Choosing the Best Fiberglass Gelcoat Wax
When it comes to choosing the right boat wax for fiberglass gelcoat, the options for what’s available out there seem endless.
Choosing the right wax for your boat’s gelcoat often comes down to trying out different types of waxes over time and then sticking to what works best. Boat waxes are marketed under several names, but they all essentially do the same job of protecting and shining a boat’s gelcoat. However, there are differences among the wax types, and this guide is designed to help you make informed decisions before choosing the wax that’s best for your fiberglass boat.
Types of Boat Wax
Generally speaking, the products sold simply as boat wax or marine wax have higher wax contents, while products with the word “sealer” in the title have higher amounts of synthetic ingredients.
As with any product, it’s best to read the labels and not rely solely on the product’s name before you buy. Besides the boat waxes/sealers, there are also products referred to as cleaner waxes available. Cleaner wax is boat wax mixed with the mild abrasives found in boat polish. These abrasives act like polish to remove minor blemishes from the gelcoat, while the wax provides the finished shine and protection.
Simply Boat Wax
Boat wax has been used to protect gelcoat since the dawn of fiberglass boats, so it’s proven its value. Most boat waxes contain several synthetic additives, so they provide solid protection against UV rays and other harmful elements. Boat wax will buff to a dazzling shine, perhaps more so than wax-sealers that have lower wax contents. If having the brightest fiberglass boat in the harbor is your goal, then straight-up boat wax is your best choice.
Boat wax is generally sold either as a thick paste or in liquid form. The paste varieties are more time-consuming to apply, but are believed to provide a better finish and shine than liquid waxes. However, boat wax can only be applied to gelcoat that’s in good condition with little oxidization. If the gelcoat has oxidized and is in poor condition, it needs to be polished before it’s waxed.
Thicker boat wax pastes are believed to provide better durability and require less frequent re-application. However, some say boat waxes with more synthetic additives last longer between applications. Factors such as the conditions the boat is exposed to (sunlight, heat, cold, salt or freshwater, etc.) also play a big role in how often the boat needs to be waxed, but expect to have to do it at least once a year.
Because it’s a hybrid polish-and-wax-in-one, cleaner wax provides adequate protection, but is not as effective as boat wax. A cleaner wax will never provide the out-and-out shine of boat wax because of its abrasive content.
Cleaner wax is designed to be used as a polish as well as a finishing wax. As such, it’s more time-consuming to apply because the application process includes a certain degree of polishing. Cleaner wax isn’t designed solely as a finishing coat, which makes it less durable than boat wax. However, it still provides adequate protection for several months, and you might get away with only having to apply it once or twice a year.
Wax On, Wax Off
It’s recommended that all boats are cleaned, polished and waxed at the end of each year. However, if you use straight-up boat wax on a regular basis (every few months), the gelcoat should remain healthy and free of oxidation for many years.
Cleaner wax, on the other hand, is designed as a “wipe on, wipe off” alternative to boat wax. It’s ideal for giving a boat a once-over every couple of months during the boating season, but not a suitable substitute for a proper cleaning, polishing and waxing. Bear in mind that the abrasives in cleaner wax also remove some of the old wax on each application, making it necessary to properly wax your boat more often. Whichever wax types you use, monitor the results over time to see which products produce the best results for your boat, and then stick with them.