Skip to main content

DIY Boat Projects: Cleaning Marine Aluminum

Give your boat a facelift! Three-part series on DIY projects many boat owners can perform.

DIY Boat Projects: Cleaning Marine Aluminum

Product Only: SB-230 $200 per pint For Showboat Custom Coating to do it: $950-$1,300

If you have a boat built for salt water, chances are that it has some type of welded aluminum structure, such as a tuna tower, T-top or poling platform.

If this “brightwork” is starting to show its age, there is a procedure that can bring back much of the original luster, plus add a layer of protection for the future. The product I chose for this application is made by Showboat Custom Coating. It's a clear ceramic coating that's easy to apply. The only difficult part is making sure you prepare the metal surface correctly, without any shortcuts. Their website has very detailed instructions. Let's look here at the basics:

On our subject boat we decided to replace the canvas top, so we went a bit further than we actually had to. In lieu of removing the canvas, we could have just untied it and flipped the edges out of the way. In either case, the first step is to remove anything that will not allow you to get to the full surface of the aluminum pipework.

When treating aluminum to bring back the luster, start by applying plastic sheeting and painters tape to protect surfaces around the aluminum.

Now you're ready to start the process. First, tape off around the bases of the legs or supports with blue painter's tape. Cover other areas of the boat with plastic sheeting—any areas that may be affected if some of the cleaning solution or coating drips.

Next step is to clean the aluminum surface with Soft Scrub and a Scotch Brite pad. Take your time throughout each process so no areas are missed, especially the welds.

Now you'll need to etch the surface of the aluminum. For this, use wet and dry sandpaper. Use 2,000 grit for polished aluminum and 1,500 for a brushed finish. Take care around areas where the pads meet the fiberglass. This is where having taped off the pads pays off.

Before on the left, after on the right.

To degrease the aluminum, Dawn dishwashing soap works best. Use a microfiber cloth and lots of water. After all of the aluminum is thoroughly washed, it's not a bad idea to wash areas around or under your aluminum to remove any residue from the wet sanding. Rinse everything down with a liberal amount of clean water and allow to air dry for at least one hour.

The final prep is to wipe down the aluminum with denatured alcohol. A spray bottle works best for this and again use a microfiber cloth to wipe. Allow the alcohol to dry for a minimum of 20 minutes.

Now you're ready to apply the SB-230, which is the clear ceramic coating. Well, almost ready. Check the forecast to make sure there's no approaching rain in the area. The coating needs an hour to become tack free and you don't want any water hitting the coating before it's cured. If it does, it will create spots that are not easy to remove.

Applying the clear coating is simply a matter of soaking a small portion of a microfiber cloth and wiping onto the aluminum. Find a good place to start and end so you don't miss any areas.


Allow the coating to completely dry then re-tie your canvas or install your new canvas. Now step back and admire your work.

What You'll Need for One T-top

  • Non-powdered gloves
  • Protective eyewear
  • Tarp or plastic sheeting
  • 2" blue painter's tape
  • Soft Scrub (no bleach)
  • Scotch Brite pads (white)
  • Dawn dishwashing soap
  • Bucket
  • Water
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Spray bottle
  • Denatured alcohol

Read part two of this series, painting hull sides using the roll-n-tip method. FS

First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine April 2019

More articles from this issue:

Kayaks and Fly Fishing By Mike Conner

Tips for making the most out of these versatile boats. Click here to read.

Writer with bluegill and largemouth bass. Pros and cons to fly fishing out of a kayak are discussed in the article.

To see more articles like this, subscribe here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Florida Sportsman Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

Preview This Month's Issue

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Florida Sportsman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Florida Sportsman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now