How and why to clean the boat properly

Everything about cleaning on board: what and how to clean the deck and interior, which areas need upkeep during the voyage, and whose responsibility is the final cleaning?

Not many people enjoy cleaning and this is doubly true on a sailing holiday. But given that you'll be in a limited space with several people for long periods of time, cleaning the various areas of a boat is not just aesthetic, but a matter of ensuring safety. Here are some tips on how to keep your yacht clean and avoid any unnecessary friction among your crew.

Divide up tasks on board

When it comes down to it, the safety and condition of the boat is the sole responsibility of the skipper and this goes for the satisfaction of the crew as well. To avoid instances where only one crew member is ever cleaning and the rest sailing, or where you end up cleaning up just because you can't stand the mess, set up a daily roster. As with the cooking duty, we recommend scheduling tasks in pairs, with a designated person in charge of the galley each day, including washing dishes, cleaning, taking out the trash, buying fresh bread or fruit, and other things that need doing on board.

Beware of chemicals, they can destroy the boat and marine life

Although some might think scrubbing a teak deck with an abrasive cleaning liquid is the best way to make it shine, be wary of using chemicals on boat surfaces. Delicate materials are not meant to be scrubbed with harsh chemicals and they can get ruined or scratched with a hard brush. Always use products that are designed specifically for that surface and avoid using force. Also, keep in mind that everything you use to clean will end up in the sea. After all, sailing is synonymous with a love of the water and marine life, and you don't want to contribute to its destruction. Did you know that a mixture of vinegar and water makes a great all-purpose cleaner? It's as simple as mixing a glass of vinegar into a bucket of water, and the more concentrated it is, the more effective it will be. Vinegar is also great at deodorizing a musty bathroom, removing stains and disinfecting surfaces. Baking soda and salt can also be useful, so bring some with you.

Boat cleaning equipment. Plastic bucket, hose with water spray, mop lying on the yacht.

Aggressive products can damage the teak deck of a boat

The galley — don't put off the dishes till later

Make it a habit to wash, dry and put away all used dishes right after each meal. This will prevent any plates from breaking when heeling or even injuries from knives flying across the salon. Plus, in the summer months, leaving dishes unwashed for just a few hours can leave dried pasta stuck to the pot for a week, not to mention cause unpleasant smells.

YACHTING.COM TIP: If you want to conserve the water in the tank, let the crew wash the dishes in the sea. Of course, do this only if the boat has convenient access to the water surface.

Not the soles!

If you want to keep your deck clean at all times, make sure the crew put on their boat shoes before boarding and don't walk around the deck in muddy socks. Pebbles brought aboard on the soles of people’s shoes can scratch the deck or leave smudges that are difficult to remove. We recommend shoes with light soles.

A pair of human legs in trousers and bright blue boat shoes against the backdrop of a yacht

We recommend shoes with white non-marking soles to change into before you board

Close all windows, hatches and doors before cleaning the deck!

If you decide to wash the deck during your stay, be sure to close all windows and hatches, as well as the door to the boat. It might seem obvious, but believe us, it's all too common for sailors to flood the inside of their boat because they hadn't closed all the hatches before washing the deck. If you can, wipe off any smudges, stains, spilt coffee or other little accidents while they are fresh. This will save you unnecessary scrubbing later.

Cheerful young woman cleans yacht, travelling

Keep order in the cabins

All crew members should keep the salon tidy as a matter of course, but also ensure they keep their cabins reasonably in order during the voyage. No need to tell them to neatly fold their clothes in piles, but after heeling you don’t want a heap of stuff blocking the door and preventing you from getting it open.

The navigation station is sacred

If there's one place a captain should protect, it's the chart table (also called the navigation station). Follow the rule that it is only to be used by the captain and for navigation aids, charts, pilots, logbook, etc. In an emergency, a disorderly chart table can be catastrophic.

The captain is talking into the radio on board the yacht.

The chart table should be reserved for navigation aids, tablets, laptops and other items used by the captain for navigation

Using the marine toilet

Although only marginally related to cleaning, we’re reminding you of it because it’s of such importance — under no circumstances are sanitary towels, tampons, napkins or toilet paper to be flushed down the toilet on board (the head). And, while some modern boats are equipped with a shredder that should allow toilet paper to pass through the pipes, we strongly advise against attempting this. We have seen many a crew having to dismantle the toilet and clean the faecal tank, and it is not a pretty sight or smell. On a boat, the pipes are narrow and you never know where your paper will get stuck. For tips on how to correctly use a marine toilet, check out our article Marine toilet: how to use it.

 

YACHTING.COM TIP: A clogged toilet is a common reason for losing your boat deposit — see our article on the most common reasons to lose your boat deposit. Avoid this by using it correctly, and taking out deposit insurance, which saves your money, offers peace of mind and covers many other unforeseen circumstances.

Read more tips for new sailors:

Where are the cleaning supplies on board

You never know when the boat might get dirty. It could happen during a wild party or simply when the waves are making someone's stomach churn. You can find out where everything is at check-in, but the following should always be there as standard on a boat:

  • A scrubbing brush (preferably with a long handle)
  • A bucket (preferably on a string for scooping water from the sea)
  • A large washing sponge
A man mops the deck of a yacht

What to bring along for cleaning?

On a boat, you should find washing-up liquid, a sponge, and a cloth in the galley. In our experience, however, this is not always the case. It is impossible to know in advance and one dish towel per week for 8 crew members is really not enough. So, we've compiled a shortlist of the cleaning supplies we bring along just in case:

  • 2-3 dishcloths
  • Dish sponge
  • Clothes pegs for drying towels, dishcloths and other items on the railings
  • Dish soap in a small bottle
  • A floorcloth you won't mind ruining
  • A microfibre cloth is a versatile aid for cleaning in the kitchen and on the deck
  • Semi-soft brush

Cleaning at the end of the charter

Before handing the boat back, you need to tidy the boat so that it is in the state you received it — however, you don't need to do a final big clean. That should be taken care of by the charter company.

What is included in the charter price?

Final cleaning is included as a mandatory extra charge separately or as part of the Transit log. As this is mandatory for every boat charter, you must pay for it and the charter company must carry it out. The final cleaning includes a complete washing of the boat, the stripping and washing of the bed linen...

´What does the charter company not like to see?

Although the final cleaning is done by the charter company, they won’t appreciate a fridge full of leftover food. Don’t leave food for the cleaner to deal with because it’s a waste to throw out or you think someone will make use of it, because they'll just throw it away anyway and it will cost them time and effort.

YACHTING.COM TIP: If you are sailing with your family on a catamaran and want to enjoy every moment with your loved ones without wasting time on cleaning, hire a host or hostess to help you with the day-to-day cleaning (washing dishes, cooking... it depends on the agreement). However, you must take into account that they will take up one cabin on board.

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