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How to Wax a Boat and Keep Your Vessel Looking Sharp Longer

We know a thing or two about boats. Yes, when it comes to boat flooring and DEKit, that is what we do. We install the best marine boat flooring in the market. In addition to taking care of boat flooring, we also know how to take care of a boat's exterior. In this article, learn the true techniques to help you effectively wax your boat for a beautiful finish from your DEKit floor to hull.

It seems like there are two starkly different approaches when it comes to waxing boats. You’re either the perfectionist who takes pride in fine detailing, maintaining a mirror finish throughout the year; or you’re the unenthusiastic servant to the creaking needs of your hull, begrudgingly slopping products onto your boat out of necessity, whenever you can get around to it.

Either way, the right coating regime is an essential part of protecting and maintaining your favorite toy, and as such, it’s a good idea to know how to wax a boat. In this article, we’re going to look at the whys and the hows of boat waxing, whether you like it or not.

The Importance of Boat Waxing

On fiberglass boats, the gel coat outer layer stiffens and protects the fiberglass from the effects of water and UV. However, it is porous, and the gel itself needs to be treated to keep it from being damaged by oxidation, scratches, and general grit and grime. For this, your standard polishes and waxes come into play.

Your boat’s wax coating acts as a sacrificial barrier between the environment and your boat’s gel coat. It’s the layer that weathers the storm so that your finish can remain intact. If you’re the first kind of boat owner, you might know this already. If you’re the second, chances are, you might need a refresher.

There are countless forms of coating out there, including polishes, nano glasses, and various different types of sealants. However, for boat wax, we can generally split the products into three types:

  • Traditional wax – This is a natural wax that is rubbed into a gel coat after polishing to create a mechanical adhesion with the surface of the boat, being pressed into pores during the buffing procedure.

  • Polymer-based – This chemically adheres to the surface with deeper penetration into the gelcoat pores. These waxes typically last longer than traditional wax and are harder-wearing.

  • Combination waxes – these can contain additional cleaning or polishing compounds (or both) and are designed to save time in the maintenance process. They’re typically best used on boats already in good state of repair and can handle small scratches and low levels of oxidation, as well as providing a lasting protective coating.

So, depending on the state of your boat, you’ll choose the appropriate wax for your needs. And once you’ve got it, there’s the matter of how to apply it. Remember, waxing is typically the final touch to your coating, so you’ve probably got to do some prep work before you start slapping it on.

How to Wax a Boat: What You Need to Know

Waxing a boat is a simple, but sequential process. The first thing to remember is that coatings don’t adhere well to dirty surfaces, and if they do stick, they’ll likely make that dirt a permanent feature. So, as any bikini model worth their salt will agree: the trick to a pain-free waxing job is all in the preparation.

Clean your boat!

You know how to do this. Soap it up and get scrubbing. There are just two things to be careful of here. First, if you’ve got keel paint that’s a different color, use a different brush on it and do it second.

Secondly, make sure to dislodge and remove any and all bits of affixed dirt or grease on the boat surface. If there’s any grime that’s too stubborn for a broom and a hose, you can take some fine grit sandpaper to it.

If you don’t get it removed in this step, the next steps will end up locking it down, so be sure to get the boat clean if you want it to look sharp. Once it’s done, let it dry for as long as it needs to before the next stage.

It’s a good idea to use a special biodegradable soap for this. It will help protect your garden, the waterways, and the environment.

Time to polish!

Polishing helps buff small scratches and oxidation marks from the gel coat on the boat before waxing and is the next part of the preparatory stage.

Tape off the keel section if necessary, and add your polishing compound to either a polishing disc or a dry towel. If you’re using a disc polisher, place the pad on the hull surface before starting the polisher. This is going to prevent the polymer from being flung off the pad and making a mess.

If using a towel, work along the length of any scratches to work the compound in and clear them up.

Starke Revolution Cleaner Wax is a synthetic polymer that’s particularly useful in areas that can’t be compounded. We’ve been talking a lot about gel coats here, but it’s equally applicable to metal and paint, and should last you many months. Further, it acts as a wax layer, which means you could save time on the next step.

Follow a systematic grid pattern or circular arm motion that ensures total coverage, and aim to cover about one 2’ section at a time.

Begin the next section with a 6” overlap of the previous section to make sure not to miss any sections.

Time to Wax!

If your boat is regularly maintained, and you’re using a 3-in-1 product like Starke’s Cleaner Wax, you might be able to call it a day here. If, however, the job’s been left for a long time, and you’ve had to scrub off and compound a lot of oxidization and weathering with a compound, this is the stage where you’ll need to add your final protective layer.

Just like when polishing, add the product to the pad or towel. If using a polisher, add three points of the product to a pad and rest it on the surface before starting it up. Begin at a slow speed and work your way over in a similar pattern as before. This process is faster, but doing it by hand can help you feel when it’s the right time to add more wax.

Follow the same grid or circular motion as before, to cover as much area as possible, and continue until the surface loses its shine, at which point the product has run out and the surface is ready for buffing.

Buff with a buffer pad or low-particulate towel, until the surface returns to a mirror finish.

Multiple coats aren’t necessary with a good wax or polymer. The local climate will determine how often you need to wax your boat, so ask around for local advice.

Typically, the hotter and sunnier it is, the more frequently you’ll want to apply a coating. In tropical or subtropical climates, this means maybe 4 or 5 times a year. In temperate or subarctic climates, you may only need to coat at the beginning and end of the season.

Of course, marine and freshwater bring their own distinct challenges and will affect the rate at which you have to apply your coats, as will the number of times you use the boat, and how well you store it. There’s no single rule for this, but in general, a single coat will last you months.


Boat waxing doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, it’s an act of care for anyone who wants to improve the look and longevity of their vessel. The steps are pretty straightforward, and with the proper cleaning and polishing procedure, a nice wax coating will quickly add shine and lasting protection to your surfaces.


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