Quick Tips for Keeping a Boat’s Bilge Clean

It’s a dirty job, but you gotta do it! Cleaning a boat’s bilge is a maintenance task nobody really enjoys, but it helps keep your boat healthy and afloat.

Boat bilge cleaning tips

When you’re ready to clean your boat’s bilge, here are 5 quick tips to keep in mind for cleaning the bilge and keeping it that way.

Clean the Bilge Often 

The more you clean your boat’s bilge, the less time there is for oils, dirt and debris to accumulate in it, making the job faster, easier and less messy each time.

Quick tips for boat bilge cleaning

Remove Chemicals and Water

Cleaning the bilge removes dirt and chemicals that can damage your boat. Any spilled fuel in the bilge can damage fiberglass hulls, which you obviously don’t want. Oils coming into contact with rubber and plastic hoses can cause them to deteriorate. And water trapped in the bilge causes metals to corrode and wood to rot. Removing the mixture of water, chemicals and dirt from your bilge protects the hull and everything in it.

Use Biodegradable Bilge Cleaners

Don’t use a generic detergent such as dishwashing liquid. These detergents are usually non-biodegradable, and can leave residue or other deposits on your boat. Accidentally spilling a non-biodegradable cleaner into the water may also land you in trouble with the law. Always use a biodegradable bilge cleaner.

Biodegradable boat bilge cleaners

Let the Bilge Cleaner Sit

Marine bilge cleaner is designed to penetrate and loosen all the crud accumulated in a bilge. Once you’ve applied it, let it fully soak into the dirt and completely mix with the chemicals in the bilge. The longer you leave bilge cleaner to penetrate dirt and chemicals, the more effective it’ll be at removing them.

Bilge cleaning tips

Dispose of Bilge Water Responsibly

When it comes time to dispose of the dirty bilge water after cleaning, don’t simply pump the polluted bilge water overboard. 

Dirty boat bilge water oily

Dirty bilge water will likely have oil and/or fuel in it, and federal law strictly prohibits the pollution of US waters. The penalty for oil pollution is punishable by a hefty fine and maybe even imprisonment. You should either pump the bilge water into a container and dispose of it at a recycling or waste facility, or use absorbent oil pads to soak up the oily bilge water and then dispose of them at a dedicated facility. 

Bilge cleaning tips water disposal

Also consider removing the dirty bilge water while your boat is on land if possible. Just make sure you don’t dump it into a drain that leads to a body of water, as that too is punishable by law and of course, bad for the environment. 


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