Clean Boater Program

Washing the Topside of Your Boat
Products used to clean boats often contain harmful ingredients, which are used out of habit rather than necessity. Often chlorine, phosphates and ammonia are used to wash decks and hulls of boats. These products can damage human and fish tissue. There are "green" alternatives to these and other harsh chemicals, that is, products that are less harmful to you or the environment. Baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice are far less harmful than bleaches, scouring powders, or detergents. Try these safer, non-toxic cleaning alternatives:


Traditional Product Try this Alternative
Bleach  Borax or hydrogen peroxide 
Detergent of Soap Non-toxic, biodegradable soap with elbow grease
Scouring Powders 
Baking soda 
Floor Cleaner 
One cup white vinegar in two gallons of water
Window Cleaner
One capful of vinegar in one-quart warm water 
General Cleaner 
Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, or lemon juice combined with natural enzymes 
Shower Cleaner
Wet surface, sprinkle on baking soda, rub surface with scouring cloth
Aluminum Cleaner 
Two tablespoons cream of tartar to one-quart hot water
Brass Cleaner 
Worcestershire sauce or paste of equal parts salt, vinegar and water
Copper Cleaner 
Lemon juice and salt
Chrome Cleaner 
Apple cider vinegar to clean and baby oil to polish
Fiberglass Stain 
Baking soda paste 
Drain Opener
Disassemble or use plumber's snake; don't use harmful
substances in a thru-hull drain; flush weekly with boiling
Mildew Remover 
Paste using equal parts lemon juice and salt, or vinegar
and salt
Wood Polish
Three parts olive oil to one part vinegar; almond or olive
oil (interior unvarnished wood only) 
Hand Cleaner Baby oil or margarine, then clean with soap and water
Tips for Washing the Topside of Your Boat
  • Purchase the least toxic product available to do the job.
  • When cleaning, try water and a little elbow grease first.
  • Look for the words "phosphate-free," "biodegradable," "environmentally friendly," or "green" on the product label.
  • Try not to use products that say "poison" or have "danger" warnings.
  • Request biodegradable and non-toxic boat maintenance products from your marina or marine supply store.
Content Last Updated on December 2019