Cleaning our non-skid decks was a hated chore with scrubbing on our hands and knees. This product makes it much, much easier.

Cleaning Non-Skid Boat Decks

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!

Cleaning our non-skid decks was a hated chore with scrubbing on our hands and knees. This product makes it much, much easier.

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  • Diane Uttley Marrapodi
    Posted at 01 April 2016 Reply

    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.

  • Amy Burlette
    Posted at 01 April 2016 Reply

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

  • Les
    Posted at 01 April 2016 Reply

    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.

  • Tina Barnes-Weida
    Posted at 01 April 2016 Reply

    Definitely going to try this!

  • Frances Liz Fernandez
    Posted at 01 April 2016 Reply

    Good to know

  • Connie Smith
    Posted at 01 April 2016 Reply

    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!

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 01 April 2016 Reply

      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!

  • Yvonne Green Short
    Posted at 01 April 2016 Reply

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

  • Anne Ellingsen
    Posted at 01 April 2016 Reply

    Is this an April Fools post?

  • Seagal
    Posted at 01 April 2016 Reply

    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!

    • Becky Albers
      Posted at 09 March 2017 Reply

      We’ve had good luck just using slightly diluted white vinegar

    • Matas
      Posted at 15 April 2017 Reply

      I clean our outdoor sunbrella with Dawn dish soap and a scrub brush.

      Sounds like it’s time for more water proofing. You can buy the sunbrella recommended 303 water proofing online for around $50 (gallon) at Walmart. Can roll or spray on. Did everything except the sail bag last week.

      • Carolyn Shearlock
        Posted at 15 April 2017 Reply

        We love the 303 waterproofing — for anyone not familiar with it, I wrote an article about it here:

  • Deneen Taylor
    Posted at 01 April 2016 Reply

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

  • Ed Starboard
    Posted at 03 April 2016 Reply

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

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 03 April 2016 Reply

      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.

  • Don Stewart
    Posted at 04 April 2016 Reply

    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.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 04 April 2016 Reply

      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.

  • tami
    Posted at 05 April 2016 Reply

    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…

  • Ani v.
    Posted at 03 May 2016 Reply

    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.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 03 May 2016 Reply

      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?

  • Vivienne
    Posted at 09 March 2017 Reply

    Vanish Oxy also works well

  • Steve Charlebois
    Posted at 15 April 2017 Reply

    I use the Starbrite non-slip deck cleaner and it works great as well. The deck always looks so much better and the PTEF helps keep them clean for quite awhile.

  • Bill Jelinek
    Posted at 15 April 2017 Reply

    West Marine Memorial Day sale is coming up, and they usually have their deck cleaner BOGO free.

  • Shannon
    Posted at 30 April 2017 Reply

    Is there anything to put on after it is clean to help it stay clean? We have a brand new boat and it was hard to keep the non skid clean.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 30 April 2017 Reply

      I don’t really know of anything. Wax sort of defeats the purpose of non-skid, unfortunately. :/

    • Steven Charlebois
      Posted at 30 April 2017 Reply

      The Starbrite non-slip deck cleaner with PTEF helps to repel dirt after they are clean. I really like this product. I put it on a wet surface and apply it with a brush over a small section. Let it sit for 2-4 minutes and then give it a good scrubbing. Rinse. The non-skid deck will look so much better.

  • Kim
    Posted at 07 May 2017 Reply

    The ingredient in these various sopas or detergents is very often an acid derived from the rhubarb, oxal acid. This can be bought in powder form in most paint stores and is very cheap. Mix it with water following the instructions and distribute it onto the deck with a brush or rag and take a cup of coffee and let work for a few minutes. After that just brush over it again and hose it away. Works very well on yellowed gelcoat as well. Cheap and effective! Just did it yesterday on my boat and it looks like new.
    There is a wax available that is non slip and is created specifically for these surfaces. Applied that as well and it really looks good and is effective.

  • John Lowther
    Posted at 22 May 2017 Reply

    Carolyn, have you tried Mr Clean Majic Erasers? Just cleaned my boat today after being in storage all winter, Majic Erasers did a tremendous job, very little srubbing required. Cheers and keep up the good work, love reading your articles

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 22 May 2017 Reply

      We’ve tried them and I guess our nonskid is just too rough — they’ve been torn up very quickly.

  • Deb
    Posted at 19 September 2017 Reply

    Chalkiness on gelcoat is easy to remove with Prism Polish. Our 35 year old cockpit looks like new fiberglass when we’re done. It also works great on hatches and ports that are in bad shape.

    SV Kintala

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