Can You Use Bleach To Clean A Boat?

Paul Luisi
by Paul
Luisi

Cleaning a boat with bleach can be tempting, especially if you want to remove the toughest dirt from the vessel.

But can you use bleach to clean a boat? 

Here's a breakdown of when bleach can and cannot be used to clean a boat: 

Part Of Boat Can Bleach Be Used
Vinyl Boat Seats No
Boat Hull Yes
Fiberglass Material Yes
Boat Deck No
Boat Bilge Yes
Boat Fuel Tank No
Boat Engine No
Boat Upholstery No
Boat Canvas No

Bleach should only be used to clean as a last resort on parts of the boat like the hull, the bilge and any fiberglass material.

Bleach should not be used on parts of the boat like vinyl seats, the deck, the fuel tank, the upholstery, the canvas or the engine bay.

Using bleach to clean a boat regularly will cause the material to be damaged.

Cleaning Boat Seats With Bleach

Bleach should not be used to clean boat seats, especially vinyl seats because:  

  • It degrades seams in the seats: Using bleach products to clean seats regularly will cause the seams in the seats to degrade.
  • Removes protective coating from seats: Using a bleach product will cause the UV protective coating on the seats to diminish over time.
  • Causes seat color to fade over time: Using bleach to clean seats will cause the color to fade over time.
  • Weakens threads in the upholstery: Using bleach on the seats will weaken the thread material in the boat seats and cause them to crack or rip.

The harsh chemicals of bleach will harm the boat seats. As a result, do not use bleach to clean boat seats.

Summary
Using bleach to clean boat seats is not recommended. It will cause the seats to get damaged over time and cause the color to fade.

Cleaning Boat Hull With Bleach

Bleach can be used to clean a boat's hull. However, it should be used as a last resort option only.

It should not be used to clean a hull often. Using bleach to clean the boat hull will: 

  • Remove bacteria from the hull: Bleach has very strong chemicals that will kill bacteria from the hull area.
  • Remove salt deposits from hull: Bleach will remove and salt deposits on the hull from the sea water.
  • Remove stains from hull: Using bleach to clean the hull will remove most water stains, yellow stains and scum line stains.
  • Remove loose paint from hull: If the paint on the hull is worn, bleach will cause the paint to be removed.
Summary
Bleach can be used to clean a boat hull. However, it should only be used as a last resort option. It will easily remove all tough dirt and stains.

Cleaning Boat Fiberglass With Bleach

Bleach can be used on a boat's fiberglass material. However, it should be used as a last resort option.

It should not be used to clean fiberglass often. Using bleach to clean boat fiberglass will:

  • Remove all dirt from fiberglass: Bleach will help clean and remove all dirt from any fiberglass surfaces.
  • Kill bacteria on fiberglass: Bleach is a very harsh cleaning chemical. It will remove all bacteria from the boat fiberglass.
  • Remove protective coating: Bleach will remove any UV protective coating on the fiberglass.
Summary
Bleach can be used to clean boat fiberglass. However, it should only be used as a last resort and not used regularly.

Cleaning Boat Deck With Bleach

Bleach should not be used to clean a boat deck, especially wooden decks because:

  • It will remove paint from deck: Using bleach to clean deck will cause the paint to break off.
  • Remove protective coating from deck: Cleaning with bleach will cause the protective coating to be removed.
  • Cause color fading of the deck: Cleaning the boat deck with bleach will cause the color to fade over time. For wooden decks, it causes the color to lighten over time.
  • Corrode metal screws and nails on deck: Using bleach on the deck will cause the nails and screws to corrode over time.
Summary
Do not clean a boat deck with bleach. Bleach will cause long term damage to the boat deck if used regularly for cleaning.

Cleaning Boat Bilge With Bleach

Bleach can be used to clean a boat bilge. However, it should not be used regularly to clean the bilge area.

Cleaning the boat bilge with bleach will:

  • Remove bacteria from bilge: Using bleach will kill bacteria in the bilge area.
  • Remove stains from bilge: Bleach will help remove dirty and deep stains from bilge.
  • Unclog and clean the bilge pump: Using bleach will help clean and unclog the bilge pump from dirt buildup.
  • Remove odor from bilge: Using bleach will help eliminate foul odor from the bilge area caused by dirt build up.

It is safer to clean the bilge with a boat bilge cleaner.

Summary
Bleach can be used to clean a boat bilge. It will help remove stubborn dirt and kill bacteria.

Cleaning Boat Fuel Tank With Bleach

Bleach should not be used to clean a boat fuel tank. It's harsh chemicals are not made for fuel tank cleaning.

Cleaning a boat fuel tank with bleach will: 

  • Damage the fuel tank walls: Bleach will corrode fuel tank walls and cause a lot of damage.
  • Damage the engine: Bleach is a strong and harsh cleaning chemical. If any bleach gets into the engine, it may cause damage beyond repair.
  • Corrode metal and rubber components: Bleach will cause any rubber or metal components in the fuel tank to erode.
  • Cause fuel tank cell particles to break off: Using bleach will cause bits of particles to break from the fuel tank cell.

These are the reasons why bleach should not be used to clean a boat fuel tank.

Summary
A boat fuel tank should never be cleaned with bleach. Bleach will damage the fuel walls or it can cause damage to the engine.

Cleaning Boat Engine With Bleach

Bleach should not be used to clean a boat engine because it will: 

  • Damage engine beyond repair: Bleach will damage engine and engine parts by slowly eroding them over time.
  • Corrode engine parts: Using bleach to clean boat engine will cause corrosion of metal and rubber engine parts over time.
  • Speed up rusting of engine: Bleach will remove any protective coating in engine causing it to be exposed. This will make it easier to cause rust.
  • Contaminate fuel and oil: Bleach is a strong cleaning chemical. It could easily find it's way into the fuel and oil tank causing the engine to be damaged.

As the boat engine is one of the most important parts of a boat, do not use bleach to clean it.

Summary
Bleach should not be used to clean a boat engine because it will caused severe damage to the motor and engine bay.

Cleaning Boat Upholstery With Bleach

Bleach should not be used to clean boat upholstery because it will: 

  • Cause upholstery fabric color to fade: Bleach is a strong chemical that can cause the upholstery color to fade over time.
  • Damage upholstery material: Depending on the material of boat upholstery, bleach can damage it if used regularly.
  • Corrode the nuts and screws holding the upholstery in place: The nuts and screws can corrode over time if bleach is used for cleaning.
Summary
Bleach should not be used to clean boat upholstery. It will damage the different materials and fabrics so avoid using it for cleaning.

Cleaning Boat Canvas With Bleach

Bleach should not be used to clean boat canvas because it will: 

  • Cause canvas fabric color to fade: Bleach will cause the color of boat canvas to fade overtime.
  • Remove UV protective coating: Bleach will remove any UV protective coating on the boat canvas. This means the canvas will be exposed to sun damage.
  • Corrode the seals and screws: Bleach will cause corrosion of the screws and seals on the boat canvas.
  • Cause cracking of the canvas material: Using bleach to clean the canvas can cause the material to break up and crack.
Summary
Bleach should not be used to clean boat canvas. It will damage the fabric and cause color fading.

Takeaway

Using bleach to clean a boat can do more harm than good. It's better to use specific marine cleaners rather than risk using bleach.

If planning to use bleach for boat cleaning, only use it sporadically and not regularly.

This will help avoid the long term damage caused by using bleach.