Although worn gel coats seem inevitable and just standard wear and tear for your watercraft, the truth of the matter is it’s not. Gel coats can be preserved and even rehabilitated in many circumstances. Some people wear their worn gel coats like a badge of honor, as representation of their time at sea, but many owners seek to preserve the brand new look and feel of their vessel. If you group yourself with the latter then read on.
Gelcoats, which are what give boats their veneer are applied atop the highly polished mold at the beginning of the fiberglass layup process. They are what makes a boat shine in the water, and also help to protect the integrity of your boats exterior over the years. Through time these gel coats become more porous and harder to clean, but not impossible.
As I’m sure you know, the best way to get rid of stains on your boats gelcoat is to prevent them in the first place. A good wax or polish and regular wash downs will help to prevent a large majority of stains from occurring. Although waxing will help to create a barrier between the elements and your gelcoat it will not prevent staining entirely. So be prepared to do routine wash downs with a gentle boat cleaner to remove stains that are beginning to occur. If done regularly the cleaner and a little elbow grease should remove any build up fairly easily.
When dealing with more stubborn stains you will need something a bit stronger. When it comes to gel coat stains there are two types of stains, organic and mineral. Organic stains are the result of spilled food and drinks, bird droppings, plant matter and things of that nature. These types of stains are typically easy to clean because they are water soluble and little soap and water will typically do the trick. More stubborn mineral stains will require a chemical agent such as acid or a chelating agent. Acid works to dissolve the stains while a chelating agent will bond to the stain and suspend it for easy removal. Both require little to no scrubbing since they are chemical based. Rust stains and water line stains are the two most common mineral stains that require chemical solutions like we mentioned.
While gelcoats can be repaired, prevention is still the best route. Make sure to routinely wax your hull and do regular wash downs to prevent build up. Mineral damage from the waterline after long voyages are annoying, but always know that there is is a solution.