Environmentally “Green” Boating Products

More and more boat owners are seeking out specific eco-friendly products, and it can be hard to find them all in the same place. Both cleaning products and paints are items that you need to choose carefully for your boat, as many contain toxic chemicals and ingredients that are harmful to marine life. You can enjoy your time on the water a lot more knowing that you aren’t disrupting the marine life that calls it home.

Some people assume that if they’re cleaning their boat on land, they aren’t going to cause any damage with the chemicals and cleaners that they use. Even the best rinse is going to leave a residue, though, and the slightest change to the ecosystem in the water can make a big impact. Marine life is pretty resilient, but it’s best to stick with eco-friendly products for the best outcome every time. With so many different products available, it’s not hard to find something for every aspect of boat maintenance.

In this guide, we’ll help you understand what it means to be eco-friendly with various boat products and which products give you the benefits you deserve. You’ll need to learn what’s out there before you can do anything, of course.

Research Environmentally Safe Boat Products

Research is critical when choosing eco-friendly products, whether they’re for your boat or anything else in your life. The lack of regulation mentioned above opens up a world where companies can sell misleading or ineffective products with little to no recourse, and you’ll spend your hard-earned money on these products because you have faith in product labeling—but we’ll get into that more in a minute.
When you are searching for eco-friendly cleaners or paints for your boat, you need to make sure that you look at things like:

Brand Reputation and Marine Industry Use

Who makes the product? Are they known for making boat-specific products or green-friendly cleaners, for example? Always stick with the well-known brands to ensure that you get the best products for your boat.

Application Of Boat Products

Does the product work for what you need? There are many different types of cleaners and maintenance products on the market. Some are designed for specific boats. The case is the same with eco-friendly cleaners. Some might be designed for fiberglass, while others are for upholstery, plastic, glass, or other surfaces.

Harmful Chemicals Versus Organic Ingredients

One look at the ingredient label will tell you just how eco-friendly a particular product is. If there’s a list of items that you can’t pronounce or quickly identify, it’s probably not as “green” as the manufacturer wants you to think.

Boat Product Reviews

One great way to get the real truth about eco-friendly boat products is to see what other users have to say. Reviews from actual users and third-party review sits can tell you exactly how these cleaners work, whether they do work, and if they’re worth the money. That will make it much easier for you to find what you need.

If products claim to have any certification from environmental agencies or companies, be sure to follow up on those claims. Anyone can create a fake seal and place it on their website, and some are just desperate enough to do that. Of course, if you’ve started by working with well-known brands, this will be much less of a risk.

Don’t Buy the Label

There are limited requirements for labeling chemical products. The words used, including those like “organic” and “natural” aren’t regulated, and manufacturers aren’t even required to tell you what’s really in their products in most cases. Just because you see something on the shelf labeled “eco-friendly” or “marine-safe,” you can’t guarantee that it is. Make sure that you have done your homework by checking out the various brands and products to see what is reputable.

Bear in mind that consumer reviews can be helpful, but they can also be skewed. Make sure that you start by looking at products that do openly list all of their ingredients along with their eco-friendly status. If they are willing to disclose the ingredients, they must stand behind their product, after all. Plus, then you can verify the ingredients to ensure they are, in fact, green.

Eco-Friendly Boat Cleaning Products

There are plenty of recommendations for eco-friendly DIY alternatives, such as using baking soda for scouring or a baking soda paste to remove stains in fiberglass. However, these can be tedious and time-consuming. Plus, you’re still not going to want to wash anything into the water that you don’t have to, even if it’s “organic” material, such as baking soda, salt, or vinegar. With the growing number of eco-friendly products on the market today, you can find everything that you need in a boat-friendly, tested product that’s ready to use.

Eco-friendly boat cleaning products include soaps, spray cleaners, and some waxes. Concrobium XT Eco-Wash is one of the most popular, along with Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Boat Gel Wash. Both of these products rank high in quality and cleaning results, and if nothing else, you can trust a name like Meguiar’s.

Cleaning Below Deck

If you’ve got a cabin on your boat, you can use the same eco-friendly cleaners that you’d use at home for keeping things neat below deck. Some of the leading products and brands available include Seventh Generation, PureGreen24, BioKleen, Ecover, and BonAmi.

There are as many options for cleaning products as people seeking them. For general boat cleaning, the following brands offer some of the most popular products on the market today:

  • Starbrite Sea Safe Boat Wash
  • West Marine Pure Oceans Boat Soap
  • Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner
  • 3M Marine Boat Soap
  • Shurhold’s Yacht Brite Brite Wash

Eco-Friendly Boat Hull Paint

Bottom paint is another area that could stand an eco-friendly touch when it comes to maintaining your boat. The exact features of many antifouling paints that make them popular also make them dangerous to marine life. As such, many companies are creating a new line of marine bottom and antifouling paints that are eco-friendly and designed to offer the same quality protection without the harmful impact.

The biggest problem with most antifouling paint is the copper content, which is the main ingredient used to control fouling. Unfortunately, studies have shown that it is also leeching into the water and causing harmful contamination. Eco-friendly alternatives use zinc or another non-toxic chemical in place of copper, while non-biocide paints use a slick surface and hard coating instead of chemicals to control fouling.

SLIPS N1X Antifouling Boat Paint
SLIPS N1X Antifouling Boat Paint. Photo: Nate Cantalupo.

SLIPS N1x Anti-fouling Boat Paint

Barnacles, mussels, and micro-organisms that stick to boat hulls is an ongoing and costly nuisance for boat owners. Any buildup of biofouling leads to increased boat drag, greater fuel costs, and the headache of cleaning your boat more than enjoying it. SLIPS® N1x is an entirely new kind of marine bottom paint for recreational and commercial boats of all sizes, and solves the persistent problem of biofouling. And unlike many existing products on the market today, SLIPS® N1x doesn’t contain any biocides and is environmentally friendly.

This paint creates an ultra-smooth, slippery surface that fouling can’t attach to. Not only does the lack of biocides help save marine life and reduce water pollution, it also saves fuel. The paint also lasts multiple seasons so you don’t have to worry about painting your boat every year. SLIPS N1x claims customers will see an 8% increase in fuel savings over traditional anti-fouling paint solutions.

Hempasil X3 and Intersleek Pro by Interlux

Two other common alternative paints are Hempasil X3 and Intersleek Pro by Interlux. Both of these paints have ranked at the top of their class for quality, eco-friendly paint solutions. Hull paint isn’t all created equally, of course, so you’ll need to review these two options and see if they meet your needs.

Stop Using Disposable Paper Towels

If you’re going to invest in an eco-friendly cleaner, you might as well go the extra mile and make the entire cleaning and maintenance process better for the environment. Invest in shop rags or use old towels and clothes as rags instead of buying disposable paper towels or shop towels. You’ll get the same quality cleaning results, and you can wash and reuse them every time that you clean.

When buying your cleaners, consider buying the bulk size and investing in a smaller refillable container that is eco-friendly if you need something more compact for regular use. This will save you from buying dozens of smaller plastic containers, which can lead to excess plastic waste. These are small steps, but they are important ones to make if you want to turn caring for your boat into a less environmentally-impactful process.

Here are some more tips to help you make your entire cleaning process a little greener so that you can reduce your impact as much as possible:

  • Keep towels handy to reduce runoff with heavy-duty cleaning and spot treatments
  • Rinsing your boat regularly with fresh water to keep dirt from building up results in fewer washings over time
  • Follow all of the instructions, including dilution recommendations – less dilution could be damaging to the marine environment
  • Choose a general soap that is environmentally friendly and provides a clean, effective wash
  • Choose a stronger product only for spot cleaning when necessary since smaller doses of boat cleaning chemicals will have less of an impact

Green Boat Product Reviews

Here are some excellent eco-friendly boating products that should be on your next shopping list.

StarBrite Sea Safe Biodegradable Boat Wash

This soap is concentrated for ultimate power and economy, offering an environmentally responsible, low-sudsing soap that is lake safe. Like all cleaners, it’s still best to use it out of the water, but it’s safe if some of it does get in the water. This cleaner also works on all types of surfaces, including vinyl, fiberglass, rubber, plastic, glass, paint, and metalwork.

BOATER’S EDGE Wash Biodegradable Boat Soap Concentrate

This concentrate is formulated to safely remove salt deposits, road grime, dirt and debris, exhaust fumes, salt deposits, waterline stains, and even fish blood. Again, this product works on a variety of surfaces, including fiberglass, plastic, painted surfaces, and vinyl, and leaves no residue behind. This brand also has specific cleaners for hulls, decks, and general-purpose cleaning, as well as a wash and wax that are environmentally friendly.

Star Brite Super Orange Citrus Wash

Star Brite makes the list more than once because it’s a brand that boaters know and trust, and because its products work. This citrus wash removes oil, dirt, and grease from surfaces like metal, fiberglass, and painted area. It is biodegradable and concentrated for economy. Effective on dirt, this cleaner won’t damage surfaces and does not remove any wax or polish. It can be used on boats that travel in fresh or saltwater.

Star Brite has a full line of Sea Safe cleaners and eco-friendly boating products, including hull cleaner, bilge cleaner, and non-skid deck cleaner.

ProPower+ Industrial Strength RV & Boat Multi-Cleaner

ProPower+ is manufactured by FFT, a science-based company that has been around for over 25 years. This cleaner utilized a unique combination of bio-based materials to create a product that has diverse applications in various industries, including boating and marine vessels. This cleaner can safely remove dirt and grime, road film, algae, and mildew stains. Plus, it’s 100% biodegradable, and it is safe for the environment. The innovative product properties set this cleaner apart, and boaters can trust it because it’s backed by science.

Your Environmental Impact Is Up to You

In addition to what you buy, it’s all about what you do when it comes to eco-friendly products and environmental responsibility. These products can help you reduce your impact, but when it comes to boating, there is so much more that you can do to help the environment. There is even a lot that you can change in the way of parts and maintenance to create a better-running, more environmentally-friendly boat all around.
Make sure that you’re cleaning and maintaining your boat per local guidelines and EPA best practices, including proper disposal of oil and other maintenance fluids. Every boater loves the water, but if it’s not taken care of, it may not be there to be appreciated in the future.

In Summary

You aren’t going to spend any more on eco-friendly boating products than you would on cleaners and products that you are already buying. Take the time to explore the selection on the market and see just how affordable these products can be. No matter what type of cleaning you have in mind or if you need specific eco-friendly features in your cleaners, there is something out there for just about everyone. Besides, if you use better cleaners and paints now, you’ll be able to enjoy more boating in the long run. Now that you know more about eco-friendly boating products and solutions, find yours today.

Written by: Valerie Mellema

Valerie Mellema is a writer, published author and avid bass angler who lives on the shores of Lake Fork in East Texas — the top bass lake in Texas and the fifth in the nation. For the past 10 years, she and her husband have enjoyed the pontoon boat lifestyle while fishing a lake that not only has bass but beautiful wildlife as well. She holds a BS in Agribusiness/Equine Business and regularly contributes articles to boats.com, YachtWorld and Boat Trader.