How to Remove Barnacles From a Boat

by Ben Team
The giant whales of the sea aren't immune to barnacles either.

The giant whales of the sea aren't immune to barnacles either.

As unsightly crustaceans cement themselves to bridge pilings, rocks and -- most disturbingly -- the hull of your boat, periodic removal is required. Unfortunately, the only way to get the stubborn stowaways off your boat is by using a sharp blade and applying plenty of manual effort. Nevertheless, because barnacles reduce buoyancy and increase drag, removing them is a necessary, if arduous, task, as barnacles can reduce a vessel's fuel efficiency by as much as 40 percent.

1. Remove your boat from the water. Because you may release harmful chemicals from the anti-fouling paints used on the hull when removing barnacles, you must do so in a marina that filters runoff water before discharging it back into the main water body. Alternatively, if your boat is small enough, you can place it on your lawn or driveway, but take care that the runoff water does not wash into local streams or rivers.

2. Put on safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying debris or chemicals. Spray the bottom of the boat with a pressure washer set on low, to remove any slime and loosely attached debris.

3. Put on heavy gloves and then scrape off as many barnacles as possible. Use the floor scraper first, to take advantage of the reach it affords, and finish with the paint scraper, to remove the most tenacious barnacles. Use care to avoid gouging or otherwise damaging the hull.

4. Take off the heavy gloves and put on the latex gloves to protect your hands from the cleaning chemicals. Clean the entire hull with a lime-removing agent that is appropriate for your boat's hull type. After applying the cleaner as instructed by the manufacturer, rinse the hull completely.

Items you will need

  • Safety glasses
  • Pressure washer and water supply
  • Heavy gloves
  • Floor scraper
  • Paint scraper
  • Latex gloves
  • Lime-removing hull cleaner
  • Clean rag
  • Rain suit (optional)

Tips

  • Anti-fouling paints help to prevent barnacles from attaching themselves to boat hulls, but they often do so at great environmental cost. If you want to apply such products to the bottom of your boat, select one that relies on surface slickness to prevent barnacles from gripping the hull, or so-called “hard” paints, which release their effective ingredients only through direct contact.
  • Although not strictly necessary, you can put on a rain suit before using the pressure washer to keep yourself dry.

Photo Credits

  • Elliot Hurwitt/iStock/Getty Images