Shurhold's Pro Polish
3M Perfect-It Wax
The Best Sealants for Liveaboard Sailboats
When it comes to living aboard, you need durable products that last. So when it comes to waxes, sealants, and coatings, you have hundreds of options to choose from. How can you decide what’s best for your boat with so many choices available to you? Well, we’re here to break down the various types of protection you can choose for your liveaboard. With a little knowledge, you can make the best choice for your boat’s needs. Here’s a breakdown of our three favorite waxes and sealants for sailboats and why we love them!
This polymer sealant from Shurhold Industries was our favorite product for protecting boats that spend their time on the hook. To start, it’s a liquid sealant, so it’s easily applied to the surface of your boat. As an added bonus, this product contains no talc powder, a filler that’s common in other sealants we tested. While the talc powder does not affect a waxes performance, it does make it harder to remove after the product has cured on the hull. We found that it leaves a nice clean finish with a high gloss point. In fact, Pro Polish contains a small amount of alcohol in the formula, which makes it an effective cleaner in its own right.
So it’s easy to apply and work with, but is it effective at protecting your boat from UV and environmental damage? We found that that Pro Polish offered great protection, even after months in the harsh Florida sun where we performed our tests. Under normal use, our wax layer lasted around 4 months before a reapplication was required, which is better or at least on par with any other DIY protective coating out there. In summary, Pro Polish is easy to use, offers great protection, and is reasonably priced. What’s not to love?
A venerable and well established favorite, Collinite’s 925 Fiberglass Wax enjoys a great reputation amongst captain’s around the world. It’s a combination of old school protection and modern technology. It’s a proven formula that stands the test of time. It has fantastic durability when properly cared for and provides a very slick finish. The gloss factor and UV protection are great as well. So why isn’t number one on our list?
It has a decently long cure time and can be difficult to remove after the product cures. It’s often best applied with a buffer, which may not be viable for those living on the hook. Despite that drawback, it’s still an excellent product for protecting your sailboat.
- 3M’s Perfect-It Boat Wax is the final step in their total restoration system. Like the other two chemicals on the list, it’s a liquid cream wax that works very well to protect against environmental fallout and UV damage. It scores just as well as the other two options on our list in both gloss and protection, and it even smells good when applied! The only reason it scored below Pro Polish and Collinite was the considerable amount of talc powder in the formula, which made it somewhat difficult to remove after the wax was cured. Still, it’s a great option if you don’t mind using a little bit more elbow grease!
There are so many options, how do I know what to choose?
With so many different products, all with different names and styles, how are you to pick what’s best for your boat? Well, most protective products fall into one of three categories. Keep reading to get a better understanding of the three major players in the surface protection industry.
Let’s start with the traditional surface protectant, wax. The original form of paint and gelcoat protection, true waxes are natural products that are extracted from plants and formed into a paste. They are the thickest of the coatings and can provide decent to excellent protection from the elements, depending on the quality of the wax. Waxes can be mildly difficult to apply compared to some other options on this list, as they don’t spread easily and require a significant amount of time to cure properly. When using a traditional paste wax, be sure to work in small areas, as excess wax that fully cures before being buffed off can be difficult to remove. They are usually applied by hand using a microfiber towel, but can also be applied using a machine.
Next on our list are polymer sealants and synthetic waxes. Unlike paste waxes, these chemicals are manufactured and usually have a creamy consistency. They offer ease of use, quality protection, and excellent UV resistance. They are slightly less durable than a traditional paste wax, but the ease of application can easily make up for this. Unlike paste waxes, which physically bond to the surface using adhesion, sealants chemically bond with the surface. This benefits you in a few ways. First, the cure time is significantly reduced. That means you don’t have to wait for the wax to dry before removal. Additionally, there is less excess wax leftover after the curing process, so you have less to remove. Finally, the excess sealant comes free from the surface far easier than traditional paste wax.
Last on the list of possible sealants for your boat are ceramic coatings. This type of protection has become popular in the past few years, and for good reason. Ceramics offer a hard, durable layer of protection that lasts a decent amount of time. However, they also have a few major drawbacks. First, a quality ceramic coating can be very expensive, almost prohibitively so. The application process is extremely meticulous and any mistakes can require serious (and expensive) correction. In fact, unless you have an in-depth knowledge of surface correction and detailing, the application of ceramic is usually left up to a professional installer. Be aware, there is a major difference between a true ceramic coating and what many companies are now marketing as “ceramic coatings.” Many companies have begun to market their polymer sealants and synthetic waxes as ceramics, so be sure to do your research.
Gelcoat over fiberglass is the most common method of boatbuilding today. The structure of the boat is a durable fiberglass layer that gives the boat it’s shape and form, and that is covered by a colored gelcoat layer. Gelcoat is defined by its relatively thick layup, by being easily correctable, and by being softer than a traditional paint finish. If you’re unsure of what type of finish your boat has, contact your boat’s manufacturer.
Why is it important to wax your boat?
A coating of wax, sealant, or polish works as a sacrificial barrier for your boat’s paint or gelcoat finish. Its goal is to protect the deep, rich shine of a fresh finish from UV damage, environmental fallout, animal droppings, fish blood, and more from denaturing. When a finish denatures, it breaks down at a microscopic level. The worse the damage gets and the longer it’s left to accumulate, the more paint and gelcoat will need to be removed. Removing lots of material at once shortens the life of the finish, so it’s best not to let the finish deteriorate to begin with. That’s where your wax comes in! It keeps you from having to labor intensive repairs to the gelcoat or paint and make general upkeep a breeze by reapplying the protection a few times a year.
Where can I get some?
These waxes and sealants are pretty common to find at your local marine supply store, but it’s just as convenient (if not more so) to just order online from a trusted distributor like Amazon. Simply click the links above to be taken to your product of choice so you can get to work!
How does it work?
It’s simple! A protective coating like wax forms a barrier between the surface of the boat and the world around it. Instead of the paint or gelcoat eroding, the wax deteriorates first, never letting the brunt of the damage through. Waxing every few months keeps your boat shiny, reflective, and easy to clean. So make sure to wax your boat!
Steve has been detailing boats on the east coast for Florida for the past 15 years and has helped train other detailers at several companies. He’s proud to share his knowledge with you (and us!) as well.