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aluminum boat cleaning

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  • aluminum boat cleaning

    Hey everyone I have an 1986 tracker tx 17 and the aluminum is looking pretty dull after years of fishing what is the best way to clean the hull

  • #2
    Re: aluminum boat cleaning

    try using a pressurewasher...if you dont have one, you can probably find a place near you that rents them for a reasonable price...


    • #3
      Re: aluminum boat cleaning

      Ya I tried that with a 3000 psi press. washer and grease lightning. didn't clean so well


      • #4
        Re: aluminum boat cleaning

        Originally posted by fishfarm View Post
        Hey everyone I have an 1986 tracker tx 17 and the aluminum is looking pretty dull after years of fishing what is the best way to clean the hull
        I wish I knew. So why am I replying? Good question.

        Actually, I see lots of aluminum bass boats and jon boats with a distinct dark ring at the water level. Not sure what you'd use to clean a hull that has had ages of this stain on it, but each time I've come home from the lake, there's a discolored ring around the hull. I give the boat a quick wash after every trip. Car wash soap doesn't take it off, even though it's a new stain. I tried a small spot of bleach. Didn't work. Tried Tilex, let it sit a minute or two, and then wipe it right off. The ring is gone. A new stain of course, not sure how it would work on older stains.


        • #5
          Re: aluminum boat cleaning

          Thank you for starting the thread. I have an almost identical boat except mine is a '79 and in many pieces. I have ripped all the wooden floors out and am replacing them with 10 ga al.

          The hull on my boat is as you described yours. I have read much discussion in other forums on cleaning al boats without a good answer. I have been experimenting on mine. As you found out, forget a pressure washer. I even tried a steam cleaner without any success. In my opinion, it we will have to use a mechanical polish to remove the stains and oxidation. I have tried wet sanding and also al polish with a high speed buffer. The combination of both will work but it is going to take some time either way you go about it.

          I have put my Tracker on the back burner for another boat project. I will hopefully start back on it in another month when I am not fishing or working.

          I feel it will take some non embedding abrasive but I am not sure I have found the right one yet. I have polished al on a stationary buffer to a very high polish but it would not be practical on a boat. An area I have not looked is what is used for polishing unpainted aircraft. There are a lot of shiny airplanes and I have no idea what is used to keep them that way. If you find out, please let me know.

          Thanks again and keep us posted.



          • #6
            Re: aluminum boat cleaning

            cascade with dawn dishwasher soap. clean them pretty well, the polish them up. the aluninum has oxidized. google polishing aluminum. lots of products.
            FLORIDA GATORS
            TEBOW Country

            Please, NO PM's (Private Messages) regarding boat/engine problems. they will not be answered.
            That is what these forums are for. Post your questions, in the appropriate Forum.


            • #7
              Re: aluminum boat cleaning

              Thanks TD. Have you used any particular product with success?



              • #8
                Re: aluminum boat cleaning

                I haven't tried it on my aluminum boat yet because I'm not sure if I'm going to paint it, but Mother's aluminum polish has worked well in the past. It will restore the aluminum wheels on my jeep to a perfect finish after bathing in the midwest road salt all winter. Acid based aluminum wheel cleaner is also good for removing the initial layer of oxidation. I have no particular brand of preference there.
                1978 Sea Nymph Restoration - Share A Project


                • #9
                  Re: aluminum boat cleaning

                  I have tried a number of boat and auto products and haven't found anything that is not labor intesive. I use "Bar Keepers Friend" and a wet sponge. With some effort it will remove stains and polish the finish. After a thourough rinse and it drys, I apply any good auto wax made with carnuba. It shines great for a couple of trips but if the water is full of algae, the "water line stain" returns.

                  The product also brightens my galvanized trailer with almost no scrubbing.

                  I use Blue Coral silver polish for the highly polished aluminum (top rails on my Tracker). They shine like mirrors but stain easily.

                  The more often you clean the boat as described, the easier it is to maintain("easier" being relative).

                  If anyone has a better, but non-toxic method, I'm listening. I don't want to have to be fully clothed, with protective eyewear and rubber gloves!!!


                  • #10
                    Re: aluminum boat cleaning

                    Keep in mind that most bare aluminum boat hulls are factory anodized and using any abrasive polish will remove that protective layer thus requiring constant maintenance after that point.
                    Most painted hulls are powder coated. Powder coated aluminum can withstand a lot more than bare aluminum. On several of mine, I used automotive wheel cleaners for painted rims, it won't hurt paint yet it's strong enough to cut cedar water stains. The only other alternative is elbow grease of polishing compound and often a long neglected finish will be stained throughout.

                    Some wheel cleaners are semi safe on anodized aluminum, but I'd be cautious and not let it sit and soak for long.
                    I have also had some luck using several bathroom type cleaners, but read the warnings, some will eat aluminum. CLR and likes do wonders on water stains but they do so with an acid base. Several brands now make a metal only version that is safe for aluminum and other metals. I've used CLR Metal on several boats with good results.
                    We have what we call cedar water here, it leaves a brown stain anywhere the hull sits in the water. This can be anything from a minor ring at the water line to the whole bottom being stained rusty brown after a week in the water. Only the CLR type of products seem to remove these stains.
                    You could also ask a local car detailer what is available in your area. They may have something that will work but test on a small area or on a junk piece of aluminum first.


                    • #11
                      Re: aluminum boat cleaning

                      By far and away, Mothers Mag and Aluminum polish... It gave us a mirror shine on our 1957 Starcraft!



                      • #12
                        Re: aluminum boat cleaning

                        Any decent blade cleaner will do a good job cleaning and brightening aluminum.
                        The caveat of course is that like anything that cleans off the protective oxidised layer this is a reductive process and you are losing aluminum.

                        Also, the big increase in pontoons has created an increased interest in keeping the aluminum shiny....try here:

                        You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

                        I don't belong to an organized political party. I'm a Democrat. (Will Rogers)


                        • #13
                          Re: aluminum boat cleaning

                          mr. clean erasers are great at taking the black marks off


                          • #14
                            Re: aluminum boat cleaning

                            Cleaning Aluminum boat hulls
                            This should only be done outdoors!

                            1st step is to power wash the hull, if you don’t have a washer go to a car wash, this can save you some scrubbing.

                            When Grumman was making aluminum canoes and boats they dipped the metal into a vat of phosphoric acid with an electrical charge applied the resulting product had a bluish tinge to it. This is an oxide on the surface that provides a long lasting protection and leaves a smooth hull. Most manufacturers don’t do this any more, when I bought my Bass Tracker I don’t believe it had anymore than a wax applied to the aluminum. If you decide to act preemptively you will have to remove any wax or oils on the hull before using a conversion coating. Both Navel Jelly and chromate are conversion coatings. If using a chromate conversion coating you must prep the hull with hydrofluoric acid or a product sold as a pre-wash for chromate conversion coatings.

                            Cleaning with Navel Jelly:

                            Navel Jelly is a good product for cleaning the hull, however it is slow working and takes a lot of scrubbing but does a good job and if done correctly leaves a protective film on the hull. It will have a slight bluish tinge. Its active ingredient is Phosphoric acid, if you buy the acid alone it will work quicker and give some protection also but not as good as if an electrical charge was applied. The key to getting a protective film is the length of time the chemical is on the hull, on a humid day it will stay wet longer with out being refreshed.
                            Use Navel Jelly straight from the bottle. Keep dipping the pad in the gel, remember each time you go over an area it brings fresh acid to it and it’s the acid that does the work. Do an area about 2’x2 ‘ and don’t let it dry before rinsing. If the hull is badly stained you may have to repeat the process more than once. You do not have to apply a protective coating if you use Navel Jelly and it is done properly.

                            Hydrochloric acid (Muratic acid) can also be used but does not work all that fast and leaves no protective coating, and produces noxious fumes.

                            Cleaning with Hydrofluoric acid:

                            Hydrofluoric acid can also be used; it is the fastest of all the cleaners and the easiest to use but also the most dangerous. It also produces noxious fumes. It will turn the hull a silvery white. It will also etch glass and stainless steel but is harmless to plastic and most paints used on boats. Test a small area if there is any question. Be very careful using this product and wear protective clothing.

                            Hydrofluoric acid can be purchased at some air conditioning supply stores under the brand name “Con-Coil” or “CSF” there are also other brands that work just as good, read the label the see if it contains hydrofluoric acid. There are some other aluminum cleaning products that do not contain hydrofluoric acid available at AC supply stores but I have not tested them. I have been told that they work just as well but not as fast.

                            This is a very strong acid and should only be used with protective clothing, rubber gloves and a face shield. It MUST be thoroughly rinsed off!! I recommend a power washer for rinsing, one of the electric low pressure ones (1700 psi.) that sell for about $100.00 will work just fine. When you think you have rinsed it enough do it again. I used a sponge mop with a scrubby pad on the back. With a good pair of rubber gloves on dip the mop in a 50/50 water/acid solution and scrub lightly, keep going over the same area until it is clean. Rinse immediately, do not let it dry! I have an 18” boat and it took less than ½ gal of acid to clean it. If you use this method you will need to apply something to protect the hull.

                            A word about hydrofluoric Acid

                            If left to dry and or not rinsed off thoroughly over time hydrofluoric acid causes a molecular change in the aluminum it will turn brittle to the point that it will crumble and fall apart at even a light touch.

                            Hull protection:
                            One of the best ways to protect aluminum is with a chromate conversion coating and it lasts for years. Like the navel jelly it forms a protective oxide on the hull and turns it a golden brown color. The chromate is very poisonous as it comes from the bottle but as it combines with the aluminum it is neutralized. Do not dispose of by pouring down a drain or on the ground. It is best to apply the chromate solution to the hull while it is still wet from rinsing the acid off. It helps to have two people and be careful not to apply acid over the area where the chromate conversion coating has been applied, as it will remove the coating. You can leave a 4” band between what is cleaned and what you are applying the chromate to. A 4” foam paint roller works well, do not saturate the roller or apply pressure to the point it drips, go over the area repeatedly until the aluminum is a golden brown color.
                            Chromate conversion coatings are getting harder to find because of their toxicity. I purchased some from Chief Aircraft, they have two locations one in Fl. and one in Or. It is listed as (Alodine Coating Chemical for Aluminum 1Qt) 1 qt. will cover up to 200 sq ft under ideal conditions. They will ship it to you using UPS. As of Jan 09’ it cost about $25.00 a quart, about $10.00 shipping from Fl. To Va. And there is a $20.00 hazardous material charge for UPS. It takes about 1 quart to coat my 18’ boat. Follow the instructions on the bottle. Allow to cure for 24 hours before using the boat.

                            I have never tried it but I see no reason that after cleaning the hull with hydrofluoric acid you could not apply Navel Jelly to get a protective coating. The cleaning is the hard part with Navel Jelly and the acid does that very nicely. You would have to apply repeatedly to get a good protective coating but at least you would not have to scrub to get to oxide off.

                            If you have any corrosion problems around stainless steel screws or fittings remove the fitting and clean off as much of the corrosion with sand paper as possible. Clean the last of it out of the metal pores with hydrofluoric acid. Coat aluminum hull and screws with chromate conversion and if the area was painted, paint to match. Assemble using Tef-gel on the screws and nylon washers as spacers between any stainless fittings and the hull.

                            Link to Chief Aircraft:

                            Link to Tef-gel

                            These products are available at other places so you may want to do a search, you might find a better deal. I hope this is of help to anyone trying to control corrosion. I have included a photo of my hull after it was partly cleaned with hydrofluoric acid this area took about 20 min to clean.
                            If any of you try one of these processes please leave a note on here telling everyone how it worked for you, if you had any problems, and what they were and what you did to overcome them.


                            • #15
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                              Re: aluminum boat cleaning

                              For a ring, or stain from lake water...before ordering anything, I would try using a baking soda paste...it works on coffee stains in coffee pots, mugs etc...slight abrasive...cheap. It may not work, but if it does..you could save a lot of money. I used it on my truck when some bozo got a black streak on my truck...it took it off, and did not ruin the paint.