Buying and using the proper boat wax or cleaner is key to preserving showroom shine and protecting your boat from the elements. When you’re out on the water, you’re willing to brave some extreme conditions and put your boat in tight spots if you think that’ll help you catch a trophy fish, but the results are often ugly. Marine debris leaves stains, dock pilings can result in scratches, and the perpetual and cumulative effects of the sun result in fading.
By taking a few minutes each time you come off the water to assess and revitalize your boat, you can preserve it. That means maintaining the good looks that attracted you in the first place and preventing water intrusion or any other sort of damage. In other words, it’s possible to have it all—a boat that looks great and can still go four-wheeling as necessary.
While I’ve passed some winter hours by giving my bass boats a full and time-consuming detailing, I’ll be the first to admit that I’d rather spend more time on tackle than cleaning my vessel. That’s especially true when I come off the water after a long, hot, or rainy day, and particularly when the fishing has been tough. The preference would be to just strap down the trailer and ease into traffic in search of a shower, a beer, and some couch time. That’s why it’s critical when picking the best boat wax or cleaner to assess how much time you’ll really spend keeping your chariot in shape. Will you wipe it down after each trip? Every other trip? Apply a wax annually, quarterly, or monthly? An honest answer goes a long way toward maximizing your time and your investment. Here are some of the best waxes I’ve found for getting the job done.
Things to Consider Before Buying Boat Wax
The key is finding the best boat wax for you and your boat, so here are factors to consider when making your decision.
Size of Your Boat
It’s a lot easier to “spray and wipe” a big boat than it is to wax and rewax every corner, nook, and cranny carefully. Additionally, getting under the hull on the trailer or in a slip can be difficult. Figure out how you get the most bang for your buck, given your time constraints and how much fiberglass geography you have in front of you.
Color of Your Boat
Personally, I’ll never own another mostly-white boat again, because it was impossible to avoid small scuffs and stains, and they drove me crazy. Some angles prefer all-white, though. For them, they need special products not only to minimize or eliminate stains, but also to prevent yellowing.
If you have the time and the energy for frequent full waxings, an orbital buffer (used carefully) will do a tremendous job, but there’s no reason not to use a dedicated sponge or microfiber cloth. It just may take longer to get the same effect. No matter what, make sure there’s no dirt or grit there, because grinding that in will just make things worse.
We’ve always had an obligation to be vigilant in this area, but it’s especially true today. We’ve seen the impact that harmful chemicals have had on various fisheries, and it’s in our best interest to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
- Sizes: 16.9 oz., 33.8 oz., and 1 gallon
- Two-in-one product easy to apply
- Can be applied by hand or machine
Why It Made the Cut
Widely available and proven protection make this an easy choice for all boat owners.
- All-in-one formula
- Removes light to medium oxidation
- Can also be used on cars and RVs
- Not quite as protective as a heavy-duty paste wax
If you’re looking for the perfect combination of ease of use, quality, versatility, and protectiveness, a two-in-one cleaner boat wax is probably your best choice. Used quarterly, this will allow your boat to bead water, and with an occasional wipe-down, it will look like new. 3M products are time-tested and readily available, and this one is non-toxic. I’ve had a big jug of it on the garage shelf for a while, and it remains viscous and consistent, ready to spread on whenever I’m ready to make the commitment of time. I do so with a sponge and then wipe down the hazy excess with a microfiber cloth, but you can also use an orbital polisher if you want even more precision.
- Sizes: 16 ounces or 1 gallon
- Water-repellent UV barrier
- Made in the US
Why It Made the Cut
Hula Boatcare products mean it’s possible to keep your boat looking good while still being a responsible steward of our natural resources.
- Creates water-repellent barrier
- Smiles good
- Don’t have to worry about runoff harming the environment
- Slightly more expensive than some similar products
Hula’s products provide a smell reminiscent of the islands, and allow you to keep your boat remarkably clean without worrying as much about where all of that runoff water will go. We depend on clean waterways and healthy fish to feed our recreational needs, and that gives us a special obligation to make sure that our cleanliness doesn’t mean biting the hand that feeds us. Harsh chemicals may make the job easier, but they’ll leave you drenched in guilt if you’re anything like me. This solves the problem by providing all of the benefits and none of the burdens.
- Size: 11 ounces
- Long-lasting polymer protection
- Built-in UV protection
Why It Made the Cut
When you’re ready to really give the boat a protective coat, this paste wax is like an invisible suit of armor.
- Creates incredible deep close
- Removes light oxidation and scratches
- Does not leave swirls behind
- Like all paste waxes, can be labor-intensive
Once a year, usually in the winter, I roll up my sleeves and get to work, trying to make my several-year-old boat shine like new again. I’m not as dedicated on a trip-to-trip basis as I used to be, and I’m aware that I can overcome some of that growing laziness with one day of hard labor. If there’s even the slightest sign of oxidation, this retards that process and restores the factory colors to new. One 11-ounce tin goes a remarkably long way, even if you slosh it on heavily, but you need only a little to let it work its restorative luster.
- Sizes: 8 ounces, 12 ounces, and 1 gallon
- Wax-free and silicone-free
- Works best with a buffer, and 3M makes specific buffing pads
Why It Made the Cut
Whether it’s running into debris or bouncing your boat off the dock, minor scratches are an eyesore, and this product makes them go away.
- Light abrasive makes minor imperfections disappear
- Cost effective
- Creates a high-gloss finish
- Not meant for everyday cleaning
If you’re going to put serious hours on your boat, at some point, it’ll end up with a scratch. While deep cuts from nails or other sharp items may require costly fiberglass work, Finesse-it gets rid of lighter scratches and marks with a minimum of elbow grease. They make specialized buffing pads to apply it with a power buffer, but over the years, I’ve found that even a simple sponge or one of the best microfiber cloths allows you to remove some blemishes without much effort. Having some of this best boat wax for restoring in the garage makes me a better angler, because I’m not afraid to fish back in thick buck brush, or make a run through fields of light marine flotsam. I know that this stuff has my back.
- Sizes: 32 ounces and 1 gallon
- Removes stains around water line
- Safe on fiberglass and paint
- Apply with sponge or sprayer
Why It Made the Cut
No-scrub application returns whites and off-whites to their original stain-free luster.
- Doesn’t require any scrubbing
- Removes scum lines
- Eliminates hard stains
- Mild toxicity, so use rubber gloves to apply
When I bought my first bass boat in 1996, a mentor told me to wipe it down after every use, because “once a scum line sets it, it’s hard to remove.” If you’ve failed to heed that advice, or have particular nasty rust or fish blood stains on your hull, this product can be a lifesaver. You just apply it with a sponge or sprayer, being careful not to get it on your hands, let it sit for a couple of minutes, then hose it off. It is suggested that you add polish or boat wax after that, but if you skip that step, at least you can go this route again and again. It’s comparatively inexpensive, too.
- Sizes: 24 ounces and 1-gallon
- Pleasant smell
- UV protectant
Why It Made the Cut
This is the best boat product for wiping down at the end of the day.
- Removes stains and blemishes easily
- Can be used on fiberglass, trailer, tires, and seats
- Completely biodegradable
Bass Boat Saver has been my go-to, end-of-day wipe-down substance for well over a decade because it turns removing scum and stains into a quick and easy task. I carry it with a microfiber cloth and use it on every part of my bass boat to great effect. It’s not necessarily a replacement for one of the best boat waxes, but this will keep your boat in tiptop shape between hardcore waxing efforts. It produces a deep and remarkable shine, bringing out the true and original colors of your gelcoat, no matter how old your boat might be.
Q: Is it better to polish or wax a boat?
Polish is used to repair and restore your boat’s exterior. Wax is used to protect your boat.
Q: How many coats of wax should you put on a boat?
Two coats of paste wax is plenty to protect your boat. Most boat owners apply boat wax two to four times per year.
Q: How often should I wax my boat?
If you keep your boat in a garage, you can get away with waxing it one or twice a year. But, if you’re a regular user and your boat is kept in direct sunlight a wax every three to four months will keep your gelcoat looking new.
Since 1996, I’ve owned seven bass boats, five of them new, and the fiberglass has always been in good shape when I’ve sold them—in the case of the two used boats, probably better than when I picked them up. That’s because I’ve put a little bit of sweat equity into each one, using the proper products for the job. Figure out how much time you’ll devote to this process (hint: more is better, no matter what), but don’t worry about muddy water or floating debris. It’s part of the game, not an insurmountable obstacle.
A little care goes a long way when it comes to waxing and cleaning boats. As someone who tends to push my fishing days until the very last minute, a quick wipe down often seems like an insurmountable task. Try to do it every time with a spray wax or cleaner, and then supplement that with a full-blown boat wax job whenever you have the time to get the job done. If you put these best boat wax products to use, you’ll thank me at resale time.