5 Reasons You Need to Remove Barnacles from a Boat

Do you really need to remove barnacles from your boat? The answer is yes, of course, but this is still a common question asked by boat owners.

Why you need to remove barnacles from a boat

Barnacles are mysterious little crustaceans that secrete a glue-like substance which hardens like cement when they stick to a boat’s hull or any other surface. They’re attracted to places with a lot of movement, so it’s no surprise they stick to the bottom of boats, as well as to buoys, docks, and even other sea creatures like turtles and whales. 

Barnacles on a whale

If you keep your boat in salt water long enough, even for a few days, barnacles are very likely to start sticking to and growing on your boat’s hull. These pesky creatures find firm surfaces to attach themselves to and reside on permanently. And that glue they secrete makes barnacles very hard to remove.

So why exactly do you need to remove barnacles from your boat? Here are 5 reasons barnacles have to go.

Barnacles Increase Boat Fuel Consumption

It’s hard to believe, but those unsightly little pests do more than just make your boat look ugly. Large colonies of barnacles on the hull can cause your boat to drag, which leads to increased fuel consumption

Barnacles on a boat fuel consumption

Barnacles make a boat hull’s surface rougher, and the drag it creates forces more power and fuel consumption from the engine. And of course more fuel consumption means more money spent, so this is a pretty solid reason to remove barnacles form your boat’s hull. 

Barnacles Affect Prop Speed

With the added weight and drag barnacles create, your boat’s propeller will also be affected. For starters, barnacles attach to props as well as hulls, which disturbs a propeller’s ability to rotate as it was designed to.

Why remove barnacles prop speed

Barnacles disrupt water flow over the prop, which is designed to cut effortlessly through water. A propeller covered in barnacles will negatively affect your boat’s speed, since the engine will have to work harder to propel the boat forward. This can not only damage the prop itself, but also the parts that hold it together. Props are only 100 percent effective when they’re free of imperfections, so barnacles need to be removed to protect your boat’s hull as well as its propellers.

Barnacles Damage Hull Surfaces

As barnacles get larger and stay on longer, they can damage a boat hull’s surface, especially a wooden hull. Being stuck to the hull isn’t so much what does the damage, as is what the barnacles leave behind once you remove them. Scraping barnacles off a hull can damage a boat hull’s paint, as well as fiberglass gelcoat

Why remove boat barnacles

The longer you leave barnacles on, the larger they spread and the more damage they cause when you scrape them off. Aside from paint and fiberglass damage, the husks also leave calcium stains behind, so the faster you remove barnacles, the better.

Barnacles Ruin a Boat’s Appearance

Whether you care about what your boat looks like or not, if you plan on selling your boat someday, unsightly barnacles will ruin your vessel’s appearance and negatively affect its resale value. Not removing barnacles from your boat gives the accurate impression that you’ve neglected it, which will make it much harder to sell. 

Buy boat hull cleaners

Buy boat cleaning supplies

Barnacles Obstruct Water Intakes

Boat engines generally draw the water they’re in to keep it cool, and barnacles can obstruct the engine’s water intake. Any obstruction to a boat engine’s water intake can lead to overheating, and affect other cooling system parts such as impellers. If your boat has outboard engines, it’s recommended to keep the motor tilted up to prevent barnacle growth from affecting any part of it. 

Why remove boat barnacles outboard

How to Prevent Barnacles on a Boat

We’ve published several articles about removing barnacles from a boat, but here are some quick bullet points to keep in mind:

  • Clean your boat’s hull at least once every 3 months
  • Use a power washer, a scraper and hull cleaners to remove barnacles
  • Keep your boat outside of the water when not in use, as barnacles need moisture to survive
  • Use anti-fouling bottom paint on your boat’s hull to prevent barnacles from attaching to it 
  • Regularly inspect and clean the hull to prevent barnacle growth from happening or from getting worse
  • Learn how to scuba dive if you plan on leaving your boat in the water while removing barnacles

Boat barnacle removal underwater

Finally, run your boat in fresh water to kill off barnacles. They should fall right off, but the barnacles may still leave calcium stains behind, so be ready to clean them off with soap and water and some hull cleaner.



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