Cleaning Non-Skid Boat Decks

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2016 • all rights reserved

Cleaning our non-skid decks was a pretty hated chore with lots of scrubbing on our hands and knees. We discovered a product that made it much, much easier.

Barefoot Gal has white non-skid decks. They attract dirt like you wouldn’t believe – particularly the steps up the transom where we board. Of course, we’re usually wearing shoes since we’ve been ashore, and the black just gets ground in. The cockpit floor gets pretty bad, too.

Now, we’re not clean freaks but we do want the boat to look nice. However, we like to do other things too, so we don’t want to spend every waking moment scrubbing the decks . . .

Over the past two years, we’ve tried a lot of products – both those designed for boats and a number of non-marine cleaners.

The last time we were in West Marine, Dave picked up a bottle off their Non-Skid Deck Cleaner. I’ll admit that I sort of rolled my eyes, wondering how it was going to be any different from anything else we’d tried. Dave made some comment about since he was the one doing the cleaning, he got to try what he wanted to . . . and after all, it did say it was specifically for non-skid decks. So we got it.

It has proven to be by far the best thing we’ve tried! (The photo at top shows the before and after – the deck that Dave cleaned and the steps that were yet to be done. Not Photoshopped!)

You wet the deck down, pour a little of the cleaner on and spread it around with a deck brush (you don’t have to scrub with the deck brush; just spread the water and cleaner suds to cover the area). Wait 2 or 3 minutes while the cleaner does it stuff. Go over the area again with the deck brush to loosen the dirt – you don’t have to scrub hard. Then rinse with fresh water (they’re specific about using fresh; we haven’t tried using salt water to see if it makes a difference).

We’ve found that using a sprayer of some type – a tank sprayer, Aquabot or cockpit shower – works better than just pouring water due to having a bit of force behind it to push the dirt and soap out of the non-skid.

We also have a lot of textured fiberglass trim in the boat, and it’s always been a pain to clean. Krud Kutter with a toothbrush was the best way I’d found, but it was pretty labor intensive. After seeing how well (aka easily) the Non-Skid Deck Cleaner worked in the cockpit, I decided to try some. Only problem was that we were out. Another trip to West Marine.

I discovered that in addition to the “regular” Non-Skid Deck Cleaner that West Marine markets, they also have one that’s part of their “Pure Oceans” environmentally friendly line. Dave was skeptical that it would work as well but we both thought that having to scrub a little more was worth it for a no-bleach product (he hadn’t seen it when he bought the first bottle as it was in a different area).

Surprise! It worked every bit as well. And yes, it was much easier to clean the trim with it than Krud Kutter – I wet the trim with a sponge and then used a nail brush with the cleaner. I then used a bar rag with fresh water to rinse it off.

While it worked really well on the “regular” dirt on the deck, the Non-Skid Deck Cleaner did not remove rust stains or a few other mystery stains that came with the boat. Emboldened by his success, Dave decided to try some FSR (Fiberglass Stain Remover) on them and was surprised at how well it worked – although it did little on just plain dirt.

I highly recommend these two products! I know that Starbrite also makes a Non-Skid Deck Cleaner but haven’t tried it so I can’t report on it.

Has it made our boat look like new? I’ll admit not. Barefoot Gal is 17 years old and her gelcoat is chalky. But she is noticeably cleaner with a lot less work than what Dave had previously used. And where I’ve used it on the non-skid fiberglass floors inside the boat, as well as the textured trim, I’ve been impressed too.

You can buy both at West Marine (you can buy online and have it shipped to you or delivered to a nearby store); FSR is also available from Amazon for slightly less:

Disclosure: The Boat Galley makes a tiny bit on purchases from both West Marine and Amazon when purchased through these links – at no extra cost to you – but I don’t recommend products based on earning a little. I recommend them (or not) based on my experience!

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Comments

  1. We have also found that the West Marine Non-Skid Deck cleaner did a fabulous job! Also, love the recipes in the Boat Galley Cookbook! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Oh, thanks for this. I just scrubbed some of ours with simple green and while that worked, not scrubbing is always a better option!

  3. Ever try Boat Zoap (yes, with a Z)? It’s the best deck cleaner I’ve ever used, just do not use knock offs they do not work as well. Have not tried non-stick cleaner yet.

  4. Definitely going to try this!

  5. Good to know

  6. I agree, Carolyn. After you tip and my trip to West Marine, I am a happy boater. I couldn’t believe how much easier the dirt was to clean. Thanks!

    • I wish they had included some used motor oil and general “ground in dirt” in the mess . . . but their results were about the same as what we experienced. Soft Scrub works well, but the bleach in the water is nasty for fish!

  7. I use Simple Green to clean my non-skid decks and touch up with BarKeepers Friend where there is rust stain

  8. Is this an April Fools post?

  9. Thanks Carolyn,
    We just re-painted our non-skid and will keep a bottle of this on hand.

    I have tried everything in W.M. for algae on Sunbrella dodgers and can’t get it clean. Any suggestions besides the Sunbrella cleaner (3M).

    Thanks for your great website!

  10. I used both the deck cleaner and FSR and they are fabulous!

  11. I have found most cleaners that are effective like this will also strip the wax. Will this non skid cleaner leave wax alone?

    • I’m not sure since we don’t use wax on the non-skid or the area immediately adjacent. It does contain PTFE which provides protection . . . and is what we use on the rest of the boat.

  12. Don Stewart says:

    Cheaper and GOOD – oxalic acid powder – 1 cup dissolved in warm water and then diluted in half a bucket of water – use a mop to cover 10 feet of deck – keep moist for 20 minutes and then light scub. Rinse thoroughly, thoroughly. Wear rubber gloves and eye protection.

    We are in Barcelone close to the airport and get a lot of greasy oil from flyovers.

    Caution keep off hatches.

    • Hi Don! We’ve tried oxalic acid in the form of Barkeeper’s Friend and found it took a lot more effort on our (admittedly older) boat. Glad it’s working for you. We also like that the WM product is a lot more environmentally friendly and not nearly so nasty to work with.

  13. Chalky gelcoat? I had good results with a Makita polisher and 3M HIGH GLOSS GELCOAT COMPOUND, and used a technique that a professional taught me which if you want I’ll email, you’ll have my address 🙂 Lifted up my 24-year-old gelcoat beautifully…

  14. Ani v. says:

    if you don’t have it onboard your boat, then you should. A spray bottle of “Awesome”, you get it at the 99cent store and some hardware stores now carry it. It takes stains off fiberglass, even even red wine off fabric. Great stuff to have on board.
    Another product someone turned me onto was paint brush cleaner from home depot. This cleans white rubber beautifully, even the rust stains. I use it on my life lines, rub rails, they are always perfectly white. Use sparingly on a clean rag and rub on.

    • We’ve used Awesome for about 10 years now (I’ve even written about it getting permanent marker off Formica) but it didn’t do much on the gunk in our non-skid. Maybe just a difference in whatever is getting on our deck here?

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