The area beneath the deck and below the waterline accumulates grime, diesel, gasoline, fish scales, and other debris rapidly. It is essential to clean the bilge of a boat consistently to whether operating in freshwater or saltwater through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Products are available to aid in the cleaning process. Keep your bilge cleaner with these 5 tips. 

What Is The Bilge Of A Boat

A fundamental part of the vessel which is blind to the naked eye beneath the deck is the bilge. The bilge of a boat plays an essential role in the vessel’s operation. 

In rough wave conditions, heavy rains, or soaking the deck during cleaning, the water is directed to drains that enter the bilge. The low point in the boat collects water; thus, it accumulates a significant amount of dirt and oily liquids. 

The bilge of a boat contains components including piping directing water in or out of the vessel, mechanical equipment, and most importantly a bilge pump.

A bilge pump pushes water from the inside of the boat beneath the waterline to the outside of the vessel. Without a bilge pump, the boat would become unstable or sag, putting it at risk of capsizing. 

Why Do Boat Bilges Get Dirty

Boat bilges become dirty at a rapid rate due to the constant influx of debris entering from the vessel’s deck.


Anglers slinging fish on the deck create a mess of epic proportions between the blood and scales. Blood and scales enter the bilge as the boat is rinsed during the day of fishing.


While the best efforts must be made to avoid gasoline or diesel entering the bilge, small traces are unavoidable during fueling. 


If the boat is sitting or in operation, dirt is in the air. Airborne dirt lands on decks and becomes swept into the bilge. 

The Result

In combining the three forms of contaminants that enter the bilge results in the formation of sludge and hard-to-remove stains. 

When Should You Clean a Boat Bilge

The frequency of bilge cleaning is highly dependent on the method of storage and the frequency of use. A boat that is stored covered accumulates less dirt than those that are not.

To determine when the bilge requires cleaning, access deck hatches. Lift a hatch that allows for the best visibility from the top of the deck to the bilge below. We recommend utilizing a flashlight to inspect depending on the lighting conditions. 

When the bilge appears dark in coloration and has an odor, it is time to clean the area where water accumulates. It should be noted a bilge cannot be overcleaned; therefore, scheduling as routine maintenance is not uncommon. 

How Do You Clean A Boat Bilge

The process of cleaning a bilge is made simple by bilge cleaning products—no need to climb beneath the deck and scrub with a toothbrush. 

A bilge cleaner product works with fresh or saltwater. The function of a bilge cleaner is to eliminate the accumulation of sludge, oils, grease, and fuels. Thankfully bilge cleaners are biodegradable and will not harm the water when the cleaner becomes discharged by the bilge pump. 

Additionally, bilge cleaners will cause no harm to hoses, wiring, and fiberglass. Here are the steps to cleaning a boat bilge with bilge cleaner liquids. 

Step 1

Launch the boat in the water as the vessel must be in operation when the bilge cleaner is dispersed beneath the deck.

Step 2

If the bilge is dry, add freshwater beneath the deck while rendering the pump inoperable. 

Step 3

Measure and pour the correct amount of bilge cleaner beneath the deck based on the size of the vessel. 

Step 4

Run the vessel for a minimum of one hour, allowing the bilge cleaner to slosh, dissolve dirt, and degrade fuels.

Step 5

Flip the bilge, switch to the on position, and watch the dirt and grime exit the bilge pump discharge hose out the side of the vessel. In the event your bilge pump does not operate, here are the 5 most common bilge pump problems

Step 6 

Inspect the bilge for cleanliness and repeat as necessary. 

What Is The Best Bilge Cleaner

Star brite makes the best boat cleaning products on the market. Star brite produces a Heavy Duty Bilge Cleaner, which is suitable for cleaning the bilges of boats up to 25 feet in length. 

Is Your Bilge Dirty? Use These 4 Tips

Avoid leaving your bilge with a foul odor and covered in grime by adding bilge cleaner while in operation. The cleaner avoids the necessity to climb into small spaces or scrub with a long handled brush. Order in bilge cleaner to prepare for the next time you go boating.