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How to Clean an Aluminum Boat in 4 Easy Steps?

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

how to clean an aluminum boat

  • Step 1. Flush the engine with fresh water
  • Step 2. Clean the interior of the boat
  • Step 3. Wash and apply a cleaner to the aluminum boat
  • Step 4. Restore and polish the aluminum

Aluminum boats are known for being sturdy and durable, that’s why it’s easy to think that there’s not much effort that goes into maintaining them. However, it is still necessary to put in the extra effort, especially to maintain your boat’s good looks.

Here we’ll talk about an easy but effective way on how to clean an aluminum boat so you can still feel the easy-going boat life you envisioned when you chose to go with your aluminum boat. Keep reading and see for yourself how simple it can be.

What You’ll Need

  • Aluminum Cleaner
  • Aluminum Restorer
  • Aluminum Polish
  • Soapy water
  • Carpet cleaner
  • Brushes
  • Buffer or polisher
  • Cloth or applicator for aluminum supplies
  • Wiping cloth
  • Outboard muffs
  • Water (water hose preferred)

Steps to Clean an Aluminum Boat


Step 1. Run the Engine on Fresh Water

The first step is to flush the water from your engine; this is especially important if you’ve been sailing in saltwater. While you can do this on a freshwater river or lake, I prefer to load the boat on my trailer and flush the engine with outboard muffs.

It’s vital to keep a few things in mind if you’re doing this with muffs. These reminders help us avoid any damage to the engine.

  • Ensure that the muffs are tightly secured on the water intake.
  • Do not turn on the engine until the water is running into the muffs,
  • Keep the engine at an rpm of below 1500.

After setting everything up, let the engine run for a while. You can wait for several minutes; 10 to 12 should do. You can also wait until the engine reaches a certain temperature; reaching a temperature a bit below the usual should do.

Step 2. Clean the Inside of the Boat

Next, clean the inside of the boat. Don’t forget to remove your electronics and battery if it looks like water can get to them. Use soapy water and your brush to clean.

A few specific cleaners that would be good to have are wood, furniture, and carpet cleaners. Soap can do the trick, but material-specific cleaners will give additional protection and save you some time.

Step 3. Wash and Clean the Aluminum

Now let’s proceed to the aluminum parts of the boat. If your boat is an aluminum boat, there are bound to be other parts made of aluminum aside from the hull, so don’t forget those. However, the hull has the most exposure to damaging elements, so let’s focus on it.

One critical step is to wash the aluminum with soap and hot water. We must remove any deposit or debris of dirt and other unwanted elements on the aluminum surface.

I would still do a pass of soap washing even if I used an aluminum boat hull cleaner.

If there are any tough stains like grime or rust deposits, it’s fine to let them be. The next step, using the aluminum boat cleaner, should take care of any other remaining stains. Use your cleaner as directed, and it should be fine.

Be sure to wash off the aluminum cleaner properly. Having any left on the aluminum surface will prevent us from making the aluminum shine. However, using a cleaner mixed with a restorer and even polish requires sticking to the right directions.

Step 4. Apply a Restorer and Polish

The final leg of the cleaning process is applying a restorer and polish. While they are usually separate steps, I like to use a restorer and polish combined into one. Applying the solution can be time-consuming, and there are effective hybrids out there, so it would be a good idea to consider those.

This step may take a long time due to how much wiping may be necessary to get a nice shine on your boat, especially if it’s older, because removing oxidation is the key. Circular wiping motions will do the trick, and a good quality wiper helps.

However, it is still recommended to use a machine polisher or buffer to save time and effort on this front. Most restorers and polishes also recommend using a buffer, so use one of these if it’s possible.

The restorer will take care of any oxidation that may have built up on your boat’s aluminum surfaces, along with any chalkiness. The polish will keep the aluminum protected, allowing it to be kept shiny for longer.

If you’re using a combined restorer and polisher, you’ll see the aluminum regain its shine as you work. It may also be necessary to wipe off the remaining layer of polish on your aluminum boat’s surface to get the best shine.

And we’re done.

Frequently Asked Questions


If Aluminum Boats are Supposed to be durable, isn’t Soap Enough

No, because soap will only get the dirt off the surface, so it’s not the best way to clean aluminum boat. It will not protect against weather and damage, nor will it give back your aluminum boat’s shine. While aluminum boats are durable, taking extra steps will make them last longer.

Why Does Aluminum Oxidize If It’s Resistant to Rust

While aluminum is resistant to rust, oxidation is a different matter. Oxidation is part of the rusting process, but it is not the rust itself. Rust occurs after oxidation which is the result of exposure to oxygen. Aluminum will still be damaged by oxidation but in a way that is different from rust.

What Conditions are Ideal for Cleaning an Aluminum Boat

There are no strict conditions to clean aluminum boats; this applies to weather conditions as well. However, it is recommended to do your cleaning boat on a day not expected to be hot or sunny and not when the sun is high in the sky.

This is because aluminum is a metal, and metals get hot under the sun. It doesn’t prevent you from doing anything you need to do, but maybe it may make some people uncomfortable, and I myself don’t like having to deal with hot aluminum.

Is Cleaning with Vinegar Effective

Many people have used homemade aluminum boat cleaner such as vinegar and baking soda, and it works. For cleaning aluminum boat with vinegar, spray it on the surface to clear off the stains.


It may involve more time and effort, but thoroughly cleaning your aluminum boat will be well worth the effort down the road.

This marks the end of our short guide on how to clean an aluminum boat. I hope you found this helpful. Besides, if you care more about the other types of boat cleaners, you can refer to boat vinyl cleaner or cleaner for fiberglass boat. Please share it with others, and don’t forget to leave your comments below.

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