a boat on the sea

How to Clean Your Boat Fenders (So You Don’t Embarrass Yourself at the Dock)

Let’s face it, boat fenders are kind of like socks. You never really think about them until they’re dirty, and then you’re stuck trying to figure out the best way to clean them (hint: it’s not a magic eraser). 

For most boat owners, boat fenders are one of the most neglected parts of a boat. They’re constantly sitting in the water, getting bashed around by the dock, and generally just getting grimy. But when it comes time to sell your boat or just give her a good spring cleaning, you’re going to want to know how to clean those fenders so they look shiny and new again. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do just that.

So, have no fear! We’re here to help with a step-by-step guide on how to clean your boat fenders (and yes, we’ve included some tips on how to avoid making a complete mess of things). 

How Often Should You Clean Your Boat Fenders? 

This is a question that doesn’t have a definitive answer because it depends on how often you use your boat and where you keep it docked. 

If you live in a marina where there’s a lot of foot traffic, your fenders will probably get dirtier much faster than if you keep your boat on a lift in your backyard. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend giving your fenders a good cleaning at least once a season. You will have such clean fenders!

What You’ll Need 

Assuming you don’t want to spend hours hand-scrubbing your boat bumpers (seems like a good idea), you’ll need the following supplies: 

• A pressure washer (or a hose with a high-pressure nozzle) 

• A stiff scrub brush (a deck brush will work nicely) 

• A bucket of soapy water (dish soap or laundry detergent will do the trick) 

• A bucket of fresh water for rinsing    

• Mineral spirits (for really tough stains) 

• Tar remover (for tar and other sticky residues) 

 Now let’s get started!

1. Start by hosing down your fenders with fresh water. This will help loosen any dirt or debris that’s caked on.

2. Next, mix up a bucket of soapy water using dish soap or laundry detergent.

3. Dip your brush in the soapy water and start scrubbing away at the dirt and grime.

4. For tougher stains, you may need to use mineral spirits or tar remover. Just be sure to read the labels carefully and take precautions accordingly (i.e., wear gloves and eye protection).

5. Once you’ve removed all the dirt and grime, rinse your fenders with fresh water from the hose.

6. Finally, wipe them down with a clean towel or cloth to remove any residual moisture.

7. And voila! You’ve successfully cleaned your boat fenders without making too much of a mess. Now enjoy the rest of your boating season! 

We like to keep it real fresh for you at Knots & Thoughts. So If you’re not feeling the 7-steps above or maybe you just have really dirty fenders, we’re gonna lay the 8 step guide to cleaning boat fenders on you too. It’s because we love you! 😉

1. Start by mixing up a soapy solution of dish soap and warm water in a bucket. You can also add in a little bit of vinegar for extra grime-cutting power.

2. Use a soft brush or cloth to wipe down your fenders, taking care to get into all the nooks and crannies (great vinyl cleaners btw).

3. Rinse your fenders with fresh water.

4. If you’re still seeing some dirt and grime, mix up a stronger solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. Be careful not to leave this solution on your fenders for more than a few minutes, as it can start to damage the vinyl.

5. Scrub your fenders with a stiff brush, then rinse with fresh water again. 

6. If you’re still not seeing the results you want, it’s time to break out the power washer! Set it on the lowest setting and hold it about a foot away from the fender as you move it back and forth across the surface. Beware that too much pressure can actually damage your fenders, so use caution.

7. Once you’re done power washing, rinse your fenders one last time with fresh water and allow them to air dry completely before putting them back on your boat. 

8. That’s it! Your fenders should now be bright, shiny, and new-looking again. Just remember to give them a good cleaning every few months (or after every trip) to keep them looking their best.

But wait, there’s more!

How to Clean Boat Fenders 

Most of the best boat fenders are made of vinyl or rubber and can be cleaned with soap and water. For tougher stains, you can use a vinyl cleaner or tar remover. If your fenders are really dirty, you can try using a power washer (this is the easy way). Just be careful not to use too much pressure, as this can damage the fender material. 

For stubborn stains, you may need to resort to harsher chemicals such as lacquer thinner or mineral spirits. Always test any cleaners on a small hidden area of the fender before using them on the entire surface. Once you’ve removed the stain, rinse the area with fresh water and dry it off. 

If your boat fenders are made of gel coat, you’ll need to take a different approach. First, wet the surface with soapy water. Then, scrub the area with a stiff brush or scrubbing brush. You may need to use some elbow grease to get rid of tough stains. Finally, rinse the area with fresh water and dry it off. 

Cleaning boat fenders doesn’t have to be difficult! By following these simple steps, you’ll have your fenders looking like new in no time. But what about preventing dirt and grime from building up in the first place? 

Tips for Keeping Your Boat Fenders Clean 

One of the best ways to keep your boat fenders clean is to cover them when they’re not in use. You can find covers for both inflatable and non-inflatable boats at most hardware stores or marine supply stores. By keeping your fenders covered when they’re not in use, you’ll help them stay clean and protected from UV damage. You might also consider a boat cover for your personal watercraft. At the end of the day, your fenders will get dirty as part of normal use, welcome to marine life. The boat cover can help you from being known as that guy with a dirty boat.

Another great way to keep your boat fenders clean is to regularly wash your whole boat. This will help prevent dirt and grime from accumulating on your fenders in the first place. Be sure to use appropriate cleaners for different surfaces on your boat (e.g., gel coat cleaner for gel coat surfaces). And always rinse with fresh water after cleaning! You might also checkout the dollar store if the only thing you need is boat fender cleaner. This does a good job removing sticky residue from hard surfaces. Just be sure to choose an appropriate cleaner and avoid harsh chemicals. A nice heavy duty formula will help you avoid grimy fenders and oxidation stains while ensuring years of use without necessarily investing in boat fender covers.

Cleaning your boat fenders is easy enough that there’s really no excuse for neglecting them! By following these simple steps, you’ll have shining white fenders that will make your boat look good as new—and help you avoid any embarrassing situations when other boaters see just how dirty yours have gotten. So next time you’re out on the water, take a quick minute or two before you head home to give your fenders a once-over with soapy water (or whatever cleaner you prefer). Your fellow boaters will thank you—and so will your wallet when it comes time to sell your boat down the line!

Cleaning boat fenders doesn’t have to be difficult! With a little soap and water (or some elbow grease), you can have them looking like new in no time. Plus, by covering them when they’re not in use or regularly washing your whole boat, you can help prevent dirt and grime from building up in the first place. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start cleaning!

AND DON’T FORGET!!!!!! S-arrrr-bscribe!

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