Marine paints have to be designed to withstand a far harsher environment than automotive paints, for example, and have a limited lifespan. New paint jobs are expensive but with the right care, painted topsides can last for 10 years or longer.
A boat’s paintwork can soon lose its shine very quickly if it is not properly maintained. Painted topsides have to contend with salt water, grime and all kinds of contaminants as well as scratches, chafing from ropes and fenders, plus the general wear and tear that boats are subjected to. Even the toughest gloss topcoats have a limited lifespan, ten years being the typical maximum. Professional paint jobs are expensive because of the time taken to do the work, the materials costs and the need to have the boat under cover in atmospherically controlled conditions.
It is best to use the correct cleaners, polishes and waxes recommended by the paint manufacturer. If your boat has a painted hull, the records should tell you what type of paint was used but if these have gone astray then here are a number of do’s and don’ts which all paint manufacturers recommend for the maintenance of painted topsides. These include:
- Wash the surface regularly with fresh water using soft, non-abrasive cloths and sponges. This will prevent build up of dirt and algae that can degrade the surface of the paint. Note that hard water is not recommended and adding a water softener will help protect paint, especially darker colours.
- Only use cleaning solvents which are recommended by the paint manufacturer of your hull’s topcoat. If you don’t have a record of what type of paint it is, if in doubt ask a professional for their opinion for the best solvent to use.
- Always rinse painted surfaces with fresh water after using cleaning solvents or detergents.
- Use distilled white vinegar and hot water to remove stains. Rinse with fresh water after use. As vinegar is an acid, do not use it neat as it can damage the paintwork. It is best to keep the mix well below 50:50.
- Some paint manufacturers, such as Awlgrip, produce their own surface cleaners.
- Every three or four months, apply a sealer to repel dirt and stains. Awlgrip make a protective polymer sealer called Awlcare which protects Awgrip, Awlcraft 2000 and Awlgrip HDT from acid rain, environmental pollutants and abrasion. This leaves a non-yellowing protective coat that lasts through multiple washings.
- Do not use traditional waxes used for gelcoat protection. These can cause discolouration of the paint and attract dirt. Instead, protective polymer sealers will protect the paint, leaving a gloss finish.
- Do not use abrasives, scratch pads or polishing compounds as these will reduce the life of the paint.
- Do not allow teak cleaners or metal polishes to come into contact with the paint as they contain acids that will discolour the paint.
- Do not use strong solvents such as acetone to clean paintwork.
Touching up damaged paintwork
Most painted hulls with high gloss finishes are very difficult to touch up. Many use two part systems which are difficult to sand back and feather in new paint. Most boat owners leave repainting to professionals as it is tricky work that can go horribly wrong. That said, if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely, have the right equipment and some experience then it is worth a try.