How to Compound and Wax a Boat

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When the glassy finish on your boat's hull begins to deteriorate, you're left with little choice if you want to keep your boat looking the way it should--you have to compound the hull and wax it. Rubbing compound is like very fine sandpaper, only in the form of a paste. Unlike wax, rubbing doesn't just cover the surface, it removes the oxidized layer from the surface in preparation for waxing. Waxing the compounded surface protects it from the ravages of water and sunlight.

Items you will need

  • Liquid dish soap

  • Sponge

  • Rubber gloves

  • Shop rags

  • Acetone

  • Dewaxing solvent

  • Rubbing compound

  • Electric buffer and pads

  • Paste wax

Perform all necessary repairs to the fiberglass and the gel coat finish before beginning the process of compounding and waxing the boat.

Wash the boat using a mixture of one cup of liquid dish soap for every gallon of water. Use a sponge to wash the surface then rinse the boat thoroughly.

Put on rubber gloves and dip a rag into acetone. Wipe the surface of the hull with the acetone, taking care to keep using a clean spot on the rag and re-folding it, as necessary, to ensure you always have a clean part of the cloth touching the boat.

Dip a clean rag into a dewaxing solvent and wipe the boat down, from bow to stern. Don't wipe back and forth, but from bow to stern only. Dewaxing solvents break down previously applied paste wax, and by wiping back and forth, you remove the wax only to re-deposit it on the "backstroke."

Apply a bit of rubbing compound on the pad of an electric buffer, put the pad on the buffer and apply the rubbing compound to the hull of your boat. Start as far forward on either side of your boat as possible and rub with a little bit of pressure--remember, you're scrubbing the "dead" finish off the boat with an abrasive, not applying a coat of wax to the surface. Keep polishing until the entire surface acquires a glassy look.

Add paste wax onto a clean buffer pad, put the pad on the buffer and apply wax to the surface. This time, there's no need to keep polishing; instead, allow the wax to dry to a white haze. Change buffer pads and buff the surface of the hull in overlapping circles until all the haze is gone.


  • Use a rubbing compound that's formulated specifically for fiberglass surfaces.