Water Spot Removers
First, try vinegar and water. If that fails, go with Star brite or Meguiar's.
Most of us are finicky enough with our sailboats that we value having just the right tool for the job, but water spots? Do we really need specific products for removing these harmless blemishes?
Because of our skeptical nature, we did a bit of Internet research and found that there are actually quite a few people staying up late worrying about water spots. For those poor souls, it's nice to know that there are several products formulated specifically to remove those spots from boats. We tested five of them, along with a home remedy that we've heard works just as well as all the store-bought stuff.
PS ended up with cleaners from Star brite, Meguiar's, Ducky, Sea Power, and SeaSpots Gone. They break down, or solubilize the minerals left behind, and can be used on most surfaces, including fiberglass, metal, wood, and most painted surfaces. Because we'd heard that a simple solution of vinegar and water is also effective, we included that too.
We resolved to use an eyedropper to ensure that we'd have uniform size droplets for our spots, and we determined that testing on a dark surface would yield the most visible differences with these various products. The Little Harbor boat we used for this test is painted dark blue with Awlgrip. We dropped 180 beads of water (30 beads for each of the six products tested) on a horizontal surface and every drop left a spot.
Some of the product information pointed out that the longer you wait, the harder it becomes to remove water spots. So we performed the test twice, waiting three hours for one test and 24 hours for another.
All of the products, including the vinegar-and-water solution, completely removed the spots after three hours. But we did notice some differences in effectiveness after 24 hours. Overall, complete removal of the spots was harder to achieve, which supports the notion that the spots become more difficult as time passes. Faint rings remained on the surfaces of each product's test surface. These rings were hard to see unless you looked at them from only a couple of inches away. But they were there. The sections cleaned with Meguiar's and Star brite had the fewest rings—from three to six, and some of those were half rings. We saw more distinct rings—and more of them—on the sections cleaned with the other products. But the remnants did polish away.
Star brite told us that the effectiveness of the products might depend in part on the makeup of the water in a specific area. Mineral content in water varies from location to location. Because of this, it doesn't make much sense to buy any of these removers without first trying the vinegar and water (we used about 30% vinegar and 70% water). We'd step up and buy the Star brite and Meguiar's if faced with consistently tough spots. Of course, you'll want to re-apply wax to these areas because these products will take it off.
Also With This Article
"Value Guide: Water Spot Removers"
• Star brite, 800/327-8583, www.starbrite.com
• Meguiar's, 800/347-5700, www.meguiars.com
• Sea Power, 800/243-3272, www.seapowerproducts.com
• Ducky, 626/797-7226, www.duckyproducts.com
• SeaSpots Gone, 520/293-4825, www.descale-it.com