There are many reasons why you should clean the hull of your boat or seaborne vessel.
It helps to maintain the overall health of your boat.
As well as this, having a clean hull improves the speed and fuel economy of your boat.
On short journeys, this may not be that impactful, but you will see a big difference in longer journeys.
If you are crossing a large distance, a clean hull also prevents you from bringing exotic species into new environments.
While it is often not that important, in some instances foreign animals can be pests to the natural environment and could cause harm.
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What is antifouling paint?
Antifouling paint is a special type of paint that is applied to the lower hull of your boat.
It has been specially designed to protect the boat from marine growth.
Boats that live on the sea continuously are very predisposed to developing growths of seawater and marine particles.
This can cause your fuel economy to be greatly reduced when the growths get large.
It has been shown that large growths slow powerboats by up to 5 knots.
This can increase fuel consumption by up to 30%!
Boats that spend most or all of their time on the water should be painted with antifouling paint at least once per year.
If your boat lives on the shore and gets washed down after use, it will probably only need repainting once every 2 years.
The issue with antifouling paint is that it contains a large combination of chemicals.
These include biocides (chemical killers of harmful organisms) and copper to reduce the growth of marine organisms on the hull.
These chemicals can escape into the water and cause harm to the marine life there. This means that it is not a very environmentally friendly product.
Environmentally friendly antifouling paints
Some antifouling paints do not contain these harmful chemicals.
You can use these comfortably on your hull without causing harm to marine life.
Read the ingredients of the paint carefully and do your own research into whether it is an environmentally-friendly choice.
Good paint options are low volatile organic compound paints and other non-biocidal coatings.
Examples of this include silicone, vinyl, and ultrasonic technology.
Many product manufacturers should have data to prove the environmental impact of their products.
If you ask, they will show you these and you can make your own decision as to the environmental cost.
When applying antifouling paint to the hull of your boat, you will need to place a large tarpaulin on the ground to capture any drops of paint that fall off the boat.
If these are allowed to drip onto the exposed ground then the heavy metals in the paint can run off into the local water supply.
It is a good idea to use a paint roller to apply the paint.
This causes less mess than using a brush and provides a more even and consistent coating.
We would strongly recommend wearing appropriate PPE such as overalls, goggles, and a mask when applying antifouling paint.
The fumes are toxic and you should try to inhale as few as possible.
For this reason, we also recommend painting the hull outdoors or in a very well-ventilated area.
Try to avoid any of the paint coming into contact with your eyes, skin, or clothing.
Dispose of any supplies contaminated with paint carefully.
They are classed as hazardous waste and should be disposed of appropriately.
Hull scraping is a necessary part of hull maintenance.
The issue is that scraping the hull releases pollutants from the antifouling paint into the water.
This can cause damage to aquatic life and so there is a list of best management practices that boat owners should abide by.
Vessel repairs and maintenance should be conducted in designated areas away from the shoreline.
This reduces the chances of pollutants entering the water and hurting the environment.
This includes hull scraping, sanding, cleaning, and painting.
The runoff from these designated maintenance areas should be contained and filtered.
The boats can only be maintained on impermeable surfaces to prevent pollutants from entering the subsoil of the land.
Generally speaking maintenance in the US is not permitted undersea.
This includes the removal of seaweed and marine growth from the hull of the boat.
Ideally, maintenance should be conducted indoors to prevent rain from allowing runoff.
There are many products commercially available that are designed to clean the hull of your boat.
The issue is that many, like antifouling paint, contain chemicals that are damaging to aquatic life.
You may be surprised to learn that there are cleaning products that you can make with common household items.
These are highly effective and will cause much less damage to the water as they are made using natural ingredients.
For hard water stains, you can make a paste of baking soda and toothpaste.
Combine the two in a 1:1 ratio and apply to the stains using a damp cloth.
Rub in circular motions and wipe clean with a clean, damp cloth.
For hull cleaning, a great combination is a 1:1 ratio of white vinegar and warm water.
Combine them in a large bucket and scrub them into the hull using a soft-bristled plastic brush.
Rinse off thoroughly with clean water.
If the dirt is harder to remove, try combining 1 ½ cups of baking soda with a gallon of warm water.
Scrub onto the hull using a soft-bristled plastic brush and again, rinse clean once done.
All power washing should be done at a safe distance from the water and away from any drains.
This is because chemicals from the paint or cleaners may pollute the water supply if the runoff enters open drains.
If during your cleaning you notice any parts that need replacing, do not bin your old parts.
You can recycle batteries and there are responsible ways in which to dispose of paint, antifreeze, sewage, and cleaning products.