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March 26, 2021

Next-Level Cleaning Tips for Boats

Proper cleaning includes more than just washing the hull. Here are tips to get the job done right.


A clean boat is a boat you can be proud of and makes for a more enjoyable on-the-water experience. For the most part, keeping a boat clean is a simple process. All it takes is a short commitment of time and the occasional wash and wax to keep most surfaces looking like new.

However, to take your boat-cleaning efforts to the next level, you’ve got to nail the details. And some are trickier than others.

The following tips can help you get the job done right on some of the tougher boat-cleaning challenges.

Clean the Carpet

Avoid using a hose or any sort of high-pressure washer on permanently installed carpet, like is common in bass, multispecies and other similar boats. Instead, use a vacuum cleaner and wet rag for normal cleaning. For bigger spills and stains, gently scrub the area with a mixture of soapy, lukewarm water and white vinegar, following the procedure outlined in this Mercury Quick Tip video. Be sure to use a mild detergent soap.

For boats with snap-in carpet that can be easily removed, take the carpet out if you want to wash the interior of the boat with a hose and brush. Then use a vacuum cleaner and wet rag to clean the carpet. Make sure the deck is completely dry before putting the carpet back in place.

Care for the Cover

If you use a cover on your boat, allow the boat ample time to dry and air out before reinstalling the cover. Mold and mildew thrive in damp, dark places, so you don’t want to cover a wet boat if you can help it. Use support poles as needed to get rid of low spots in the cover where rain can pool and eventually drip into the boat.

Also, try to brush off any dirt or debris before installing or removing the cover, since jostling the cover can knock unwanted material into the boat. If the cover is particularly filthy, like when pollen is thick, it’s a good idea to give it a quick rinse before rolling the cover off the boat. When you roll a cover, parts of the interior always come in contact with the exterior, and the pollen will eventually find its way onto your boat’s surfaces. Just be sure to spread out the wet cover to dry before reinstalling it.

Remove Hard-Water Spots

Hard-water spots require a bit of dedicated effort to remove. The best strategy is to always wipe down the boat after pulling it out of the water. This prevents water spots from forming in the first place. A quick spray with Mercury All-In-One Spotless Shine, followed by a wipe with a soft cloth, helps prevent buildup and can remove most water spots that do form. Here’s a helpful Mercury Quick Tip video showing how to use it.

For bigger jobs, spray a non-acidic, marine-safe all-purpose cleaner and degreaser on problem areas. Let it soak for about 30 seconds before wiping down with a clean microfiber cloth. This Mercury Quick Tip video shows the deep-cleaning process in action.

Don’t Damage MFD and Electronic Panels

Use caution to avoid hitting the screen of a multi-function display (MFD) and other sensitive electronic panels with a direct shot from a hose or high-pressure stream of water. The best advice for cleaning screens is to use a spray product designed specifically for marine MFDs. You can also prevent hard-water spots and other buildup by wiping them down with a damp microfiber cloth. Consult your boat and MFD manuals for additional instructions on cleaning.

The best way to incorporate these tips into your maintenance process is to not let dirt and grime get out of hand. Wiping down the boat after each outing and tackling problems as soon as they arise will help prevent the cleaning process from becoming a big job, so you can spend more time enjoying being on the water and less time scrubbing your boat.

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