Waxing Your Gelcoat

By Natalie Sears

A shiny gelcoat, minus the splotches and swirls, can make your boat the pride of any dock.

Photo of waxing boat's gelcoat

Keep It Even

Apply the wax and buff it off by hand or with a power buffer. If you do it by hand, hold the rag or pad as flat as you can. Place your hand flat over the rag (which you've folded in half once, then in half again) to apply pressure when spreading the wax. Don't use just your fingertips, or the wax won't be even and, when you wipe or buff it off, will look splotchy. Apply pressure as evenly as you can in a circular motion, and go over the section a few times to make sure you cover it entirely.

If you apply the wax with a buffer, keep the pad flat, instead of using the edges, and try to maintain an even pressure as you proceed. Soft waxes and polishes that don't contain rubbing compound can be allowed to dry to a haze before wiping or buffing off.

Check Your Work

Once you've wiped the wax from the area you're working on, check it from several angles.

If you see swirl marks, splotches, or dull spots, go over the area again. Try working small sections at a time. It's best to have the boat shaded.

Hard-To-Reach Areas

If your boat's in the water, the best way to reach the side of the hull away from the dock is to turn your boat. If you're using an electric buffer, there are less opportunities for the cord to go into the water, which can cause an electric shock. Be very careful. Also, because you'll need one hand to help keep yourself in place while working, you're left with only one hand to work the buffer, which won't allow you to get good leverage on your work and will result in a splotchy job. Even if you're waxing by hand, you may not be able to apply enough even pressure to the rag to get a smooth, even result. If your slip has a high dock from which you can't easily reach the lower portions of the hull, move your boat to a low dock while you complete the job. 

Natalie Sears is the author of The Insider's Guide to Boat Cleaning and Detailing, from which these tips are excerpted.

— Published: Fall 2015


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