whatever you’re using, make sure that it is specifically designed for stainless steel.

Cleaning Mistakes 

Finally, here are some things things not to use or do when cleaning your boat’s stainless steel: 

  • Do not use chlorine cleaners or bleach.
  • Do not use steel wool, wire prushes, polishing wheels, or polishing compounds.
  • Do not use products with muriatic or hydrochloric acids.
  • Do not neglect the tubing directly beneath your boat’s top, as these parts typically aren’t naturally rinsed off by rainwater and can’t dry the sun.

Keep in mind that some parts of your craft may be chrome-plated steel and not true stainless steel, which needs to be treated with different products. An easy way to determine the difference is to apply a magnet to the metal, as it will not stick to actual stainless steel.

Get the Tools You Need Today 

Ultimately, the most important part of maintaining your boat is dedication: so long as you’re regularly wiping down surfaces to prevent salt and dirt from accumulating, the bulk of the work is already done. Ready to take your upkeep to the next level? With these tips and some of the best boat cleaning products available from Clean Boat US, your craft is sure to stay pristine for years to come!

Contact us to order yours today!

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