Wax Test Results
After spending a year outside in New England's rigorous weather, our test specimens revealed which waxes endure, and which don't. We've long favored paste waxes over liquid versions, and the superior performance of Collinite's No. 885our clear winnersupports that outlook. Meguiar's Mirror Glaze paste wax is the runner-up.[IMGCAP(1)
]Late last summer, on August 3, 2003, Practical Sailor placed outdoors a tired old fiberglass and gelcoat panel to which had been applied 26 kinds of waxes, along with one liquid plastic and one Teflon coating. The object of this PS test was to determine which, if any, of the finishes—hand-applied to the weathered panel—would restore some gloss and last a full year. In other words, which one would provide protection for the gelcoat from one spring to the next, and might still have a bit of shine left? Of course, gelcoat protection was our primary interest.
The topsides of a fiberglass boat can remain new-looking for years, if kept clean and coated with something that resists weathering. New gelcoat may seem as impervious as glass, but it isn’t; it's porous, and gets worse as it ages. If left uncoated, bare gelcoat picks up stains that are very difficult to remove.
(In the July 1, 2004 issue, we published a report on seven often-used waterline stain removers. Most were harsh, acid-based cleaners. The winner, Aurora Waterline Stain Remover, has hydrogen chloride as its active ingredient. Even worse for gelcoat are abrasive cleaners.)
The wax test described here—aside from determining which products work best—is also an attempt to show that a good quality coating, applied once a year, will help you avoid gelcoat damage and the kind of stains addressed in that aforementioned article.
The test panel had been washed, scrubbed, rinsed repeatedly and thoroughly dried. Each product was applied as directed (except for several that called for multiple coats) to small circles on the panel. (See photo above.) Each circle was delineated by a black-inked line made with a Sanford #13601 "Industrial Super Permanent" felt-tipped pen. As we shall see, the marker, which on its case says "remains permanent under most chemical washes, and extreme heat and steam (up to 500° F)," was not at all permanent. But the marker's failure turned out to be very handy.
At the end of the article is a chart that shows all the coatings and details about the initial results of a close examination of each circle, as reported in the Jan. 1, 2004 issue.
After being hung outdoors, the panel was eyed often during its 365 days of exposure to New England's rain, snow, sun, and wind. Because this was a long-term test, the panel wasn't brought indoors until Aug. 3. 2004, for a final, close examination.
It was easy to spot the winners. Most inked circles were badly faded; some were barely discernable. However, on some inked circles the ink was more intact—meaning that the ink, as well as the gelcoat, had been protected by the coating, which had extended over the inked lines of each circle. Although difficult to photograph, the larger photos generally show how poorly the coatings protected the inked rings as well as the gelcoat beneath. (The coatings did not extend out to cover the numbers on the circles.)
Based on how well the inked rings were preserved, the best results were with circles #3 (Collinite paste wax), #4 (Turtle paste), #11 (BoatLIFE's paste), #12 (Meguiar's Mirror Glaze, which is a paste), #20 (Starbrite's paste), #21 (Starbrite softened paste), #25 (3M's paste) and #28 (West Marine's paste). Note that all of these are paste waxes.
Two non-wax coatings did well, too. They were #15 (the Poli Glow liquid plastic) and #26 (West Marine's Teflon). Although many boat owners like these coatings because they're easy to apply and have a good initial shine, PS favors a good hard wax, which can be removed fairly easily in order to apply a new coating. (Some liquid plastics, we've learned, discolor and deteriorate in time and are difficult to remove.)
Next we evaluated beading, which was tested by spraying a fine mist on each circle. On most, the accumulated water simply ran off in small streams, with none remaining in place. However, six of our test specimens did very well. They included the aforementioned Poli Glow liquid plastic and West Marine’s Teflon, but neither was as good as the best paste wax.[IMGCAP(3)
]The other four—all paste waxes—were, starting with the best, the Collinite, Meguiar's Mirror Glaze, 3M's paste (which is called Ultra Performance) and West Marine's paste.
It's interesting to note that in the initial examination of the gloss, when the coatings were first applied, only five rated Excellent and all five were liquids. After 12 months' exposure, as indicated by both the ink protection and the beading test, no liquid was as good as the paste waxes. The conclusion has to be that the liquids lack legs.
Practical Sailor favors wax. And paste wax is best, primarily because it goes on thicker. Over time, wax discolors, like anything else, but can be removed with a good household cleaner like Fantastic. We're aware that paste wax is hard to apply and polish out, but preserving that precious gelcoat as long as possible makes it worth the effort that you'll expend. If done once a year in the northern climes—or every six months in the tropics—a wax like Collinite can keep gelcoat looking like new for a dozen or more years. We think that's time, energy, and money well spent.
Also With This Article
"Value Guide: Waxes"
• 3M, 877/366-2746, www.3m.com/US
• Boat Armor, 513/489-7600, www.evercoat.com
• BoatLife, 843/566-1225, www.boatlife.com
• Collinite, 315/732-2282, www.collinite.com
• Dolphinite, 978/356-9834, www.dolphinite.com
• Heller Glänz, 800/414-3466, www.hellerglanz.com
• Meguiar's, 800/347-5700, www.meguiars.com
• Poli Glow, 800/922-5013, www.myboatstore.com
• Seapower, 562/923-0838, www.seapowerproducts.com
• Star brite, 800/327-8583, www.starbrite.com
• Turtle Wax, 800/227-9291, www.turtlewax.com
• Trewax, 800/527-5722, www.trewax.com
• West Marine, 800/262-8464, www.westmarine.com