Ah, the sights and sounds of Spring as yachts near and far make preparations for their pilgrimage to destinations north of Florida and abroad to the Mediterranean. Captain and crew alike are busy maintaining and ensuring the immaculate condition of the yachts, while shipyards are in high gear completing last minute maintenance schedules. The Antigua Sailing Week in late April and the May Cannes Film Festival are just around the corner, followed by the excitement of the Monaco Grand Prix. Everyone is in a better mood it seems, and spring lets us refresh and renew, as the days become longer and the ocean waters are even more inviting. A great way to get a head start on the impending summer activities includes cleaning your vessel and finally making those updates you’ve been talking about for months.
By now, most of us realize the toxicity of harsh cleaning products that are harmful to aquatic life, water quality and the overall ecosystem. What is less known is that there are nontoxic products available to keep everyone who uses them safely and to reduce the damage done to the ocean. But how can you determine the safety of cleaning products when manufacturers are not required to list the ingredients on containers or make them available to the public? It is indeed a confusing line-up of boundless choices, each product claiming to work better than the next, with descriptors like “natural”, “non-toxic”, “organic” or “biodegradable.”
According to the Consumer Reports web site, www.greenerchoices.org, the labels “nontoxic” and “biodegradable” are not verified and have no publicly available standards. After testing so-called “green” products for their effectiveness on boats, 3M Boat Soap, Meguiar’s Boat Wash Gel, and Thetford Boat Wash were found to be the least toxic. In addition, Soft Scrub With Bleach, used by many boaters to remove stains, performed best in the overall boat-cleaning test. However, as many boaters have found, overuse of a Soft Scrub-style abrasive cleaner can damage the vessel’s gel coat and fiberglass finish over time.
Other strong performers in the test included: Simple Green All Purpose, Extreme Simple Green Motorsports, 4U Concentrated Cleaner, West Marine Pure Oceans Crystal Boat Soap, West Marine Boat Soap, Starbrite Sea Safe Boat Soap, Ecover Heavy-Duty Boat Wash, and ConcrobiumXT EcoWash. Weighing all factors – cleaning performance, toxicity, biodegradability, and cost – the Consumer Report staff picked Thetford Boat Wash for best all-around green product. Thetford is also available at major boating supply stores nationwide.
Here are some additional tips:
- Rinse your boat regularly with fresh water to prevent dirt from accumulating.
- Use an environmentally friendly, general boat soap for overall cleaning, then spot treat those troublesome stains with a stronger product.
- Minimize runoff by using a towel after harsh spot treatments.
For a yacht’s interior, you can use the same environmentally friendly products used at your home:
- BioKleen, Bon Ami (free of chlorine, perfumes and dyes)
- Ecover (an international company supplying more than 20 countries)
- PureGreen24 (first “green” disinfectant, with the lowest toxicity rating assigned by the EPA)
- Seventh Generation