How To Wax a Boat

How To Wax a Boat Featured Photo

Maintenance is key!

If you own a boat, you need to make sure that it is regularly maintained in order to keep it in good condition. Unless you’re willing to pay for service, as a boat owner, it is your responsibility to learn how to do proper upkeep in order for your vessel to run smoothly.

Learning how to wax a boat is probably something that makes you scratch your head. Well, to be fair, waxing a boat doesn’t come easy to many first-timers.

But, you may be excited about learning how to wax your boat but don’t know where to begin. And that’s why I’m here (you’re welcome!).

In this guide, I’ll give you a simple step-by-step process for waxing your boat. Aside from that, I’ll talk you through choosing the right tools and products to give your boat that eye-catching beauty and shine!

The Importance of Waxing Your Boat

Why is it important to wax your boat?

When you take your boat out on the water, you expose it to water and harsh UV rays. These harsh elements can wear your boat’s hull with time, inevitably leading to erosion. Also, there are several places on your boat where filth may accumulate over time.

Not waxing your boat regularly can result in dullness and it will be more prone to damage. After all, doing maintenance like waxing comes with boat ownership. You’ll want to make sure your boat keeps operating at its peak.

Applying a UV-protected product, wax, or boat polish helps keep your boat from resorting to sun damage. Many experts recommend waxing your boat at least once every three to four months. This will go a long way in  keeping your boat looking nice and functioning properly for many years.

How To Wax a Boat in 3 Easy Steps

Curious about how the pros do it? Follow these simple steps below.

Step 1: Wash your boat.

Washing the boat is a very important step. Your boat is exposed to water all day and it will eventually collect grimes, dirt, and algae buildup, which cause damage over time if you don’t perform regular maintenance.

The first thing you do is take your boat out of the water and put it on a bunk or roller trailer. Check that the trailer is leveled with the ground so the boat doesn’t tip over while you give it a bath. You won’t want to tie the trailer to your car since you’ll be applying products.

You should also probably need to cover your boat before you begin waxing and cleaning it. This will keep your boat’s interior protected from the water and products.

Start by spraying clean water thoroughly on the outside surface that needs cleaning. Then, scrub lightly with a clean, moist sponge to get the filth dripping off. Don’t spray it aggressively, but just enough to make it easier to scrub off dirt.

You may also use fine-grain 220 sandpaper to remove stubborn buildups. And never use a power washer as it can harm the finish and reduce the efficacy of the gel coat.

Next, remove any residual wax that might prevent polish and rubbing solutions from spreading evenly throughout the surface of the boat. You can do so by using rags soaked in toluene or similar dewaxing solvent. And with little pressure, swipe the cloth in a single direction. Finally, give the boat a final rinse and let it dry.


Make sure to use the proper detergent. You can use a special boat soap or a gentle dishwashing detergent. If the surface of your boat is soiled, it’s normal to use a tiny bit of bleach (except on untreated or unstained wooden vessels) to sanitize it and for a more thorough cleaning.

It’s also alright to use lacquer thinner, Varsol, or a specific degreaser to dissolve sticky adhesive areas or just greasy residues.

Step 2: Buff the surface of the boat.

After cleaning your boat, apply a polishing compound to smooth out scratches and other defects on its surface. Polish can get relatively abrasive, so it should break down most flaws and slight discoloration on the surface of your boat without causing any further damage.

If there are serious discolorations, you may have to apply a stronger polishing chemical. The way you apply the product, in the same manner, you use a boat polish or a buffing compound. Make sure to avoid rubbing all the way through to the fiberglass.

As you apply the polish, work your way in small parts and take your time. You can use a soft cloth by hand or a polishing pad on a buffing tool, and look for a wax applicator kit to ensure that you have all of the necessary equipment. Start at the slowest speed if you’re using an electric buffer.

Spread the polish in a circular pattern and work your way back around your boat in the same application. Again, you’re working with an abrasive substance and the fiberglass gel coat on your boat is incredibly thin. Go slowly and softly to avoid overdoing it.

The moment you see the surface of your boat gets bright and glassy is when you stop. You may repeat the process to achieve a higher level of shine if needed. Make sure to do a circular motion in the same direction as you apply the rubbing compound.

To eliminate the dust from the polishing, hose down the boat and your work area.

Step 3: Wax your boat.

At this point, your boat is ready for waxing. You must use the right type of wax depending on the surface of your boat. It’s always best to look into your boat manufacturer’s guidelines on maintenance.

Before you start the waxing process, refer to the particular directions for the wax you’ve picked.

Remember how you applied the polish on the third step? Apply the waxing product in the same circular motion to avoid streaking. You can also apply the wax by hand or with an electric waxing tool to make the procedure easier.

Whether you use an electric or hand buffer, go by hand over non-removable parts to avoid the buffer snagging on or injuring them. Make sure not to skip narrow crevices. Then, leave the wax to dry for a few minutes or until it turns hazy, which is an indication that you are ready for the buffing.

Lastly, you’ll need to buff the surface again, either by hand or with a buffing tool. Again, work in a circular motion, moving around the entire boat.

While buffing the wax, you’ll see that the surface of your boat is getting cleaner and more lustrous, as though it is brand new. After waxing, pause for a moment and appreciate the hard work you’ve put into giving your beloved boat a makeover.

Should You Power Buff?

You must let one portion at a time dry after applying the wax in uniform, circular strokes. To prevent the wax from becoming too solid, buff each part separately before continuing on.

You can either use a power buffer to take on all of the labor for you, or you’ll opt to save money by buffing the wax with plain and simple elbow grease. One advantage that many boat owners love about using power buffing is that you’ll get a fast, polished look every single time.

The benefit of going for the elbow grease is that you won’t shell out renting or buying a power buffer. After all, it takes some skill to operate a power buffer without harming the fiberglass gel coat.

But the debate whether or not you should power buff boils down to one’s personal preference. Other boat owners just use a cloth or rag to buff the surface as evenly as possible. But the labor you have to do with manual buffing might not be very practical if you have a large boat.

Choosing the Right Waxing Products

What’s the best waxing product to use?

It is best to look for wax products that are specifically formulated for marine use. Traditional carnauba wax products help in achieving the fresh and crisp finish that we all desire. The wax you choose should be suitable for use on fiberglass, gel coatings, metal, topside paints, as well as resins.

Your boat’s polish and wax should both protect it against UV rays, acid rain, salt water, hard water, and a number of other elements. There really is no magic ingredient that will make your boat look and stay flawless in a snap of a finger. You just gotta find out which products work well and stick to your routine.

Buffing Tools You Need

When it comes to choosing a buffing tool, it is a matter of cost and time investment. Buffing by hand will be time-consuming for sure, but it will save you from buying electric buffing equipment. The latter, however, gets the job done faster and easier.

Professionals use a rotating buffer that runs in circles at high RPM (revolutions per minute). These devices are hefty and generate a lot of power. And if you’re not careful, you may end up causing a lot of damage or perhaps even injure yourself.

Although an orbital buffer is safer since it just vibrates back and forth, you can only use it for applying a thin coating of wax. A dual-action boat polisher for boats that oscillates and spins will make buffing much easier and safer if you want to do it yourself.

Dual-action polishers for boats are lightweight and less prone to damage designs or any visible hardware. They also make the job considerably quicker than when buffing by hand.

Electric Polishers and Buffers

When compounding, polishing, or waxing a fiberglass boat, an electric polisher or buffer is a must-have equipment. This saves you lots of time doing arm-wrestling labor. It also produces a much superior finish than when you do it by hand.

If you decide to buy an electric polisher or buffer, take note that a random orbit polisher or buffer will be more efficient than a circular one. They simply apply polishes more consistently. And they remove waxes while not leaving any streaks.

Also, since polishing and waxing need precision and care, a polisher/buffer rotating at an excessively high RPM might lead to disaster. If you wish to achieve a flawless finish, use a polisher/buffer with varying speeds that can run at lower and higher RPM.

What is the best way to wax your boat?

The most important trick is to always do the pattern from left to right. Apply some more wax on the pad, and then go up and down and side to side.

Can you wax a boat by hand?

In general, you should apply the wax to the boat’s surface in the same circular motion you do when you buff it. You may apply the wax by hand or with an electric waxing tool to make the procedure quicker.

Should you wax your boat?

Yes. However, many experts believe that you should only wax your boat every three to four months. Especially if you use your boat frequently and store them outside, where they’d be damaged by the harsh sun. But, you can use your own evaluation to determine how frequently you should wax your boat.

Do you wax or polish a boat first?

You must polish your boat first before waxing. Wax acts as a finishing touch. You use wax to add a layer of protection against UV damage, scratches, and watermarks.

How many coats of wax should I put on my boat?

To maintain a beautiful gloss, your boat requires two applications of wax throughout the year. If your boat has darker colored hulls, it may require 2-4 coats of wax per year to stay in tip-top shape. Darker colored hulls will also require far more upkeep than white fiberglass hulls.

What is the difference between boat wax and boat polish?

A boat wax that contains no compound or grit and is mostly derived from natural palm wax. Polishes, on the other hand, are a synthetic solution that has comparable performance to wax. However, it does not contain carnauba wax.

Final Words

Boat waxing is an important maintenance process that helps keep your vessel in a good condition. It’s a great measure to keep it from deteriorating, chalking, or hazing due to excessive sun exposure. And I hope you find this guide helpful in waxing your boat so you can have it looking nice and ready for the next boating season.

The process might take some practice and patience, but once you get the hang of it, it will get easier. Good luck!

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