PS Advisor September 2009 Issue

PS Advisor: The Curse of the Pox

Cleaning and sealing may revive anodized aluminum.

Perhaps it’s a result of leaving my boat in the California sun and polluted air for half a year without a washdown due to being away, but my 29-year-old CS36 has suddenly developed a bad case of the pox on every piece of aluminum hardware on

Terry Rugg
Photo courtesy of Terry Rugg

Reader Terry Rugg, left, gave up on the stubborn zippers aboard his Islander 36 and turned to the Islander Owners Association for help. He credits Corky Stewart for helping him find out how to replace the zippers:
the deck. Any suggestions for dealing with it?


Luther Abel,
Indulgence, CS36
Alameda, Calif.


While regular washdowns and waxing/sealing the aluminum twice a year will help prevent the dreaded pox, reviving stricken aluminum hardware is not as easy because the anodized coating has been compromised.

Boat maintenance master Don Casey, on the BoatUS website (, suggests cleaning the surface using a mild abrasive like Bar Keeper’s Friend


Sticky Zipper

I recently purchased an Islander 36. The cabin overhead is a sort of PVC material with a series of nylon zippers to give access to the underside of the deck. Said zippers are, well, completely zipped. I can’t budge them; I’ve tried the proprietary Teflon-based zip lubes; the various low-friction general lubricants like Sailcote; and finally the old all-systems stand by, WD-40. The zippers are still stuck fast. Do you have any ideas, suggestions or remedies?


Terry Rugg,
Tatenda, Islander 36
San Diego, Calif.


Most of us attack stuck or corroded zippers with force, but that is a bad idea. Usually, the zipper pull can be coaxed loose, or at least broken off and the zipper teeth will remain serviceable. Another bad idea is using WD-40, or any petroleum-based product, on plastic zippers.

Our suggested course of action would be to try soaking the offending zipper (slide and teeth) with vinegar. This cheap remedy won’t harm the fabric. When you cannot soak it (as in this case), wipe it down with a rag soaked in vinegar, and use a toothbrush to remove any corrosion. If that fails, spray the zipper with a silicone spray. Be careful with overspray though; surfaces to be painted or varnished can be contaminated and adhesion will suffer.

Then, attach a cord to the zipper slide and try to coax it in the direction of closing the zipper. If this too fails, then you’ll need to carefully break the zipper slide in half and remove it, then replace it. Once the zipper is repaired (and with any new zippers), be sure to use a zipper protectant like Snap-Stick (

Comments (0)

Be the first to comment on this post using the section below.

New to Practical Sailor?
Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In