Does a trip to the marine store for a cleaner or polish leave your head spinning courtesy of the miles and miles of products available? There are so many to choose from, it’s hard to know what works the best, lasts longest, requires the least effort to use, and won’t break the bank.
To help you navigate the maintenance aisles and to save you from unnecessary swabbing, PS editors have painstakingly tested product after product to find the best of what’s out there. We’ve come up with a short list of products the “must haves” of the “do I have to’s” that were proven effective during this year’s maintenance tests. Consider this your maintenance checklist. Cut it out, and take it to your local marine store, or mail it to Santa as your 2006 wish list.
Star brite Rust Stain Remover. Stanchions, bow rollers, cleats, pad eyes: What do these things often have in common? Rust. The best way to remove it? Muriatic acid. However, we don’t recommend using it unless you want to risk damaging your gelcoat while you’re at it. In our rust stain remover test (May 2006), Star brite’s Rust Stain Remover ($12.50/oz., http://www.west-marine.com/) cleaned our test stains nearly as well as the muriatic acid without hurting the gelcoat and it beat out the other eight test products for Best Choice honors. We also recommend FSR’s Fiberglass Stain Remover and Power One Ship N Shore.
Nautical Ease Black Streak Remover. The black streaks we’re talking about here aren’t those left by a rubrail-gelcoat collision. These are much more tenacious and require more elbow grease to get gone. They can be found below scuppers, windows, and stanchions; they pop up when pollutants in rainwater bond to the boat’s surface. We tested 11 products that claim to vanish the streaks (May 2006). After a few rounds of testing, Nautical Ease’s remover ($7.59/oz., http://www.nautica-lease.com/) came out on top, leaving the once-stained gelcoat streak-free and shiny. It’s also marketed as a non-skid cleaner and costs less than the other test products. We also recommend the Heller Glanz, West Marine, Spray Nine, and Aurora black streak cleaners.
Star brite’s Super Orange Bilge Cleaner. PS tested 15 emulsifying bilge cleaners (March 2006). In one part of the test, the cleaners faced a witch’s brew of motor oil, gasoline, and water. The second phase required the cleaners to dissolve a bead of axle grease. The top cleaner was Star brite’s Super Orange ($11/32 oz., http://www.westmarine.com/), a thick liquid that dissolved the grease in just more than a week. If you prefer enviro-friendly products, check out Clean Water Solutions Microbial Powder.
The Miracle Cloth. We tested 16 metal cleaners running the gamut of consistency from liquids and sprays to pastes and wadding on a battered section of a test boat’s bow-rail (June 2006). The most effective cleaners were the Flitz Metal Polish and The Miracle Cloth. Testers pre-ferred The Miracle Cloth ($7, http://www.westmarine.com/), however, because it is less expensive, fast, and reus-able, and it is not messy. And it is easily stowed without adding to the hoard of chemicals onboard. Testers also recommend Turtle Wax Chrome Polish and Rust Remover (the Bud-get Buy pick) and Noxon 7 Metal Polish. Most of the cleaners tested also claim to protect the metal from further rust or corrosion, but don’t expect any miracles. Our long-term testing indicates regularly polishing the stainless is required to keep the stains at bay.
Woody Wax by Tower Plus 2000. Non-skid wax: It’s not the oxymoron one would expect it to be. There are products out there that can get that hard-to-clean, hard-to-keep clean non-skid shiny without making it break-your-neck slippery. Woody Wax ($29/16 oz., http://www.woody-wax.com/) easily outshined the two other test products (October 2006). It’s easy to apply, left a nice shine, protected the deck from stains, and scored an Excellent for Grippiness. But it is expensive. If it’s too pricey for you, check out Star brite’s Non-skid Deck Cleaner.
3M Sandblaster Sanding Pad. In recent years, regular old sandpaper has taken a backseat to more modern alternatives for many hand-abrading projects. Newer woven pads and pads with synthetic sandpaper are hardy, don’t shed grit, and withstand being stored aboard better than plain sandpaper. The pads come in many shapes, sizes, and grits, so we tapped a small group of these and tested them on varnished luan and teak-and-holly veneer (July 2006). Of the eight products tested, the 3M Sandblaster pads (180, 100, and 60 grit; series 20916, 20917, and 20918) were the standouts. The 60-grit was the all-around favorite, and the 180-grit wet/dry sandpaper was a close second on the varnish. The thin sponges ($1-$5/pad, local hardware store) have synthetic paper on the flip side. They can be loaded up and rinsed many times without losing effectiveness.
Bottom Paint: Pettit Hydrocoat and Interlux Fiberglass Bottomkote Aqua. After one year in the drink, the 52 anti-fouling paints being tested were pulled for review (October 2006). With those results, testers tapped Pettit’s Hydrocoat ($95/gal., http://www.boatersland.com/) as our top pick for an ablative/copolymer paint and Interlux’s Bottomkote Aqua ($70/gal., http://www.shipstore.com/) as the best hard paint. Testers also recommend ablatives Flexdel Aquagard, Interlux’s Micron 66 and Micron Optima, Pettit’s West Marine CPP, and Monterey by Sea-Hawk. Recommended hard paints are Epoxycop and VC Offshore by Interlux and Pettit’s Vivid and West Marine Bottomshield.Franmar Soy Strip. There are many boat projects that can be clumped in the “miserable duty” category, but at the top of that list is stripping anti-fouling paint off the hull inch by inch, layer by toxic layer. In a quest to find a product that makes this torture less painful, we tested nine paint strippers (November 2006). The perennial favorite, Peel Away, took a backseat this year to a soybean-based product that claims to be a “natural solution” for removing anti-fouling paints, urethanes, and enamels. In our test, the Franmar Soy Strip ($74/gal., http://www.franmar.com/) worked best and fastest, removing 90 percent of a test area in 30 minutes and 95 percent after six hours. It was easy to apply with a brush or sprayer, and it doesn’t have that bore-a-hole-through-your-septum odor of other products.
INTERFLUX YACHT FINISHES
WOODY WAX, TOWER PLUS 2000