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How to Wax your Boat in 6 Steps?

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

How to wax your boat? If you're a boat owner, maybe you are wondering the best way to go about keeping your boat protected! And if you live in Cape Coral like I do, you know how hard it is to keep your boat looking like glass all season long. That deep shine that every boat owner dreams of, but perhaps feels out of reach. Between the sun, salt, and humidity, boats don't stay the way you bought them. Stick around because you will gain the insight needed to wax your boat like a true detailer! This blog is going to a simple, yet super practical way to wax your boat in 6 steps! Oh! And we don't use the cheap wax :)

Step 1: Wash your boat

This first step is easy. All you need to do is wash your boat down with a dish soap or degreaser. What do I like to use? In my experience, I prefer washing with Dawn dish soap. This will remove any old waxes or dirt collecting on the surface of your gelcoat. You'll want to use a soft microfiber hand mitt or a soft nylon brush to wash your boat. Do not use anything abrasive that will scratch your boat. After the boat is clean, dry the boat with a shammy or drying towel. Now the boat is clean and the wax has a surface to bond to! Only do this step prior to washing! NEVER wash your boat with dish soap or degreaser after the wax has been applied.

Step 2: Pick out the right machine

What are you looking for in a machine when you are waxing your boat? I typically search for something light that I can hold with one hand if necessary. And that's what leads me to a random orbital polisher such as the Griots Garage G9 or Max Shine DA Polisher. Both machines fall under $200, making either of them a reasonable option for the average boat owner. These are also the best machines for spreading the wax around! Maybe you're wondering, can I use a rotary buffer? You could if that's the only machine you have, however it's not the easiest method of applying wax.

(Griot's Garage G9)

Step 3: Choose the right pad

When it comes to choosing the right pad, you'll want to search for a medium foam pad such as the Rupes high performance polishing pad (yellow) or even a soft microfiber pad such as the Buff and Shine URO-FIBER pad (grey). This is the best way for spreading the wax effectively. The foam pad is best for boats that are oxidation free and clean. The URO-FIBER pad can handle a little more cutting and light oxidation, but you should NEVER wax a boat that is oxidized.

(Rupes high performance polishing pad)

I typically avoid choosing a foam pad that is too soft such as the Rupes high performance finishing pad (white) because the pad will absorb more wax and make it difficult to apply on the boat. Also, these pads tend to fall apart faster because the foam is less durable. Along with that, you'll want to avoid a waffle foam, that pad is better for compounding and polishing. Make sure to check the size of your backing plate on your polisher so you can purchase the right pad for waxing!

Step 4: Pick a good polymer

Wax? No, we don't use wax. Wax is an oil, which simply sits in the pores of the gelcoat, no bonds are being formed and the wax is exposed to coming off the boat quickly. If you haven't checked out my previous blog, "Wax vs. Polymer Sealant vs. Ceramic Coating" this is another one of those blogs that is filled with great information! So, instead we use a polymer sealant. Formulated with synthetic materials, the molecules of a polymer link tightly together to form a close chain barrier. Think of it like plastic, and this protects your gelcoat from the external environment. In the real world application, a quality sealant will outlast a wax every-time!

After testing many polymers in the industry, I will freely share the best one I've come across and the only one that stands the test of time. And that is Jescar Powerlock & Jescar Ultralock. These two polymers (both from the same company) block off oxidation for an average of 4-6 months on gelcoat applications. Not to mention, the price point is worth it. A 16oz bottle ranging between $30-$35 in the United States. Jescar Powerlock is a standard polymer sealant. Jescar Ultralock is infused with silica and SiO2 increasing the slickness and water angle of the coating as well as the shine. Both are amazing products that continue to hold a good reputation.

If you live in the Great Lakes, Canada, or somewhere where boating is seasonal and the water is free of salt, you should expect a full season of protection with the use of a polymer sealant. If you live in South Carolina, Florida, or any other tropical environment where boating is year round, two applications per year is recommended. After you protect your boat, only wash your boat with a PH balanced soap such as Stake Pure Clean. Polymer sealants can be applied to gelcoat, paint, glass, isinglass, brightwork, and nonskid!

Step 5: Apply in patterns

This may seem rather simple, but it's still worth discussing. I didn't want to leave anything out in this blog! Apply the wax in vertical and horizontal patterns with your polisher. I avoid applying in circles because it can leave swirls in your finish. Up and down and side to side patterns is the most effective way to ensure you don't miss any spots on the boat. Otherwise, you may look silly when you go to wash your boat and you notice you missed some sections with the polymer!

I prefer to do 2 passes of vertical and horizontal with my polisher to make sure I didn't miss any gelcoat. I also avoid applying by hand when possible. A polisher has the ability to apply a uniform consistent layer of polymer throughout the entire boat, so it will always give you the best finish and easiest finish when wiping off excess product. After you prime your pad with the polymer sealant, you can apply about 3 dots on your foam pad each time you do a section. This will be sufficient for covering your gelcoat with the correct amount of product.

Step 6: Wipe off excess polymer

The last and final step is wiping off the excess product! After the polymer sealant cures, excess product will remain and it's necessary to be removed within a certain time frame. You'll want to get a plush microfiber towel to do this. Two in fact! One towel that collects the excess product and one towel that you use as a final wipe. This will give you a mirror like finish. Regular microfiber towels don't work well for this process. I prefer Autofiber or Adam's Polishes for plush microfiber towels. If washed thoroughly, these towels can be used 2-3 times before they become ineffective and need to be thrown out.

(Blue Autofiber microfiber plush towel)

How long do you need to let the polymer cure before wiping off excess product? It depends... 10-20 minutes is usually optimal in outdoor environments depending on sun expose, temperature, and humidity. Indoor environments can handle 30 minutes of cure time before having to wipe off the excess polymer. Make that judgment for yourself, but the polymer should never be a struggle to wipe off. That means one of two things. It cured too long or you still have oxidation in your boat.


Thanks for floating around today and supporting the blog! I hope you were able to gain some extra insight that will help you maintain your boat more effectively. Protecting your boat should always be a top priority for your investment. Leaving your boat exposed will actually damage your gelcoat in time, slowly removing it until there's nothing left. Add salt in the water and you can only imagine it speeds up the process!

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