top of page
Search

Wax vs Polymer Sealant vs Ceramic Coating???

Updated: Dec 27, 2022


(Wax on the right, polymer sealant in the middle, ceramic coating on the left).


What product should you be protecting your boat with? This long awaited blog is finally here and explaining exactly what you need to know! The marine industry is evolving and coatings are becoming stronger and more durable to the elements. Let's talk about what's on the market today so you make the best decisions for your boat! Are you ready?!


When it comes to protecting your boat, most people think of wax, right? Did you know you actually have more options to choose from? If not, and you want to learn more about maintaining your boat more effectively, this blog is for you! In fact, wax is the least protective of the 3 coatings we will be discussing today. Wax, polymer sealants, and ceramic coatings. Now wax has its own distinctive benefits when you compare all 3 coatings, but it's actually has the weakest coating. It formulates the weakest bond if any bond at all to your gelcoat. True wax or carnauba wax is a natural product in nature. We are limited to changing its properties. But formulate a coating in a lab backed by science, now that's innovation! In South Florida, good luck getting wax to hold up longer than 3 months! This proposes a major challenge to both detailers and boat owners alike! Don't worry we will talk about the solution, but you will have to continue reading!


The most common wax used in the marine industry is carnauba wax. Where does this come from? It's derived from the carnauba palm of Brazil. A palm tree that secrets carnauba wax as a defense mechanism to protect its leaves from loss of moisture in the extreme heat. Today, many waxes are mixed with synthetic ingredients to formulate better bonds. These are synthetic waxes such as collinite fiberglass wax, where you will get a relatively small, but extended period of protection (1-2 months). How does a true wax such as carnauba wax bond you may ask? Essentially, wax sits on top of the gelcoat. It does NOT bond to the gelcoat. It's a rather simple explanation. Let's put this into perspective so you can understand why wax works the way it does. And to suggest why the life span of the product is short lived.


I think everyone can relate to this. Imagine taking some ear wax from your ear and placing it on your finger. Perhaps it's gross to imagine! It's just some ear wax haha, but all jokes aside, what's the substance like? Think about it for a moment... It's a solid right, but kind of like a paste? And if heated the ear wax would melt into more of a liquid form. Now take two fingers and move it around. It will spread out and you will notice it's very oily. Ear wax, just like carnauba wax contains oils. Ear wax collects dirt and protects your eardrum from water. The oil blocks out water from entering your ear canal, like when you decide to go for a swim. Now go put your finger under the sink and try to wash it off. You'll notice it does not come off easily. It takes a degreaser such as dish soap to remove ear wax off your finger and actually it might not fully come off for a day or 2. It does not bond to your finger, it simply sits on top of the surface of your skin. This is exactly how carnauba wax sits on your gelcoat. For this reason, it's susceptible to collecting dirt, pollutants, and prone to harsh chemicals such as dish soap, degreasers, and acids.





Now if you this doesn't put things into perspective, let's try another example. Imagine taking some lubricant grease and smearing it on the gelcoat of your boat. It's a paste consistency, right? Now take a hose and try washing it off with water. It won't come off because water is ph balanced. Just like ear wax, grease contains oils with the addition of petroleum, etc... maybe we could compare this example to a synthetic wax. Grease also does not bond to your gelcoat, it merely sits on top of the surface. If left on your boat, overtime the grease would collect dirt, pollutants, and be prone to removal with harsh chemicals. This is exactly how wax bonds to your boat. Make sense? I hope so. Let's continue!


Let's discuss the pros and cons of using a pure carnauba wax to protect your boat. I will make a list rather, to make it easy to read!


Pros:

  1. Inexpensive

  2. Best natural shine

  3. Great for showroom boats and cars

Cons:

  1. Prone to harsh chemicals (dish soap, degreaser, acids, etc)

  2. Prone to salt water

  3. Prone to staining from the sun

  4. 1-3 month life expectancy

  5. Collects dirt and pollutants

  6. Application can be difficult

  7. Difficult maintenance on the water


Let's give the polymer sealant some attention. Arguably the most versatile product on the market for many reasons! Perhaps if you've been a boater for some time or an established detailer, you have heard of the polymer sealant. If you have, you are ahead of the game when it comes to protecting your boat! How does a polymer sealant bond to the gelcoat? Polymer sealants contain synthetic materials such as resins, silicas, polymers, and petroleum distillates. In a polymer, the molecules link tightly together to form a close chain of synthetic materials. It's an invisible barrier that bonds to your gelcoat, think of it like plastic. These bonds protect your boat from a variety of contaminants. Unlike wax, does a polymer sealant bond to your gelcoat? The answer is yes! Polymers have bonding capabilities, due to the synthetic blend of materials supported with science and innovation.





Now let's put this into perspective! Let's compare a polymer sealant to plastic wrap, for example Saran Wrap that you would use in the kitchen. Put a section of plastic wrap on the gelcoat of your hull. Is it going to brighten the condition of your boat? Probably not, because there are no oils contained in the wrap. Polymer sealants tend to be very similar! That is why it is necessary to buff and polish your gelcoat prior to applying a polymer sealant. With wax it's easier to get away without buffing, but NEVER recommended. Now spray some water onto that section of plastic wrap. It's protected, right? No water can enter the pores of your gelcoat! Dirt or pollutants can't be collected by plastic wrap! Well, at least not easily like wax would. And this is essentially how a polymer sealant works in the real world. And overtime, you leave a section of plastic wrap on your boat exposed to the elements, it will slowly fade, the bonds of the plastic will break up, and the plastic wrap will eventually come off the boat. On a microscopic level this is what happens to your polymer sealant. Make sense? Great stay with me!


The pros and cons of polymer sealants!


Pros

  1. Affordable

  2. Not prone to staining from the sun

  3. Easy application

  4. 3-6 month life expectancy

  5. Not prone to collecting dirt and pollutants

  6. Easier maintenance on the water

Cons

  1. Level of gloss if surface is not prepped properly

  2. Prone to harsh chemicals (dish soap, degreaser, acids, etc)

  3. Prone to salt water in time


Now to the most durable form of protection, let's talk about ceramic coatings! Stick with me, you do not want to miss this final section! Ceramic coatings being the newest innovation to the marine industry, perhaps there is confusion, optimism, or even skepticism with this technology. Ceramic coatings are comprised of nano-technology. What's that? Well it's just a more scientific way to describe the make up of a ceramic coating. Nano particles (nano-technology) are microscopic bonds that when cross-linked with the proper agents form a semi-permanent layer that result in 9-10H hardness on the pencil scale. The pencil scale demonstrates the cured hardness of a particular coating. Today, we will only discuss high-end ceramic coatings, that being 9H and above. Some examples include Starke Repel Pro, IGL Ecocoat Marine, Gtechniq Marine, & Ceramic Pro.


All ceramic coatings include these 3 common agents. Resins, solvents, and additives. Resins make up the key components of a ceramic coating which are often described as silicon-based polymers or SiO2. These silicone based polymers (PDMS) provide the gloss, hardness, thermal reduction capabilities, UV protection, and hydrophobic properties of a ceramic coating. PDMS begins to cure immediately once exposed to oxygen and more importantly, moisture. This is essential to the cure time of a ceramic coating. However, without the proper additives and carrying agents (solvents), PDMS is not effective at bonding to surfaces such as gelcoat and paints. The carrying solvent, which directly effects reaction time can vary depending on the grade of PDMS used in the coating. This plays a key role in the durability of a ceramic. A faster reaction, a stronger bond. Lastly, the addition of silane which would be considered an additive, would react with the other agents in the coating (PDMS & carrying agent) to form a strong covalent bond. This helping increase adhesion to the given surface, which In our world, is gelcoat!





Although rather complicated, this is an extremely simple, yet effective description of how ceramic coatings bond to your boat! Let's put this into perspective now! So we compared carnauba wax to ear wax or lubricant grease, a polymer sealant to plastic wrap, and now we will compare a ceramic coating to transparent epoxy! It just gets better and better, right!? So imagine applying a 2ft by 2ft section of clear epoxy on the gelcoat of your boat. Needs time to cure, right? Exactly! And after a full cure (2-3 days) the epoxy will be essentially be a semi-permanent barrier between the gelcoat and the external environment. Ceramic coatings are very comparable to this exact process. Now spray some water on the epoxy. The gelcoat is completely protected from dirt, grime, or water spots that occur to the epoxy. And they easily wiped away because they are stuck to the epoxy rather than the gelcoat. What an amazing coating for a boat owner who enjoys cleaning their boat and wants to make it easy. Now the epoxy will eventually come off the boat, but WOW! It will take some time to break up that strength of a bond. And in terms of a ceramic coating 12-24 months in the marine industry. That sure beats a 1-3 month wax or a 3-6 month polymer!? I would say so!


Let's discuss the pros and cons of protecting your investment (your boat) with a ceramic coating!


Pros

  1. Extreme durability (12-24 months)

  2. Extreme reflection and gloss if prepped correctly

  3. Super easy maintenance

  4. Super hydrophobic (water beads)

  5. Protected from salt water, harsh chemicals, degreasers, etc...

  6. Not prone to staining from the sun

  7. Not prone to collecting dirt and pollutants

Cons

  1. Expensive

  2. Time consuming to apply and may be difficult to level

  3. Requires knowledge of proper detailing practices

  4. Requires machine buffing / sanding to remove if needed


To wrap this up, which coating is best for you? Well after explanation of all 3 protection types, I think it's fair to throw out the wax! Especially in the marine industry where the sun, water, and elements are often extreme. Our company and many companies in the future will not offer wax as a coating option. The industry is already trending in that direction. Essentially, it comes down to polymer sealants and ceramic coatings as viable protection options. In reality, both are amazing options. After working on Lake Erie for a few years, I can validate that polymer sealants, specifically Jescar Power Lock, will last 6+ months on your vessel in a fresh water environment. In fact, depending on your set up in a more extreme environment such as South Florida, you can also get 5+ months of protection out of a polymer sealant. Two applications a year would be ideal. Many great advantages come with polymer sealants such as easy maintenance and good protection from your average pollutants. If you stay on top of maintenance, apply SiO2 top coats regularly, and appreciate a good gloss, polymer technology may be for you!


Now for you boat fanatics out there who want the most extreme durability from the environments. want to showcase your boat at the local sandbar, or just want unimaginable easy maintenance... ceramic coating is calling your name! 12-24 month protection, protection from harsh chemicals, crazy water beads and mirror gloss, ceramic coatings are great in extreme environments. You decide. I'll leave that up to you!


To learn more about boat cleaning and detailing tips follow us on YouTube. Want to keep up on our day-to-day projects? Or maybe learn a quick tip? You can do so by following us on our other social media platforms listed below. Until next time!





450 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page