How to Wax a Boat. 10 Step Waxing Guide

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A beautiful boat doesn’t remain beautiful without the owner’s effort. Owning a boat is all about maintenance and pride, and one way to keep your boat looking spectacular is to regularly wax the boat. Waxing the boat is essential in protecting the gel coat surface, and keeping the boat sparkling.

Boats are always exposed to water, frequently saltwater, which can be harsh on the hull. Additionally, the boat is also exposed to the sun which is also harsh on the boat’s surface. A properly waxed boat has a layer of protection against the natural elements, it will be protected and enhanced. On the other hand, a poorly waxed boat will look shabby, and the gel coat layer can get damaged.

In this article, we’ll go over the basics of how to wax a boat. It’s time to make it shine!

how to wax a boat


Reasons To Wax Your Boat

Through much of their lives, boats are exposed to harsh conditions. It may seem that the boat can withstand the water and sun. But over time the gel coat on the boat oxidizes if a protective coating of wax isn’t applied to it.

When the gel coat is oxidized, it may not show obvious signs that it has already oxidized until its too late and difficult to remove. Ugh.

This is due to the action of electrons and oxygen on the surface of the boat. In the presence of a layer of wax, this reaction is prevented to happen on the surface of the boat where rust can form.

Applying a coat of wax on your boat won’t last forever, of course. It will wear off over time. Consequently, it’s important to wax your boat regularly, just like your car.

Apart from protecting the boat surface from rusting, a coat of wax also makes it easier to clean. Removing stains like fish blood or other gunk is easier with a wax coat. It helps the dirt easily slide off and prevents it from sticking to the boat’s surface.

Lastly, waxing your boat also gives you an opportunity to look closely at your boat. As you wax, you will be able to see if there are cracks or other damage that can worsen over time. Catching these early on can save you on cost too.

How To Wax A Boat

Due to the harsh conditions most boats are exposed to, the boat can start to look dull or be discolored. Waxing is a simple process that’s quite similar to waxing and buffing a car. Different people have different styles and preferences on how to do that. If it’s your first time and you don’t have any clue on what to do, just follow these steps:

1. Buy A High-Quality Wax Of Your Choice

There are many wax products that are specially designed for boats. We have reviewed the best boat waxes here, and any on that list is an excellent choice. We’re big fans of BABE’s BB7001 Boat Bright Spray.

Babe's Boat Bright, Gallon
  • Enhances the finish of your boat by applying a...
  • Formulated to create a water repellant barrier on...
  • UV protectant helps to protect your boat from...
  • No pre-washing necessary, simply spray a light...
  • Use on gelcoat, metal, glass or vinyl surfaces

Many waxes will work on both boats and cars, such as Boat Bling Quickie Sauce. Some people have no problem using their car wax for their boats, but others prefer getting the ones specifically for boats. It really is a personal preference.

2. Rinse Your Boat

Rinse the boat with plain water with your hose at low pressure. This will simply remove any dirt and grime that is sitting on the surface of your boat. It can also help remove salt on the surface that may have already dried.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t remove all the dirt. This step is just meant to loosen the buildup.

3. Inspect For Any Cracks

If you find any cracks, chips or gouges in the hull, this is the time to fix them. There are different gel coat repair products like the MagicEzy 9 Second Chip Fix that you can use easily use to repair the surface of your boat.

Repair kits are usually easy to use and quick to cure so you can proceed to the next step without waiting too long for it to set.

4. Remove Old Wax (optional)

Although wax protects the boat, it can also cause a build-up over the season. This is why some boat owners first remove the old wax layers. This can be done once before the season begins.

Removing the wax also helps make the shine and color of the boat more even. To remove the old wax, you can use a floor wax stripper. Place some of the stripper in a heavy-duty towel or bit of rug, and start from the top of the bow. Wipe the rug in just one direction with light pressure.

5. Clean the Boat

The next thing you need to do is to give your boat a thorough cleaning with a boat cleaner like the Meguiar’s Boat Wash. It removes all the grease, mineral deposits, grime, dirt, scum and other contaminants on the boat surface.

Meguiar's M5401 Marine/RV Gel Wash - 1 Gallon Container
  • RV/MARINE WASH: Safely and quickly removes boat...
  • GENTLE FORMULA: Rich emulsifying wash with high...
  • BRILLIANT GLOSS: Blends rich conditioners with...
  • BIODEGRADABLE: pH balanced with biodegradable...
  • COST-EFFECTIVE SIZE: Larger 1 gallon container is...

Some cleaners are gentle enough not to strip off the wax layer of the boat but there are some that do gradually.

6. Cover Antifouling On The Hull

Some boats have antifouling paint on the hull, while others (frequently those that are housed in dry docks) don’t. If yours does, it is best to cover the antifouling paint with painters tape. This will protect it against any of the products you will use for waxing your boat.

You really don’t want to mess with your antifouling paint, as we all know that redoing your antifouling paint is one of the worst boat maintenance jobs out there!

7. Buff And Polish The Boat

Both buffers and polishes for boats are abrasive and they help restore the shine of the fiberglass gel coat. This is done by removing any imperfections, scrapes or discoloration on the surface.

When doing this step, make sure to use a light hand. Start from the transom and move towards the bow. Use a soft cloth and work in sections. Also, use an even circular motion when doing this step. The area will become glassy looking as you buff the surface. Some do this by hand while others use a tool like the Dewalt Buffer.

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8. Apply The Wax

Before applying the wax, make sure you remove the removable fittings. This makes it easier to wax various areas of the boat. Make sure to place the screws where they won’t get lost. It is also best to use separate containers for the screws and fittings to avoid mixing them up.

To add wax to your boat, use a soft cloth and circular motions. The circular motions help with even coating and it also helps avoid streaking. Similar to buffing, some also opt to use a polisher to aid in the application.

However, whether manually applying the wax or using a tool, it is best to choose to manually wax those that are around non-removable fittings. This is to avoid damaging them.

Also, manually wax the tight crevices because tools can’t reach them.

9. Let It Dry

After covering the whole boat, take a step back and let the wax dry. It should only take about 5-10 minutes before the wax completely dries.

It is best to allow the wax to set first so that it can effectively protect the gel coat. Don’t worry if your boat looks a bit hazy at this time, that should all go away when you buff the wax.

10. Buff and Clean

You can use a terrycloth bonnet by hand or an electric polisher to buff the wax. Again, use circular motions when doing this step. Buffing will remove the hazy appearance due to the layer of wax. This will result in a shiny finish.

Some people do the waxing and buffing step at the same time. They do this by waxing sections in the boat and allowing the sections to dry then immediately buffing them before waxing other sections. Some find this better because the wax doesn’t harden too much before buffing.


It takes several steps to wax a boat and it does take time but in the end, you’ll be able to protect its surface from the damaging elements that it is exposed to. First, you have to select the products to use, rinse the boat, repair the surface cracks, remove the old wax, thoroughly clean the boat, buff, and polish the boat, apply the wax then buff the wax.

A boat is a very expensive property and repairing its surface due to damage can be costly. With a layer of wax, you can minimize the damage and prolong its shine and beauty.

Related Questions:

Can You Use Car Wax On A Boat?

Yes, some people use car wax on their boat but remember that the gel coat on the boat isn’t the same as the clear coat on a car. For aesthetic reasons, a car wax can also make the boat look shiny and polished.

How Often Should You Wax A Boat?

Usually, boats should be waxed at least twice a year. The frequency will also depend on how often you use your boat, what conditions it encounters and how long it is exposed to the water. The waxing schedule will vary depending on the boat’s use.

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