BoatingLAB Tests: Deck Cleaners | Boating Magazine

BoatingLAB Tests: Deck Cleaners

We stain a nonskid deck and put a slew of products to the test.

The worst job a boater faces before covering his boat for storage is getting all the street crud, grease, food, bait and drink from the nonskid sole of his boat. Regular boat soaps are often booed off the nonskid stage. Many savvy captains have found household products they trust for this task, and we wanted to see if there were any standout nonskid cleaners in the marketplace and how they fared against the captains’ household favorites.

How We Tested: We rated these cleaners for a total possible score of 13.

Full-Monty Mess: We taped off the whole nonskid deck before dousing it with coffee, cola, red wine, acai juice (it was handy) and smashed dead baitfish and let it all ferment in the heat for 24 hours and then called in the strippers.

Our top “all stains” score of 2 means “back to white”; we awarded a 1 for a substantial improvement; we gave goose eggs for nonproductive stage fright.

Environmental Safety Score: Products EPA-certified by the Design for the Environment (DfE) program to be as eco-safe as possible earned an extra point. We also examined the products’ material safety data sheet (MSDS) procedures for containing spills. All non-DfE products required preventing the product from entering the waterways — always a good practice.

A la Carte: To see how products worked on specific stains, we used each on test spots of cola, coffee, wine and fish guts. Same scores applied: Back to white scored a 2, substantial improvement a 1 and ­anything less goose eggs.

Deck cleaners incorporating protective polymers that inhibit future staining were awarded two extra points.

Marine Deck Cleaners

West Marine Pure Oceans DfE
$10.99/West Marine

Features: Certified eco-friendly by the EPA’s Design for the Environment program. Touted to have no dye, aroma or polymer to repel future stains. It has the same viscosity as Seachoice, Star brite and Attwood.

Instructions: Apply directly to the wet surface, agitate, let stand, scrub and rinse. It suggested a foaming action would lift stains. We didn’t see much foam but did see good work.

Performance Report: This was the only product to remove wine. It removed most of the cola stain too. Dried-on fish guts brushed away.

Thetford Ultra Foam
$7.99/Overton’s

Features: This cleaner was DfE-certified to be environmentally friendly. Its pump spray made applying the product easy and economical.

Instructions: Apply directly to the nonskid surface, let stand, scrub and rinse.

Performance Report: It did not completely restore the deck test patch to white and “set” the wine stain, making it a job for bleach. The cola and the dried-on guts and blood both easily brushed away after the product was allowed to stand on the stain.

Star brite with PTEF
$11.49/Bass Pro Shops

Features: Containing PTEF, a polymer touted to repel future stains, the blue-green liquid had the same color, consistency and (oops, don’t pull the safety seal with your teeth) taste as Seachoice and Attwood’s cleaners.

Instructions: Apply directly to the nonskid surface, let stand, scrub and rinse.

Performance Report: It did not completely restore deck test patch to white and “set” wine stain. It substantially removed the cola stain. Its detergent action removed the dried-on guts and blood.

Seachoice with PTEF
$7.19/Sportsman’s Guide

Features: It advertises incorporating PTEF to repel future stains. The blue-green liquid had the same color, consistency and (since we’d tasted Star brite’s) taste as Star brite. It makes no eco-friendly claim.

Instructions: Apply directly to the wetted nonskid surface, let stand, scrub and rinse (word for word like Attwood’s).

Performance Report: It did a fair job on two days of boating grime and aced the blood-and-guts test. It fell down on wine and coffee.

Attwood with Polymer
$6.95/Walmart

Features: Touted to be eco-friendly and to contain a polymer designed to repel future stains, the blue-green liquid had the same color, consistency and taste as Star brite and Seachoice entries.

Instructions: Again, apply directly to the wetted nonskid surface, let stand, scrub and rinse.

Performance Report: It did not completely restore deck test patch to white and turned wine stain from purple to dark gray. It lightened the cola stain. Blood and guts more easily brushed away.

Household Cleaners

**

**

ZEP Shower, Tub & Tile Cleaner
$1.98/The Home Depot

Features: Touted as safe for fiberglass, this product caused our gelcoat no ill effects over time. Its acidic base foams on a soiled surface, indicating the stain-removing reaction.

Instructions: Apply directly to the wetted nonskid surface, let stand and rinse.

Performance Report: It failed on the multiple-stain test. Only bleach removed the wine stain after this cleaner turned it dark gray. It substantially removed the cola stain. Fish guts were easily brushed away after application.

Soft Scrub with Bleach
$3.98/The Home Depot

Features: This liquid cleaner contains a bleach gel and a mild abrasive, so don’t use it on glossy fiberglass surfaces.

Instructions: Apply directly to the wetted nonskid surface, brush around to cover, let stand and rinse.

Performance Report: It removed every stain quickly and easily. It removed wine almost instantly, unless used after other cleaners tried and failed to do so. It showed almost instant removal without scrubbing. Blood and guts were easily brushed away after application.

Scrubbing Bubbles
$3.43/The Home Depot

Features: This spray-on cleaner is touted to be safe for fiberglass, and we’d have to agree, having used it for years without problems. Its acidic base foams on contact with a soiled surface, indicating a reaction is taking place to remove stains.

Instructions: Apply directly to the nonskid surface, let stand and rinse.

Performance Report: It too bowed to Soft Scrub on the full-monty test and “set” the wine stain. It substantially removed the cola stain and the blood and guts.

Liquid Bar Keepers Friend
$2.97/The Home Depot

Features: Mildly abrasive, this liquid has oxalic acid as an active ingredient. Captains use it only on nonskid, where gloss is not an issue.

Instructions: Apply directly to the wetted nonskid surface, scrub and rinse.

Performance Report: It did not completely restore deck test spot to white. It turned the wine stain dark gray and only bleach removed it. It substantially removed the cola stain. Its detergent and abrasive action removed the dried-on guts and blood.

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