How to Remove Old Wax From a Boat

by Will Charpentier

If you want the gel coat on your boat to retain its shine, you should wax your boat before you ever put it into the water, and wax it each season as part of your fitting out. The wax fills the microscopic pits that develop in the finish to give the gel coat a smooth surface. This means, though, that the wax builds up over the seasons and, eventually, discolors from exposure to the sea and the sun. Removing this wax buildup should be an integral part of a thorough cleaning at the beginning of the season.

1. Saturate a clean rag with floor wax stripper. Don't dilute the stripper; the gel coat on a fiberglass boat hull is significantly more resistant to chemical damage than a vinyl floor.

2. Fill a bucket with water, and mix in 1 cup of liquid dish detergent for each gallon of water.

3. Start stripping the wax at the top of the bow. Work in areas about 2 feet wide, moving from bow to stern. Wipe the stripper onto the hull using an overlapping circular motion, from the top of the hull to the keel. Once you apply the stripper, use another clean rag--dipped in the bucket of water and liquid dish detergent--to wash the stripper and the old wax downward in straight strokes, toward your boat's keel.

4. Move aft as you finish an area, and repeat the process. Continue until you reach the stern, and then repeat the process on the other side of the boat. When both sides are complete, repeat the process on the boat's transom.

5. Wash the boat thoroughly with liquid detergent and clean water. Allow the hull to dry completely before applying a coat of wax.

Items you will need

  • Clean rags
  • Floor wax stripper
  • Bucket
  • Liquid detergent
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety glasses


  • Use thick rubber gloves throughout this process.


  • Safety glasses are recommended because of the "splash" potential of the liquids used to clean the wax from the hull.

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

Photo Credits

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