Boat Cleaning and Waxing Supplies

With the boating season upon us, boaters throughout the country are going through that springtime ritual of spiffing up their rigs for the season.  But cleaning your boat is not just about looking nice.  It is also about taking steps to protect your boat from the harsh elements ahead.

If you are getting ready to dive into this chore, you have come to the right place.  In this article, I identify the best places to buy the common boat cleaning supplies and waxes that you will need.

I did a similar analysis last Fall on the best places to buy engine maintenance supplies to winterize your boat.  However, some of the key merchants featured in that article such as Leaders RPM and Boats.net do not carry some of the more ordinary items such as cleaners and waxes.  Therefore, the list of online merchants compared in this article is slightly different.

Please note that I have included links to some of the products referenced in this article for your convenience.  If you click on a link and buy something, BoaterInput will receive a small commission to help defray some of the cost to maintain this site. 

Process

In order to compare prices across merchants, I first had to develop a list of products that are relevant across different types of boaters.  The types of cleaning and waxing products used by pontoon boat owners, for example, differs from that of offshore anglers.  Therefore, I was mindful of each as I went about developing my list.

Next, I chose representative products across three product categories: Hull Cleaning Supplies, Waxes and Vinyl care.  Within each category, I selected quality products based on one or more of the following criteria: 1) they performed well in prior BoaterInput surveys with other boaters; 2) I have personally used the products and have had a positive experience; or 3) I have read good things about the products from online boater forums or Amazon.com reviews.  If you are wondering what to use to clean your boat, the list of items provided is a great place to start.

The final step was simply to shop for the items and record the current prices.  It is important to note that the prices were captured as of April 10, 2024.  However, prices do fluctuate over time – especially for merchants such as Amazon or Walmart – and so the prices you see might differ slightly.

The Products

The following is a list of the items selected for the various cleaning tasks along with a brief explanation for why each item was chosen.

Hull Cleaning Products

Star brite Boat Wash. If you are planning on waxing your boat, then regular Dawn dish soap (or soap from a car wash) is fine to use.  However, if you already have a base of wax down that you don’t want to strip off, then be sure to use a “Boat Wash” instead.  Besides the fact that it won’t remove the existing wax, it is also phosphate-free (as is Dawn) and so it is environmentally friendly.  I can’t say whether one boat wash is better than another but do know that this is a very popular item that gets excellent reviews on Amazon.

STAR BRITE Concentrated Boat Wash - Biodegradable, Phosphate-Free, Heavy-Duty Boat Soap for All Marine Surfaces - 16 Ounce (080416)

Star brite Instant Hull Cleaner. My fishing boat tends to get a scum build-up along the waterline after extensive use – especially in the early Spring when fishing in the dirtier, backwater areas.  This can be difficult to remove with just a pressure washer and brush alone.  I’ve seen demos of this product and how well it works (plus my neighbor, Mark, raves about it) and so have decided to give it a try.  You can get it in a liquid or spray gel formula.  Though it was a little more money, I chose the latter figuring it would be easier to apply and would be less likely to inhale in gel form (these types of products can be fairly caustic).  Like many Star brite products, it gets very good reviews on Amazon.

STAR BRITE Instant Hull Cleaner - 32 Oz Gel Spray - Easily Remove Stains, Scum Lines & Grime on Boat Hulls, Fiberglass, Plastic & Painted Surfaces - Easy to Use Formula (096132)

Mary Kate On & Off Hull & Bottom Cleaner. If your hull is very dirty or has considerable marine growth (such as in a saltwater environment), then you are going to need a stronger product than the one listed above. The Mary Kate On & Off Hull and Bottom Cleaner will get the job done according to other boaters in a previous BoaterInput survey.

MaryKate On & Off Hull & Bottom Cleaner, 32 Fl Oz, for Use On Fiberglass, Removes Tough Waterline, Algae, and Barnacle Stains

Star brite Aluminum Cleaner/Restorer. If you have a pontoon or aluminum fishing boat with unpainted surfaces that you would like to revive, then this product should do the trick.  Of course, there are other products designed to do the same thing but this one was a safe choice given the thousands of very favorable reviews on Amazon.

STAR BRITE Ultimate Aluminum Cleaner & Restorer - Aluminum Boat Cleaner - Perfect for Pontoon Boats, Jon Boats & Canoes 64 OZ With Sprayer (087764)

Waxes

Collinite 885 Fleetwax. If you are looking for a superior, high-gloss, shine, then look no further than Collinite.  Made with carnauba, this product received high marks in my previous study on the best boat waxes.  It is also listed as Amazon’s choice for “Marine Wax”.

Collinite 885 Fleetwax Paste

Meguiar’s Flagship Marine Wax. Unlike Collinite, this “wax” is actually a polymer.  It might not get as glossy of a shine but should last considerably longer on your boat (because it bonds to the surface better).  This was also a popular choice among boaters in my previous survey of boat waxes.

Meguiar's M6332 Flagship Premium Marine Wax - Long-Lasting & Durable Protection for Your Boat or RV, Give the Gift of Protection & Shine to Dad This Father's Day - 32 Oz

Star brite Premium Marine Polish. This is simply an alternative to the Meguiar’s and is what I have used on my boat with good success.  Plus, it is also a polymer and should last 2-3X that of a regular wax which is important to me.  According to the company website, this can be used on fiberglass, metal and painted surfaces.

STAR BRITE Premium Marine Polish - Maximum UV Protection & High Gloss Finish - UV Inhibitors Stop Fading, Chalking & Oxidation While Repelling Water, Stains & Marine Deposits - 32 Ounce (085732)

Star brite Ultimate Aluminum Polish. The Star brite Aluminum Cleaner/Restorer listed earlier is designed to get your (unpainted) aluminum boat looking nice again. The Star brite Aluminum Polish (also for unpainted aluminum surfaces)  is intended to keep it looking that way and so it is a “last step” product.

STAR BRITE Ultimate Aluminum Polish - Add a Deep Protective Shine, Remove Light Oxidation & Preserve Restored Finish - Marine Grade for Pontoons, Jon Boats & Canoes - 16 OZ (087616)

Lucas Slick Mist Marine Spray Wax. This was another popular product that received high marks in my previous boat wax survey.  This does not offer the protection of a regular wax but is a good product to use in between treatments. (It should be noted that the price comparison was based on the “marine” spray wax version.  It is not evident if the regular (automotive) version is any different but it costs slightly less.)

Lucas Oil 10980 Slick Mist Marine Speed Wax, 24 Oz

Vinyl Care

Star brite Professional Grade Mold & Mildew Stain Remover.  If you keep your boat covered for a period of time, there is a good chance that mold and mildew will eventually form.  I noticed this on my pleasure boat after uncovering it this year.  I decided to give this product a try based on the excellent reviews on Amazon.  So far, I haven’t been disappointed.

STAR BRITE Professional Grade Mold & Mildew Stain Remover - 32 OZ (120032)

303 Marine Aerospace Protectant.  Your upholstery takes a beating during the summer from UV rays. After a while, your vinyl may fade and crack.  I learned about 303 Marine Aerospace Protectant from other boaters in my previous survey of the best cleaning products.  It will guard against harmful UV rays and will keep your upholstery looking nice and supple.  And, as an added bonus, it will help deter staining.

303 Products Marine Aerospace Protectant – UV Protection – Repels Dust, Dirt, & Staining – Smooth Matte Finish – Restores Like-New Appearance – 32 Fl. Oz. (30306)

Other

Flitz. If you have a lot of chrome on your boat, then you might need something to treat rust or tarnishing.  According to boaters in my previous boater study, Flitz is the product to get.  Not only does it make your chrome shiny again but it also adds a protective coating to keep it looking that way.

Multi Purpose Polisher, Size 7.6 oz.

Price Comparison

The table below is a breakdown of prices by online merchant as of April 10, 2024.  A checklist is provided to denote the hull types that are suitable for each product (Fiberglass, Aluminum (painted) and Aluminum (unpainted).  Note that some items are not carried by every merchant.  The items shaded in green indicate the merchant(s) with the lowest price for a particular item.  Items shaded in red denote the highest prices.

At the bottom of the table, I list the “Number of Items Carried” by online retailer followed by the “Number – Best Price” for each.  For example, Amazon.com carried all 13 items and had the lowest price for 6 of the items.

Of the nine merchants evaluated, MarinePartsSource (3 of 6), Amazon (6 of 13) and Defender (3 of 7) had the highest proportion of “best price” items based on the number of items carried.

(Click on the table below to get an expanded view)

Shipping & Return Policies

In addition to examining prices, it is important to also consider the shipping policy because a small savings in the purchase price could easily be offset by high shipping costs.

This is where the mega-merchants – Amazon.com and Walmart.com have an advantage.  Their threshold for free shipping is lower than the others ($35 for eligible products), plus you can get free shipping without a minimum purchase with either an Amazon Prime or Walmart+ annual membership.

Bass Pro Shops has the next lowest threshold at $50.  However, they didn’t carry many of these standard supplies (at least not online).  And, though their prices were good, they were never the lowest.

Most of the rest of the online retailers required a purchase of around $100+ to qualify for free shipping.  The one notable exception was PartsVu which charges a $19.99 flat rate on most orders.

(Click on the table below to get an expanded view)

Conclusions

When it comes to buying general boating supplies like cleaners and waxes, Amazon.com is tough to beat.  They have a wide selection and the lowest prices on many of the items.   Defender and MarinePartsSource are also good choices, but they simply did not have the breadth of selection.  Plus, their shipping policies are not as attractive and so you would need to spend at least $100 to qualify for free shipping.

The ”brick and mortar” retailer West Marine didn’t fare well in my comparison (especially now that their “Best Prices of the Season” sale is over).  I suspect they are handicapped by maintaining the same prices in-store vs. online although having a physical retail presence does add to the cost of their operation (which is reflected in higher prices).  However, West Marine, along with Walmart, are still viable options if you have a location near you and need something in a hurry.  Also, the Walmart physical stores might have better prices than what they are offering online from their “Marketplace” partners who typically are not as competitive as those who sell through Amazon.com.

Finally, one word of caution when shopping at online retailers (with the exception of Amazon and Walmart.com) – the search functions on their websites are sometimes not very good.  Many times, I had assumed a merchant didn’t carry a particular item because I could not find it via the search function only to locate it later after meticulously scrolling through their online product inventory.  If you cannot locate an item via their search function, I highly recommend you navigate through the site’s menu/categories before giving up.

Do you have a particular online merchant that you like for boating supplies?  Please let me know in the comments section below and I might include them in my next price comparison.

Jerry Mona - BoaterInput

About the author

Jerry Mona is an avid boater and angler and long-time boating industry insider. With over three decades of experience, he is often considered to be the leading research expert with boaters and has helped numerous manufacturers and trade associations to understand the needs, wants, attitudes and behaviors of boaters. He now shares many of his insights about boats and boaters for free on his BoaterInput.com website.

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