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How to Restore the Shine to Your Boats Gelcoat

By Edited Nov 13, 2016 1 1

Remember how shiny your boat was when you first got it. Over time, the sun and marine environment can really do a number on your boats shine making it dull and chalky. With a little work you can restore the shine to the gelcoat on your fiberglass boat making the finish look almost new again. The original shine on a fiberglass boat is usually provided by a special resin called gelcoat. A properly maintained and regularly waxed gelcoat can retain its gloss for 15 to 20 years. Unfortunately, and I hate to admit that I also fall into this category, most pleasure boaters will wash and clean their boats after use but fail to polish and wax on a regular basis. Some manufactures recommend a monthly wax during the boating season and again right before winter storage. Here in Florida the boating season is year round so that means waxing every month. For this article, I will assume that your boat did not get that kind of attention and now needs some major TLC to restore it to that show room shine.

Things You Will Need

Electric buffer, Detergent, Bleach, Acetone, Wax/silicone remover, Polish, Rubbing Compound, Wax

Step 1

Boat Cleaning Kit
The first step is to clean the gelcoat thoroughly. Mix detergent and water and wash with a sponge. If you have mildew present, add bleach to the detergent and water. Fish blood or waterline scum may require using a concentrated fiberglass cleaner.

Step 2

The next step is to make sure the surface is free of oil and grease. Wipe the entire surface with a cloth soaked in acetone. Wear protective gloves during this step.

Step 3

3M Imperial Compound

Depending on how bad the fading a chalking is you may be able to skip this step and go to Step Four. However, you may end up doing Step Four twice if polishing alone does not restore the shine. Choose a rubbing compound made for fiberglass such as 3M's Imperial Compound (3M-06044). Remove all wax by cleaning the surface in one direction – not back and forth or in circles with cloths saturated with toluene or a de-wax solvent. Rub the compound in a circular motion until the surface turns glassy. An electric buffer can be used to apply the rubbing compound.

Step 4


The next step is to polish the finish. Polish is an abrasive like extremely fine sandpaper. Use a soft cloth to apply to small areas at a time rubbing in a circular motion until the surface becomes glassy. As in Step Three above, an electric buffer can be very useful for this step.

Step 5

3M Ultra Performance Paste Wax

After polishing, apply wax to the surface. Instructions vary from brand to brand but generally you apply with a soft cloth or pad in a circular motion. Let the wax dry to a haze and then buff away the excess. Again, an electric buffer is recommended for removing the excess wax.

With some work and the right materials, you can restore your boat to that original shine it had when you purchased it.

Tips & Warnings

A buffer with an orbital motion will leave fewer swirl marks.

Protective gloves and eyewear are recommended



Apr 1, 2010 8:58am
Great boat care information
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