Thursday, January 15, 2009

Are wax & polish the same thing?

When talking with customers about how to care for a fiberglass boat, I am often asked about the difference between wax and polish. The quick answer is they are used for different purposes. One can not be used in lieu of the other. Polish is used to make the gelcoat shiny. Wax is used to protect the gelcoat (fiberglass).

When applying them, start with a clean, freshly washed hull. Be sure the hull is dry before you start with wax and polish. An "applicator pad" will make applying the product much easier while at the same time using less product. Make sure you have plenty of clean towels on hand for the removal process. As soon as you feel the towel starting to get "sticky", switch to a clean section or a new towel. Don't try to make that towel last "just a bit longer". While it can't always be avoided, the best results will be had if you keep the boat out of the direct sun. A cloudy day is best, but early morning or evening can be OK, too. If you do it in the evening, just make sure you finish up before the dew starts to form on the boat.

Before you start waxing, assess the gelcoat - does it feel smooth? If it feels chalky or rough, you'll have to start with a compound - often termed Oxidation Remover. But, for now, let's assume your gelcoat is nice and smooth. The next step would be to apply the polish. This will feed the gelcoat with "nutrients" to help it retain it's shine and luster. Polish is put on and removed the same way wax is - just like you would for your car. After the polish is removed, you can put on a coat of wax to protect the shine and help keep the sun's UV rays from - yup, you guessed it - oxidizing the surface. Just like your engine, a little preventative maintenance for your gelcoat will keep it from ever oxidizing in the first place - thus saving you time and money.

Depending on how much time your boat spends in the elements and where you live, you'll want to do this anywhere between twice a year to possibly as much as a half dozen. Have you ever noticed that the hull (below the rubrail) stays looking nicer than the deck (above the rubrail)? The hull doesn't get hit by strongest, direct rays of the sun. Because of this, you may find that you want to wax the deck a little more often than the hull. The good thing is that on a typical boat, the deck has less surface area. By the way do not, under any circumstances, wax the non-skid! I think you can figure out why. Just wash it.

One last tip: don't skimp out and buy cheap wax or use what you have laying around the garage for your car. Boat wax is specially formulated for gelcoat to stand up to the harsh, marine environment - there is a difference! In the end, you'll be glad you did it right. Afterall, you've probably made a considerable investment in your boat. Spend that extra dollar or two on a reputable polish and wax to help keep your baby looking good for years to come.

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1 comment:

Boat Wax said...

I totally agree with your last tip, that we shouldn't skimp on wax or buy a cheap wax. Boats can be like babies, and you need to take care of them with the very best stuff in order for them to last a long time.