Which cleaning products are the most efficient at removing ingrained dirt from boat decks? PBO’s Ben Meakins tries out a selection from the chandlery shelves

After a winter ashore being trampled upon by muddy, dusty boots, your boat’s decks are probably in need of a deep clean: but trying to remove dirt and grime from the recesses of a non-slip deck moulding can be difficult.
With that in mind, we assembled some products from the chandlery shelves – plus a couple of cut-price supermarket
alternatives – and set to work cleaning a moulded non-slip deck and a deck that had been painted with International’s Interdeck deck paint. The products we chose were a representative sample of those available, but if we missed one that you have found works well, let us know!

Non-skid cleaners
The first category we tried was Starbrite’s range of cleaners specially formulated for cleaning non-slip surfaces. There are two products in the range – one with PTEF and one eco-friendly version. Both are claimed to ‘lift dirt without hard scrubbing.’

PBO joint best buy
Starbrite Non-Skid Deck Cleaner wih PTEF

PRICE: £11.95 for 1lt
What the instructions say: Wet the deck, before squirting the product neat onto the deck and distributing it with a deck brush. Leave for 2-3 minutes for the ‘chelating agents’ to lift the dirt from the non-slip surface, before agitating with a deck brush and rinsing off. It leaves a non-slip, protective coating.
What we found: Applied as directed, the cleaner went to work and foamed well. A good scrub before rinsing off improved its effectiveness – but it needed less effort than the other products on test to get a good result. We used most of the bottle to clean an 8.5m (28ft) boat, so it does work out as quite expensive. It was effective on both the painted and moulded decks.

PBO joint best buyStarbrite Sea Safe Non-Skid Deck Cleaner

PRICE: £16.95 for 1lt
What the instructions say: Application was the same as for Starbrite’s PTEF product.
What we found:
We could discern no noticeable difference between the two products once we’d rinsed them off the deck. Both did a good job of cleaning our test areas with minimal effort, and left behind a good, non-slippery surface. We found that the longer it was left to work on the deck, the more dirt it lifted – and repeat applications on stubborn stains helped. It was effective on both the painted and moulded decks, but used neat we went through it quickly.


‘Shampoo’-type cleaners
Chandlery shelves groan under the weight of ‘boat wash’ products, which are primarily intended for cleaning black marks and dirt from the smooth hull and superstructure surfaces. However, these products are cheaper than the dedicated non-slip deck cleaners, and will last longer as you have to dilute them for use.

Hempel Boat Shampoo

PRICE: £12.95 for 1lt
What the instructions say: Dilute one part shampoo
to 10 parts fresh water. Apply with a soft brush, sponge or cloth. Leave for five minutes then rinse well with fresh water.
What we found: Mixed in a bucket and applied with a sponge to the deck, this did a good job of cleaning the relatively smooth deck paint. On the moulded non-slip, it required more scrubbing with a hard brush to remove the ingrained dirt.


Meguiar’s Gel Wash

PRICE: £7.95 for 470ml
What the instructions say: Pour a capful into a gallon of water, apply with a clean sponge. Rinse off. It won’t affect any wax coatings on nearby gel coat.
What we found:
The Gel Wash was particularly effective on the deck paint, but less so on the moulded non-slip. The fact that it doesn’t affect wax-polished surfaces is a plus. It worked well on surface dirt, less well on ingrained dirt.


Farécla Marine Professional Deep Clean Washfarecla-deep-clean_cmyk

PRICE: £9.95 for 500ml
What the instructions say: Dilute and apply with a sponge, 1:10 for heavy cleaning, 1:50 for general cleaning. Rinse with
clean water.
What we found: As with the other shampoos, this was effective on the surface dirt but less good on the ingrained stuff without heavy scrubbing.


Starbrite Boat Wash in a Bottleboat-wash-in-a-bottle_cmyk

PRICE: £7.95 for 500ml
What the instructions say: Dilute three capfuls in a bucket of water… apply with a sponge and rinse off.
What we found:
Again, this was good on the surface dirt on both the painted deck and the moulded non-slip. It was less good at the ingrained dirt in the moulding, but it did a reasonable job when scrubbed with a hard deck brush.
Cream cleaners
We thought we should also try some household products which, at a fraction of the price of dedicated deck cleaners, might offer a good budget solution.

Cif Original Cream Cleaner

cif_cmykPRICE: £2 for 500ml
What the instructions say: Apply to surfaces with a damp cloth or sponge, wipe over and rinse away.
What we found: Used with a hard deck brush, Cif was effective on the surface dirt, but less so on the ingrained dirt. Hard scrubbing with a hand brush tackled the ingrained dirt more effectively, and it was particularly effective on stubborn stains when used with a scourer. Cream cleaners are mildly abrasive and if not rinsed off thoroughly will leave a chalky residue.


PBO-Best-Budget-BuyTesco Everyday Value Cream Cleaner
PRICE: £0.32 for 500ml
What the instructions say: Apply to surface, wipe over and rinse immediately.
What we found: We could find no difference in application between this and the more expensive Cif product. It was effective on the painted surface at removing stains, often just requiring a sponge, but on the deeply ingrained dirt on the moulded non-slip it needed some elbow grease and a hard brush.


Of the products tested, Starbrite’s Boat Wash, Sea Safe Deck Cleaner and Meguiar’s Gel Wash claim to be eco-friendly meaning you can wash your boat afloat with greater peace of mind.
Environmental awareness programme The Green Blue advises that you should especially avoid detergents containing phosphates, which can lead to nutrient enrichment and algal blooms. Other degreasers can dry the natural oils that fish need for their gills to take in oxygen, so use an eco-friendly product wherever possible!

PBO Verdict:

Screen shot 2015-04-10 at 11.42.47

Each cleaner made a difference, but the Starbrite non-skid deck cleaners were by far the best

Each product we tried made the decks noticeably cleaner, with varying degrees of effort. The two specific non-skid deck cleaners needed the least effort – and the longer they were left, the more effective they were. They were best on the deep non-slip. On the minus side, they are relatively expensive.

There was very little difference between the shampoo products, but Meguiar’s Gel Wash edged ahead due to its good results on the painted deck and the fact that it won’t strip the wax from gel coat. The cream cleaners needed more elbow grease, but got the decks clean at a fraction of the cost of the other products. If you’re on a budget, the Tesco Everyday Value Cream Cleaner will suffice – but will need more frequent use than the non-skid cleaners, which leave behind a protective coating. The shampoos are good for general surface cleaning, but if you’re looking to shift more stubborn stains, one of the creams or non-skid cleaners are your best bet.