Practical Sailor tested the compounds on the badly oxidized hull of a neglected 1974 ODay Javelin daysailer that has been stored uncovered in the Florida sun and salt air for years. Formerly the platform for gelcoat restorer and wax tests, the Javelins once dark-blue hull had degraded into a chalky, light blue mess.
To prep the boat, we wet-sanded a test section but determined it was not needed for the entire hull. We then bathed the boat using 3M Boat Soap to remove surface dirt and salt. Testers taped off 2-foot sections of the hull and applied one test product to each section, according to the product instructions.
The compounds were applied using a Shurhold 3100 electric polisher set on low speed and Shurhold wool compounding pads. Testers used a back-and-forth motion with constant pressure for five minutes per section. For each product, we used a new polishing pad, kept it moist, and noted how much oxidation came off on the pad.
We evaluated the compounds viscosity, how well they went on the wool pad, their ease of application, and whether they dried out quickly. The electric-buffed section was allowed to dry and then hand-buffed with a clean cotton rag; any resulting degree of reflective polish was noted.
Testers found that how quickly a compound dried out was affected by several factors, including how much water, silicone, or petroleum distillates were in the formula, the weather (humidity and temperature), buffing machine speed, and how much compound was put on the pad. Ideally, you want it to be just drying out as you finish 5 to 10 minutes on an area. Some product instructions advise keeping a squirt bottle of water handy for misting, but you can also start with a damp applicator pad to keep the compound workable.
All 11 rubbing compounds worked well, in that they removed some degree of the oxidation on our test boat. It was obvious that the thicker pastes and liquids were easier to use. They stayed on the pads, didn't run, and continued to work the oxidation out of the gelcoat. Observations of removing oxidation tended toward those that restored the original (blue) color, which could partially be result of more oils penetrating the gelcoat. All left a fair to good shine, but since these arent waxes-designed to leave a high gloss-we did not weigh the shine rating heavily.
Testers also considered availability and pricing in the final ratings. Many of the test products can be bought directly from their company website), or from online chandleries or retail outlets. At testing time, distribution for the new Dolphinite rubbing compound was being finalized. According to the company, the full Dolphinite line was to be available from Jamestown Distributors. Aqua Buff and Fiberlay market to boatyard and commercial boat repair specialists.