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Carnauba wax vs. synthetic polymer type sealers, which is better?

No one debates or disagrees with the need to protect marine gel coat finishes but there is some misunderstanding over how to best do it. Many boat owners will only use carnauba wax based products, but boat manufacturers are increasingly recommending synthetic polymer type sealers. There are a number of valid reasons for this. While carnauba wax products may be fine for slower moving sailboats, their durability is very limited on high speed powerboats and personal watercraft. The corrosive effects of water combined with the abrasion caused by the vessels hull cutting through the water, severely limits the carnauba wax type products' durability and protection properties. Above the waterline they are not much better. Carnauba wax melts at approximately 140o F. Direct and reflected thermal radiation will literally melt the wax off the marine gel coat finish. Carnauba wax products are easily washed off and at best, only partially removed by dew, rain and water spray.

Synthetic polymer type sealers (Captain Gary's Bass Boat Instant Shine) on the other hand, have better bonding characteristics than carnauba waxes products, much better abrasion resistance and their melting points are in the thousands of degrees. Synthetic polymer type sealers will outlast carnauba wax type products while producing a much brighter translucent shine. These synthetic polymer type sealers last much longer, even in salt and brackish water environments which are aggressively more corrosive than just fresh water surroundings. They can be removed; however it typically requires an alkaline type detergent to completely remove them. In other words, rain, water spray and dew will not remove Captain Gary's Bass Boat Instant Shine a synthetic polymer type sealer.

So what is the debate or argument? In the early days of recreational boating, enthusiasts often applied over-the-counter, automotive polishes and sealers to their boat's gel coat. Many of these products contained strong petroleum solvents and/or coarse abrasives, which actually accelerated marine gel coat oxidation and deterioration. These earlier boat owners were applying what they thought was a "protective" polish or sealer to their boat only to have it quickly turn to a dull, chalky white disaster. No wonder sealers got a bad image among early boat owners!

Rule No. 1:

Don't use automotive sealants, waxes or polishes on any marine gel coat finishes. Use only polishes and sealers that are specifically designed for marine gel coats. All of Captain Gary's Marine Care Products are thoroughly tested, and proven effective on marine gel coat finishes. Captain Gary's Bass Boat Instant Shine is a spray on wipe off synthetic polymer type sealer.

Rule No. 2:

Select a marine gel coat product (Captain Gary's Fiberglass Rejuvenator) that has a micro-fine, cleaning or polishing agent (not a coarse abrasive) to remove existing contamination and chalking in the pores. Removing this debris and then sealing the surface with Captain Gary's Premium Grade Boat Polish will greatly retard the oxidation process and add years to the life of your boat's finish.

Rule No. 3:

Always consult a Captain Gary's Marine Care Products Pro-staff Member or Dealer if you're in doubt about the type of soaps, cleaners, or sealers to use on your boat

New Boat Maintenance Program

We recommend a maintenance program for the new boat owner to start the boating season right. The exterior should be polished with one of Captain Gary's Marine Polishes to improve and increase UV protection. At the beginning of the season we also suggest using Captain Gary's Vinyl Cleaner / Protectant on all interior vinyl. After each use, the boat should be washed with Captain Gary's All-Purpose Boat Soap with Polish or either the entire boat should be wiped down with a thin spray of Captain Gary's Bass Boat Instant Shine.

Maintaining the gloss of new or just-polished marine gel coats.

New marine gel coats and just-polished marine gel coats should be protected with either a synthetic polymer sealer and cleaner combination (Captain Gary's All-Purpose Boat Soap with Polish) or a polymer type sealer (Captain Gary's Bass Boat Instant Shine). Both offer greater protection and extended durability because they seal the pores from air (ozone) much better than a carnauba wax based product, as carnauba does not last very long on marine gel coat. If you use a store bought carnauba wax product, you should plan on polishing your boat at least 6 times a year.

Cleaning marine gel coats.

Repeated use of strong acid cleaners, including oxalic acids, can penetrate into the opening pores. While this dissolves the chalk in the pores and gives the illusion of increasing surface gloss, it makes the marine gel coat even more porous. Eventually marine gel coat can become so porous that the gloss cannot be restored by any compounding, polishing or finishing procedure. We recommend using Captain Gary's Boat Soap on all fiberglass or painted surfaces, vinyl and any type surface found on your boat. Captain Gary’s Boat Soap is a mild detergent designed to clean but not damage marine gel coat and other surfaces. Captain Gary's Marine Care Products offers a complete line of specialized cleaning products for your boat.

The use of butyl type cleaners (Captain Gary's Hull Cleaner) to remove diesel residues or other grime is generally considered non-injurious to the finish but do not allow these cleaners to dry on the surface. Black stains on the side of moldings can be safely removed using Captain Gary's Black Streak Remover.

Cleaning dull and chalked marine gel coats.

Another problem shared by both carnauba wax and automotive type products has to do with the very nature of marine gel coats. All gel coats finishes are extremely porous. Seen under magnification, your boat's flat, smooth marine gel coat surface is actually full of millions of tiny minuscule holes! These holes, or pores, quickly fill with microscopic grime; marine scum, oil, dirt, salt crystals and other contaminates, which promote gel coat oxidation. Think of this oxidation as "plastic rust". The contamination in the pores eats away at the gel coat from the inside, filling the pores with a dull chalk. As the chalk fills more and more pores, the entire gel coat surface will take on a dull, whitish finish. The chalk can actually get so heavy, that it can be easily wiped off by simply rubbing against the oxidized finish. Carnauba waxes and automotive type sealers do not remove pre-existing micro-contamination in the pores. Worse, they seal the contamination in place where it continues to oxidize from the inside, under the protective coating. Captain Gary's Fiberglass Rejuvenator has been proven to actually clean and lift these containments from your boat.