How To Clean A Pontoon Boat

How To Clean A Pontoon Boat | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Jacob Collier

December 12, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Maintenance can help keep minor problems from becoming huge issues.
  • Aluminum pontoon boats may require a cleaner or polish
  • Fiberglass areas should be cleaned and waxed to prevent damage.
  • A mold and mildew cleaner can help kill any growing bacteria on seats and fixtures.
  • Using a Boat cover for storage can help keep bird droppings off the boat.

You are considering a pontoon boat, but you know there will be other costs besides the purchase price. For example, how do you clean a pontoon boat?

Maintenance of a pontoon bought should include a detailed cleaning at least twice a year and regular wipedown or power washing weekly. A simple soapy powerwash can clean the exterior for an average level of dirt. All cabin decking and equipment should be cleaned with a mold and mildew spray.

With the popularity of pontoon boats rising (annual sales of pontoon boats have been increasing steadily over the past decade), more and more families are faced with how to keep their watercraft clean. They know that regular maintenance is essential to the longevity of their boat and the experience of those riding it. But what exactly is involved? How detailed does the cleaning need to be, and how often should you clean? What about the aluminum tubes? There are many questions, and we have the answers to all your pontoon maintenance questions.


Table of contents

How Do I Clean the Tubes of My Pontoon Boat?

A pontoon boat's most significant exterior feature is the aluminum tubes that help keep the boat afloat. These tubes are the component of your boat most exposed to the impact of the water. So let’s figure out how to get them as shiny and clean as the day the boat rolled off the assembly line.

Whether your boat is in saltwater or a freshwater environment, many things can impact the shine of your boat. Minerals, deposits, mussels, and algae all love to cling to the exterior portions and need to be regularly removed. You should plan on regular cleanings during the season after each use and at least two detailed cleanings a year.

If there is an average amount of dirt or film on the boat, remove the boat from the water, and use a soap solution and a powerwasher. There are soaps you can purchase, but anything you might use on your car is probably effective on the pontoon tubes. Be careful using household cleaners, as many contain salt and other abrasives that might damage aluminum.

If it has been a while since the boat was washed, you may have to apply a cleaner and polisher to the exterior of the tubes. This requires purchasing a specialized cleaner and applying a wax-like polisher to help bring out the shine and protect the pontoons from further oxidizing.

The cleaner and the polisher can be applied by hand with simple tools such as a powerwasher (water source), a few terry cloths, a buffing ball (pad), and a cordless drill.

Simply wash your pontoon tubes to remove any surface residue, and apply the cleanser on the wet metal. You should allow the cleaner to dry and then wipe it off. The polisher is applied with a polishing ball and a cordless drill to help buff the metal to a nice shine.

Here is a simple procedural list you can follow.

  • Find an appropriate place to work with a water source, well-ventilated
  • Inspect the pontoon tubes, and determine what is needed.
  • Remove any unwanted guests. Scrape off any zebra mussels and the like.
  • Bathe your tubes. Remove the exterior residual dirt and grime.
  • Apply an aluminum cleaner. Begin in small places and work outward.
  • Apply a polish. Use a drill and terry cloths to buff out the shine.

Aluminum can show signs of oxidation and surface deterioration over time, so if the cleaning project seems too much, you can always hire a professional. If you decide that the tubes need professional help to restore them to a luster, you may spend in excess of $500 to have the work done (depending on what is involved). If you plan to paint the bottom of your pontoon, the cost varies from $20 to $100 per liner foot. Many marine dealers offer cleaning and painting services, and there are even mobile services in areas where pontoons are prevalent.

How Do I Clean the Deck and Fixtures of my Pontoon Boat?

The top of the pontoon boat includes the deck, seats, and other equipment that might be necessary to have onboard, and these items also need regular cleaning. It is a good idea to clean the deck and fixtures after each use to prevent mold or mildew from growing.

Aluminum Panels

The aluminum side panels of your boat are susceptible to the same issues that the pontoon tubes have to face. Over time, exposure to the water can create oxidation and discoloring, dust, bird droppings, and the like. It is essential to address these issues as quickly as possible, so they do not create problems later.

Bird poop can affect and corrode painted surfaces if left on too long. I do not recommend power washing any painted surface (except for the deck, where I adjust the water pressure a bit). A soapy solution is generally all that is needed. However, for challenging issues, use a speciality cleanser. Do not use acetone, gasoline, or harsh chemicals that might peel or strip the paint or abrasive.

One issue concerning bird droppings is where the pontoon is stored during the off-season. If you plan on storing your pontoon in the open or even in a barn or covered open-air structure, you should clean off a bunch of droppings when you bring the boat out of storage. This is a great reason to invest in a pontoon cover, which can help keep droppings from ruining the surface areas of your boat.

Fiberglass Exteriors

Most luxury pontoon boats have fiberglass exteriors rather than aluminum. (The tubes may still be aluminum, but the exterior features are not). Fiberglass is prone to cracking under pressure, so I prefer a soft brush or cloth and a soapy solution. In addition, it is always a good idea to wax fiberglass once a season.


While the pontoon tubes might require more complicated cleaning, the decking doesn't. Simply wet the deck. Apply cleaner and use a soft brush to work it around, and rinse off. You should wear waterproof boots and be careful because a wet deck can be slippery.

Boat Seats and Fixtures

Furniture and fixtures on the deck should be wiped down regularly with soap and water or non-chlorine cleaner to remove residual dirt and grime that can sometimes settle onto surfaces. (I like a mold/mildew spray that can be applied quickly and then wiped off with an absorbent cloth. The spray will reach into the cracks and crevices where mold colonies love to grow). Don’t use a brush or scrub tool, as this can often scratch or damage the seat’s surface.

How Often Do I Clean My Pontoon Boat?

A pontoon boat should have a light bath and wipe down after every use. This regular maintenance can help keep the boat pristine and ready to go whenever the fancy strikes you.

A more thorough and detailed cleaning should be performed at the beginning of the season to prepare the boat for the water and then at the end of the season to help prepare it for storage. (If you live in an area prone to sun and don’t have a season, I suggest you do a detailed cleaning at least three to four times a year).

Do not let trash or debris build-up between uses. I insist on passengers or family members cleaning up after themselves. (If they drank a soda or a beer, then they can help haul off some of the trash they helped create, just saying).

How To Clean A Pontoon Boat
Jacob Collier

Jacob Collier

Born into a family of sailing enthusiasts, words like “ballast” and “jibing” were often a part of dinner conversations. These days Jacob sails a Hallberg-Rassy 44, having covered almost 6000 NM. While he’s made several voyages, his favorite one is the trip from California to Hawaii as it was his first fully independent voyage.

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