If you have an aluminum boat, keeping it looking its best means investing in a good cleaner. But how do you know which one to choose?
Well, you’ve come to the right place! We’re going to look at nine of the best aluminum boat cleaners on the market right now. And we’ll tell you what makes them great, as well as any drawbacks you need to know about.
This cleaner from Star Brite is specifically designed for aluminum boats where the unpainted metal has dulled with time. It will both deal with stains and brighten the finish.
It comes in a 64-ounce container with a sprayer to help apply it evenly. Expect to use a couple of bottles to complete a 20-foot pontoon. It will handle oxidation, waterline stains, lime deposits, and gold old-fashioned dirt.
It does require the right technique to achieve the best results. Wet the aluminum before applying, spray it on evenly from the bottom to the top. Then use a brush to ensure even coverage, working in patches of two to three feet wide. Wash thoroughly, then move onto the next section.
Overlapping each new section slightly with the last will give you a good finish without streaks.
Note that you’ll probably need more than one coat for heavier soiling. And make sure you apply it in a well-ventilated area. The fumes can be overpowering.
Deals with stains and brightens the finish
No mixing required
Effectively tackles oxidation, waterline stains, lime deposits and dirt
You may need more than one coat to get rid of stubborn stains
Strong odors – make sure you apply it in a well-ventilated area.
Duragloss 860 is an aluminum cleaner and brightener. It’s designed for automatives, but will work just as well on unpainted aluminum boats.
It’s very easy to use. Just spray it on and wait three minutes. Then rinse it off – no rubbing is required. The product comes in a bottle with its own spray nozzle, so it’s very easy to use.
The formula is extremely strong and will handle dirt and grease, as well as brightening the metal. But don’t be tempted to use it over clear coating, or on highly polished aluminum. It can damage the surface.
The other thing to note with this one is that the bottle is quite small – just 32 ounces. The price per ounce compares favorably to other products. But just be aware that if you’re cleaning a larger boat, you’ll need several bottles.
Exceptionally easy to use, with no scrubbing required
Works in just three minutes
Cuts through dirt and grease and brightens the aluminum
Not suitable for clear coated or highly polished aluminum
The bottle is fairly small, so be prepared to buy several.
This aluminum brightener from Quality Chemical comes in convenient 128-ounce containers. That will give you enough cleaner for a 20-foot long pontoon.
It will get rid of stains, discoloring, grease, oil and oxidation. As well as cleaning the metal, it will brighten the surface. And it also contains inhibitors to stop corrosion recurring after use.
In addition to cleaning your boat, it’s a good option for boat trailers. If yours has suffered from corrosion from road salt, this will have it looking as good as new.
Note, though, that it’s not suitable for use on polished or anodized aluminum.
It’s very easy to use, though you will need to mix it with water first. Then spray on the solution, leave it to work for a few minutes, and rinse it off. In most cases, no elbow grease will be required. For the most stubborn stains, however, you may need to scrub.
And for thicker or more extensive soiling, you may need a second or even a third coat. In some cases (like extensive algae staining) even that may not be sufficient.
Cleans and brightens in one step
For all but the most stubborn stains, no scrubbing is required
Zing’s aluminum pontoon and boat cleaner is formulated without any chemicals that could harm marine life. There are no unpleasant fumes as you apply it. And it’s biodegradable, and suitable for use in both freshwater and saltwater environments.
It’s designed to both remove marine stains and brighten the metal. And it will loosen zebra mussels and barnacles.
We’ve heard very different accounts of its effectiveness. Some people swear by it as the best pontoon cleaner they’ve ever used. Others have found it had little impact – or worse, left behind its own stains!
It’s difficult to know to what extent these varying opinions are the result of user error or local circumstances. But if you’re looking for a non-hazardous cleaner that won’t emit unpleasant fumes, it’s worth giving this a try.
It comes in quart or gallon containers. For lighter stains, dilute one part cleaner to one part water. For heavy staining, use it neat. And note that it might require repeat applications, plus some scrubbing.
Cleans and brightens in one step – and will tackle barnacles and zebra mussels too
Biodegrades quickly into harmless by-products
No fumes during application
Doesn’t work effectively in all circumstances
More stubborn stains may require repeat applications – plus some elbow grease.
Better Boat’s Instant Hull Cleaner is designed for fiberglass and painted hulls. But it can also be used to good effect on bare and painted aluminum surfaces.
It will remove even thick build-up and both old and recent staining. Staining around the waterline, black streaks, salt marks, rust, lime deposits, grease and grime can all be a thing of the past.
It can be applied using either a sprayer or a sponge. Just cover the area to be cleaned and leave it to work for about two minutes before rinsing it off. In most cases, that’s all that will be required. For more stubborn stains, be prepared to do a little scrubbing.
Note that it’s strong stuff, and will give off fumes. Use it in a well-ventilated area, and ideally with a face mask.
Works effectively on both painted and bare aluminum
Tackles all manner of old and recent staining
Easy to use, and can be applied using either a sprayer or a sponge
Gives off strong fumes – use only in a well-ventilated area
You may need to scrub to get rid of the most persistent stains.
The second aluminum cleaner from Duragloss to make our list, 552 is a direct-application formulation. In other words, you won’t need to dilute it with water.
It comes in a 1-gallon container. For best results attach it to a sprayer, and spray it evenly over the surface to be cleaned. Work from the bottom to the top, or you may find you’re left with drip lines. Wait for a couple of minutes, then rinse it off.
This is non-abrasive, so it won’t attack the metal. But it’s a better option for light soiling than for more intense stains. If your boat has older or stubborn stains, you’ll find you need to do a lot of scrubbing.
In addition to aluminum, it can be used to clean a wide range of non-ferrous metals. If you’re looking for a cleaner that can also be used on brass, chrome, copper and stainless steel, this is a good option.
Non-abrasive, so cleans without scratching or damaging the aluminum
No need to dilute before use
Suitable for brass, copper, chrome and stainless steel, as well as aluminum
Not the heaviest duty cleaner – best suited to lighter staining
Apply it carefully, or you can be left with drip lines.
Sharkhide’s aluminum cleaner is designed to give you a great finish without scrubbing, and without leaving behind streaks.
The strong formula is intended for industrial use only, so it needs to be used with care. Use PPE to avoid breathing it in or having it come into contact with your skin.
It comes in a 32-ounce bottle with a screw cap. It needs to be used with a sprayer, so you’ll have to buy that separately.
It can be used neat or diluted to up to one part cleaner to ten parts water. For more stubborn stains, increase the concentration. Get the right strength, and you shouldn’t have to scrub to get rid of years of streaks, stains and oxidation.
The precise amount of cleaner you’ll need will depend on the level of staining. But as a rule of thumb, two quarts should be sufficient for a 22 to 24-foot pontoon.
Can be used at different concentrations, depending on how heavy the soiling
Very strong – no scrubbing required
Contains some seriously harsh chemicals – protect your skin and wear a mask when using it
This aluminum polish is the second product from Star Brite to make our list. It will remove lighter layers of oxidation, but it’s really designed as a final polish for use after you’ve cleaned your boat.
It contains polymers that will leave behind a deep shine. They’ll also offer a layer of protection to the metal, helping to inhibit future staining. And they’ll help resist damage from strong sunshine.
If you’ve been left with white stains from not completely rinsing off your hull cleaner, this will eliminate those too.
It comes in a 16-ounce bottle. For best results, use it with an electric buffer. Note that while it can be used with painted aluminum, other products will be better suited. That’s because this contains chemicals to remove oxidation from bare metal, which won’t be necessary with a painted surface.
But beware – if you use this on aluminum that still has oxidation, you can be left with a mess. The polish seems to react with it and effectively smear it over the surface of the metal.
Provides a bright finish for clean aluminum
Will remove white stains left by not completely rinsing off your hull cleaner
Contains polymers that protect against staining and sun damage
Needs to be used with an electric buffer to get the best results
Don’t use it on aluminum that still has oxidation – it can make a mess.
This aluminum restorer and polish comes from 3M’s marine range of products. It can be used to clean and polish everything from aluminum hulls to trim and hardware.
It will get rid of oxidation and the chalky finish that results from exposure to the elements. And it will brighten and add shine to the metal, bringing it back to its former glory.
This is a paste, and it comes in a small 18-ounce container. It can be applied by hand with a cloth or using a rotary polisher. For heavier staining use a polisher, but note that this still won’t be suitable for very corroded surfaces.
A little goes a long way. Work on an area of 4 square feet at a time. The mildly abrasive formula will restore the original finish on matte, brushed and gloss surfaces. Note, though, that it’s not suitable for anodized aluminum.
Can be used on everything from aluminum hulls to trims and hardware
That brings us to the end of our look at nine of the best aluminum boat cleaners on the market today. We hope it’s helped you to identify the right product for your needs.
Our favorite is Star Brite’s Ultimate Aluminum Cleaner/Restorer. We love its two-stage formula that both cleans and brightens. Use it with the Ultimate Aluminum Polisher from the same manufacturer for a showroom finish.
Whichever cleaner you choose, we hope you’re soon enjoying giving your boat a fresh new look. Happy cleaning!