What To Look For In Boat Brushes

Consider these insights before purchasing a boat brush.

March 4, 2020
Selecting the right boat brush
Shurhold’s stiff white-bristle brush is designed for acid washing and scrubbing away fouling below the waterline. Courtesy Shurhold

Boat brushes from brands such as Shurhold, Star brite and West Marine include a variety of bristle stiffnesses—from super-soft to super-stiff, each designed for a specific boat surface and cleaning task.

To find out which to use where and when, we talked with Barry Berhof, CEO for Palm City, Florida-based Shurhold Industries, which offers a choice of five stiffness levels in a wide range of interchangeable, quick-attach-and-release brush heads for its aluminum-handle systems.

“When it comes to brushes, you should always start with the least aggressive (read: softest) bristles and work your way up in stiffness,” Berhof says. “You want to get the job done, but with minimal effect on the boat’s finish.”


Super Soft

A super-soft brush style, such as the Shurhold extra-soft design with blue nylon bristles, is for delicate surfaces such as clear vinyl curtains and clear acrylic windshields. “Keep one of the extra-soft dedicated to vinyl and acrylic windows, and nothing else,” Berhof says. This brush is easier on a delicate surface than a wool mitt, he says. “Unlike a mitt, the feathered tips of the bristles of our blue brushes are far less likely to press any dirt, sand or salt crystals into the vinyl or acrylic,” he says.

Extra-soft blue-bristle brush from Shurhold
The extra-soft blue-bristle brush from Shurhold is soft enough for clear vinyl windshields and curtains. Courtesy Shurhold

Before brushing, thoroughly rinse any surface with fresh water, and make sure the brush is fully loaded with soapy water. The extra-soft blue nylon bristles are available in 6-, 8- and 10-inch-wide brush heads.


Medium Soft

A medium-­soft brush head, such as Shurhold’s soft style with yellow polystyrene bristles with split-end fibers, is safe on gelcoat, clear coat and painted surfaces. The feathery tips of the bristles are engineered to hold plenty of soapy water to gently sud surfaces.

Medium-soft yellow Shurhold brush
The medium-soft yellow Shurhold brush will handle 95 percent of the work when washing your boat. The feathered tips hold plenty of soapy water. Courtesy Shurhold

“Our yellow soft brush will handle 95 percent of the work,” Berhof says, pointing out that Shurhold offers this in a 6-, 8- and 10-inch-wide brush, and ­a 5-inch-diameter round model for getting into hard-to-reach areas.


“This brush style also works well on closed-foam EVA nonskid such as SeaDek, King Starboard plastic components, and teak decks,” Berhof says. “When scrubbing teak, however, be sure to brush across the grain,” he advises.

Medium Stiff

A brush such as the Shurhold medium-design deck brush with moderately stiff yellow polystyrene bristles works well on textured surfaces and nonskid fiberglass decks.


“This is a good all-around deck brush, whether you’re cleaning the deck with seawater or scrubbing it with soapy fresh water after fishing,” ­Berhof explains.

Shurhold medium-stiff yellow brush
The medium-stiff yellow brush works well on surfaces such as fiberglass nonskid. Courtesy Shurhold

However, this level of stiffness should be used only sparingly and with a light touch when working on hard-to-­remove dirt from smooth gelcoat surfaces, teak decks and closed-foam EVA nonskid.

Shurhold’s medium-bristle design is available in 6- and 10-inch-wide brush heads.

Extra Stiff

Specialty brushes with super-stiff bristles, such as the Shurhold stiff models with white polypropylene bristles, are designed for acid-washing teak and cleaning the hull below the waterline. “These brushes are favored by professional mariners such as commercial fishermen for scrubbing aluminum and steel decks, and heavy wooden planking,” ­Berhof notes. This Shurhold bristle design is available in 6- and 10-inch brush heads.

Do-It-All Brush

The combo 6-inch brush from Shurhold offers the benefits of both soft and stiff bristles in one brush head. It consists of tall, soft red polystyrene bristles with split-end fibers around the outside, with shorter, medium-stiff yellow polystyrene bristles in the center of the brush head

In normal scrubbing on a smooth surface, only the soft bristles contact the deck, a bulkhead or the side of the boat, making it safe on gelcoat, clear coat, fiberglass and painted surfaces.

For more aggressive scrubbing on tough stains, ground-in dirt and textured surfaces, press harder on the brush to utilize the stiffer bristles.

“This is a great all-around brush that lets you ­efficiently scrub boats up to 24 feet in length without having to choose between two different brush heads as you wash different areas of the boat.”


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