Is it OK to Pressure Wash a Boat?
Many boaters find themselves wondering if it is OK to pressure wash their boat. The answer is yes, if done correctly. In this article we'll take a look at some of the things to consider when using a pressure washer on your boat and why you should be using one.
Rules to Follow When Pressure Washing Your Boat
While pressure washers are an incredibly effective way to clean surfaces and make short work of many cleaning issues around the home, some care should be taken when using one aboard your boat. The biggest danger when it comes to pressure washing is using too high a water pressure and potentially damaging your boat's deck or other surfaces like gelcoat and powder coating on metal.
Pressure washers are sold based on their output water pressure in pounds per square inch (PSI). In general most models available for home use range from around 1500 PSI to 3000 PSI. For use aboard your boat an electric model in the 1500-2000 PSI range is best. If you happen to already have a more powerful pressure washer, there is usually a throttle on it which you can adjust to your desired output pressure.
Why use a lower PSI? High powered pressure washers and boats are a dangerous combination in inexperienced hands. A high powered pressure washer, over 2500 PSI, has the ability to pressure wash off portions of your deck's nonskid surface. There is also the potential to gouge gelcoat or strip powder coating on pipework. Used at too close a range from the tip of the pressure washer to the surface this damage is a possibility even with lower PSI pressure washers. Below are some of the rules of thumb we have developed to make cleaning your boat with a pressure washer easy and safe.
- Use a pressure washer rated for no more than 2500 PSI
- Keep the tip of the pressure washer at least 8 inches away from the surface you are washing
- Avoid pressure washing rubber gaskets on hatches and other delicate material
- Make sure the water source you are using for your pressure wash is providing clean and reliable water. Your vessel's fresh water pump likely won't do
Why You Should Use a Pressure Washer on Your Boat
Many boaters love being on the water and enjoying their boat but spending hours cleaning up after every trip is a lot less enjoyable. A pressure washer dedicated for use on my boat is the single best boat cleaning purchase I have made. I have recommended pressure washers to just about everyone I know with a boat and many have followed my suggestion and been extremely happy with their purchase.
A pressure washer almost completely eliminates the need for a deck brush and scrubbing. After a day on the boat in salt water it is imperative that you remove as much salt spray as possible. Leaving salt on your boat, especially on metal surfaces, will lead to rust and corrosion. Additionally dirt and grime from the day is easily washed away. A pressure washer took my average day's clean up routine from roughly an hour to around 20 minutes. A quick coat of soap applied with the foaming attachment on the pressure washer and then pressure wash after it soaks for a few minutes. Voila! the boat is clean. While there might be a few areas you need to touch up with a brush still, the majority of the deck is clean.
How Much Does it Cost to Pressure Wash a Boat?
Whether you are a boat owner or offer boat cleaning services to boaters, a pressure wash after a trip is an affordable way to keep your boat looking great. Earlier we stressed the importance of not using too powerful of a pressure washer, which means that the more expensive models designed for heavy home use and commercial work are not necessary for boaters. Rather an inexpensive electric model in the 1500 to 2000 PSI range is perfect and can be found at many retail stores for around $100.
If you are hiring someone to pressure wash your boat, consider that the pressure washer is a labor saving device and they will be able to charge less while still offering great results. Boat cleaning prices usually run by the foot with rates in the $3 per foot range being average although dirtier or more complex jobs will have a higher price.
Choosing the Right Pressure Washer
With so many pressure washer options available it may seem difficult to choose. I recommend narrowing down your search to electric pressure washers in the 1500 to 2000 PSI range. This range is affordable enough that you can purchase one as a dedicated pressure washer for your boat.
There are a few attachments you might also consider purchasing. A foaming attachment for your pressure washer that disperses an environmentally friendly soap is a great option. This allows you to soap the deck during your boat's cleaning and then let it soak for a few minutes before washing it down with the pressure washer. A surface cleaner attachment can also be useful if you have a lot of deck area.
Be sure to leave a comment with any additional questions or tips!