Taking proper care of vessels is critical, and you must often rely on professionals. Boats are expensive investments, and to hold their value, it is essential to follow routine maintenance programs. I have taken care of boats and yachts for years, and the cleaning and waxing program is rigorous. However, there is a difference between washing and detailing, which is often overlooked. Here is what you need to know about the differences between boat detailing vs. boat washing. 

Boat Washing In A Begining Step For Boat Detailing

Let’s start with what comes first. You can’t detail a boat without first washing a boat. However, routine cleanings are fundamental to maintaining the appearance of the vessel. 

Why Boat Washing Is Performed Routinely

Without question, boat washing must be performed more frequently than detailing. Washing is the cornerstone of maintaining the vessel’s appearance. 

First, performing boat washdowns prevents the accumulation of dirt, salt, or drips from other vessels, depending on where it is stored. 

For this reason, frequent washing is required., Rather than allowing contaminants to settle and saturate into cushions, fiberglass, or other surfaces, the washdown removes the debris. 

I have witnessed boat owners fail to wash a boat consistently. As a result, stain removal and buffing were required and came at an extra expense. 

What Does Boat Washing Include

Boat washing professionals most often provide details on what exactly the service covers. More often than not, the list will include the following.

First, the washing service will scrub the hull with a brush and boat soap before rinsing and drying.

Secondly, the topsides, including the deck, glass, windshield, the helm, and more, are either hand washed or brushed. Fortunately, boat detailers are experienced and will know when and when not to use a brush. The bristles of the brush are more abrasive compared to a wash mitt. For this reason, delicate finishes must be hand washed. 

Importantly, detailers won’t overlook storage compartments. Yes, storage compartments become coated with mold, mildew, and debris. Without question, cleaning these spaces is critical to prevent long term damage to the contents stored within. 

Lastly, cushions exposed to the elements are subject to staining. Although boat owners are recommended to store cushions indoors when not in use, not many do so. Boat detailers use specialized cleaners to remove stains as a result of exposure. 

So, it should be mentioned that a boat must be washed before a detailing. Detailing without first washing a boat causes scratches to surfaces from contaminants laying on the exterior finishes. 

Professional Boat Detailing Services

Again, remember, a boat must be washed before detailing work begins. Boat detailers are highly knowledgeable in restoring and protecting delicate vessel finishes. I highly recommend someone who is experienced because things can go south quickly.

The Boats Hull

Unfortunately, boat finishes are subject to oxidation due to extensive sun exposure. To restore a vessel to a new appearance, buffing and sometimes wet sanding of the hull is required. Once the oxidation is removed, a layer of wax is required. The wax reduces the impacts of the sun and allows water to bead and roll off compared to remaining stationary on the hull. Importantly, remain on a schedule to continue to apply wax consistently. 

Stainless Steel And Other Metals

Secondly, onboard stainless steel is subject to corrosion. Not only do detailers remove corrosion, but they also apply protective wax to reduce the onset of corrosion moving forward. Again, remain on a schedule. 


Glass surfaces are subject to watermarks and become distracting when driving. The detailer first removes hard watermarks. Secondly, a windshield wax is applied to allow the water to bead up and roll away to, allowing for better visibility. 

Boat Detailing Vs Boat Washing Is Different

The difference is apparent when it comes to boat detailing vs. boat washing. Importantly, boat washing occurs before a detailing and, more notably, on a consistent basis. 

If you don’t have time for routine washes, I suggest hiring a service. The boat washing service will provide you with the option to clean the vessel weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Take it from me: the more, the better. The less time dirt and grim is allowed to sit on the boat, the less waxing is required. 

While boat detailing is required as frequently, I recommend, at a minimum, hiring a detailer to buff and apply wax every six months. Six month intervals will prevent oxidation and keep your boat looking showroom ready. 

Lastly, I suggest speaking to fellow boat owners about who they prefer when it comes to boat detailing and boat washing. Remember, things can turn bad quickly if the detailer is not confident in the craft they perform.