There are few jobs more satisfying on a boat than applying boat wax to tired, chalky gelcoat. Turning a faded, stained and dull fibreglass hull into a shining thing of beauty is surprisingly easy with the right techniques and products
Many boat owners simply apply boat wax to the topsides once a year, and while this will look good for a short time, to get a really good result it’s worth taking a little more time over the job.
There are, broadly speaking, three stages:
Cleaning: If you try and apply boat wax to a dirty hull then you run the risk of damaging the surface by grinding in dirt and grime. First step, then is to give the hull a really good wash and clean. You can remove yellow waterline staining with an oxalic acid based product, or for less dirty hulls then a simple boat shampoo or boat wash will do the trick.
Check out our guide to the best hull cleaners.
- Polishing: Once the hull is dry, you can move onto the polishing stage. If there are any areas of chalky or oxidised gelcoat, it’s worth using an abrasive cleaner like a rubbing compound. These cut back the top surface of the gelcoat to reveal an unoxidised layer beneath, leaving a clean, shiny surface ready for boat wax.
- Waxing: This is the important step that will seal in the shine and keep your boat’s hull protected for a good long time. It might look good after a polish, but applying a good quality boat wax will seal the hull and block UV light from causing any further damage.
So that’s the process, but a look at the chandlery shelves shows a bewildering array of boat wax products. There is also some inconsistency in the naming, with the words ‘wax’ and ‘polish’ used interchangeably. But which boat wax to choose? We’ve selected a few options that should help you decide.
Best boat wax available right now
Let’s start with a couple of bottles of dedicated boat wax:
Meguiar’s Pure Wax No56
A good finishing wax
Meguiar’s is a well-known brand when it comes to waxes, whether in boats, caravans or cars, and their Pure Wax No56 is designed as the final part of the polishing process.
It provides durable high gloss protection for all gelcoat surfaces and contains Brazilian carnauba wax with silicones, polymers and resins for ‘extraordinary gloss and protection’ and UV-resistance.
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Starbrite Premium Marine Polish with PTEF
Best boat wax for longevity
Starbrite sell this as ‘the best polish you can buy’ and claim it will last 4 to 5 times longer than other marine waxes.
It has UV inhibitors to stop fading and oxidation, and offers good protection and shine. Starbrite recommend a second application within 30 days for best results.
Starbrite Presoftened Boat Wax
A large tub of softened carnauba wax is just what a tired hull needs and is easy to apply with a buffing machine or by hand and cloth.
It can be used as the final stage in a polishing process, or just as an ‘all in one’. It can be applied in direct sunlight, and used on fibreglass, aluminium and painted surfaces.
We’ve seen good results with this product and it’s easy to polish off to a smear-free finish.
3M Perfect-It Gelcoat Medium Cutting Compound and Wax
Best all-in-one for oxidised gelcoat
The period leading up to launch day is always stressful and many jobs end up getting pushed off the to-do list – so anything that can cut the time and effort needed is welcome.
Two-in-one products like this highly regarded 3M cutting compound and wax are an excellent solution, and while the outcome won’t quite match a true three-step process, the results can still be impressive.
This particular product is a medium-grade cutting compound combined with a wax, which means it will cut through oxidation and minor scratches and leave the hull shiny and protected.
Starbrite Sea Safe Boat Wash and Wax
Best for a quick clean
While the best results are achieved with a proper Clean, Polish and Wax process, most of us are short of time. That’s where products like this come in.
An ‘all in one’ is never going to produce comparable results to a lot of elbow grease, but if you use this every time you wash your boat down she will stay in reasonable shape throughout the year.
It claims to clean and shine in one step and is environmentally friendly, which is an important consideration when it comes to washing your boat down in the water.
Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.
How to apply boat wax
This handy video covers the six steps to getting your hull sparkling with a fresh coat of boat wax:
It costs around £65 per square metre to have this job done professionally, or you can buy about £100 worth of products and do it yourself in less than a day.
Tools you’ll need to apply your own boat wax
- PPE (goggles, facemask, gloves, overalls)
- Sponge and bucket
- Stain remover
- Masking tape
- Rotary polisher (expensive to buy, makes sense to hire one)
- Polishing mops
- Microfibre cloths
- Cutting compound
- Cleaning solution
- Polish and boat wax