The vernal equinox, March 20, may find many Chesapeake boaters with a scrub brush in hand on land and on the docks. While readying your boat for spring launch day, try the following Bay-friendly green cleaning tips and reminders from BoatUS Foundation, Maryland Clean Marina Initiative, and Sailors for the Sea:  

green cleaning
A quick freshwater rinse of your boat after every use will reduce the need for cleansers. Photo by Will Keyworth

1. Put a spray nozzle on your hose to conserve water.

2. Start cleaning your boat with plain water and a scrub brush. Repeat regularly to prevent buildup of grime, salt, and mildew.

3. Use detergents sparingly, and choose ones that are phosphate-free, biodegradable, and non-toxic.

4. BoatUS Foundation tested and recommends a number of “green” boat soaps: Z-Cleaner Ready To Use, 303 Multisurface Cleaner, Power Pine, Total Boat Soap, MK Supersuds, Booyah Clean, Boat Zoap, Hybrid Wash and Wax, and Citrus Boat Soap. All have labels claiming “biodegradable” or “environmentally safe.” For more details and cleaning suggestions, visit the Green Cleaners page at

5. To lessen the amount of cleanser you will use, avoid cleaning the boat in full sun in which your cleanser can evaporate more quickly. 

6. Rather than harsh chemical cleaners, use a mild soap powder and a nylon brush to clean wood.

7. Apply a good boat wax at least once per year to help prevent dirt, bird droppings, and airborne contaminants from adhering to the boat to make cleaning easier.

8. Use the designated boat wash area at your marina. 

9. As recommended by Sailors for the Sea, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping the ocean clean, note the following products you may already have in your cupboard that are safe to use to clean (find more suggestions at

  • Vinegar—acidic, strong cleaning agent that can dissolve dirt, debris and grime, kill or reduce certain types of pathogens (usually ones that cause common foodborne diseases), but is not a disinfectant.
  • Lemon juice—acidic, strong cleaning agent that can dissolve dirt, debris, and grime, antibacterial; but is not a disinfectant, citrus smell.
  • Baking soda—mildly alkaline, slightly abrasive, strong cleaning agent that can help dissolve dirt and grease (be careful using around certain metals), and neutralize odors.
  • Cream of tartar—mildly acidic, similar to baking soda, but is slightly less abrasive. 
  • Borax—alkaline, strong cleaning agent that can get rid of stains, mold, and mildew, and neutralize odors.  
  • Salt—effective gentle scouring agent, boosts cleaning and deodorizing action of other ingredients. 
  • Hydrogen peroxide—a natural disinfectant that is antibacterial and antiviral.

10. When you have a choice, choose certified Clean Marinas, where the staff has invested in and prioritizes keeping their marina grounds and the Chesapeake clean and “green.” Find a list of certified marinas at and