Biodegradable Boat Soaps

Find out which biodegradable soap is right for your boat.

Meguiar's 54 Gel Wash
With the captivating color and aroma of cherry bubblegum, this viscous soap is formulated with biodegradable, pH-balanced detergents that won't strip away wax protection yet produce high-sudsing action to remove surface contaminants, according to Meguiar's. It features a convenient squirt-top, so you don't have to unscrew the cap, making it easy to dispense the soap. Recommended Concentration: One capful, or one good squirt from the dispenser top, per gallon of water. Effectiveness Ratings
Fish blood: Good
Grease: Good
Salt crust: Great
Squid ink: Good $6.81 for 16 ounces
Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner
With a minty yet slightly acerbic smell, this green liquid cleaner is one of the original biodegradable soaps. Its nontoxic formula is safe to use on gelcoat, canvas, stainless steel and aluminum, but Simple Green advises against use on unfinished wood, such as teak decking or covering boards. Recommended Concentration: One ounce per cup of water for general cleaning; one to one ratio for heavy-duty cleaning. Effectiveness Ratings (diluted for general cleaning)
Fish blood: Good
Grease: Great
Salt crust: Good
Squid ink: Fair $9.97 per gallon
Star brite Sea Safe Boat Wash
This thick, phosphate-free, aqua-blue liquid has a fruity aroma vaguely reminiscent of kiwi. The super-concentrated biodegradable soap is safe on all marine surfaces and gentle on the wax finish of gelcoat, according to Star brite. Its low-sudsing formula is designed to help conserve water while washing your boat, an important consideration in the drought-stricken Western states. Recommended Concentration: Three capfuls per bucket of water. Effectiveness Ratings
Fish blood: Great
Grease: Good
Salt crust: Great
Squid ink: Fair $9.95 for 32 ounces

I can think of two good reasons to use biodegradable boat soaps versus harsher formulas such as dishwashing detergents that contain phosphates and other harmful chemicals. Eco-friendliness ranks high on the list, plus these soaps are also gentler on common boat surfaces such as gelcoat, canvas, carpet, clear enclosures, vinyl, high-density plastics and your boat’s wax finish. But do they actually clean? To find out, we tested three bio-d soaps on the gelcoat of a boat left with a gnarly mess after two days of ocean fishing.