It’s been awhile since your pontoon looked as shiny as the day you took it home and you’re looking into giving it some TLC, but to get it polished professionally is going to cost upwards of $400. So, what’s the alternative? Polishing it yourself can be a very rewarding project, albeit a very time consuming one. If you are ready to put in the work, we can help get you started.
The aluminum on your pontoon is susceptible to surface oxidation and can become discolored due to prolonged exposure to chemicals, minerals and organisms in water. You can see the change to your tubes and logs within a matter or months, week or even days. This is why it is so important to inspect and clean your boat regularly, keeping an eye out for a significant loss of shine. It is much easier to clean and polish once you begin to notice discoloration and oxidation than to restore them if they’ve become too far gone.
STEP 1: Prep Your Logs and Tubes
If you are diligent about rinsing off your boat after every outing and keeping your tubes free of buildup like algae and barnacles, this step will be easy. It is, however, a very important step. To get a proper polish, the tubes and logs need to be freed of debris and then washed down. Depending on the level of buildup, the wash down can be performed using a sponge or wet rag, hose or power washer.
STEP 2: Apply Cleaner
Next, you’ll need to apply an aluminum cleaner to rid the surface of discoloration, salt deposits and other grime. Some people even say properly diluted toilet bowl cleaner is the best solution. Either way, this step is essential for achieving a perfect and lasting polish. If you purchase actual aluminum cleaner, follow the included directions for use.
Generally, you will scrub the cleaner in or spray it on with a one-gallon sprayer, let it set for several minutes and then rinse it off. You’ll want to rinse it off before it has time to dry though, or else you will have to clean that area again. You can avoid this by cleaning in sections – applying and rinsing one section before you move on to the next. Best practice is to use a wet cloth to wipe down the aluminum after rinsing as to ensure all the cleaner has been removed.
If you’re worried about how the cleaner will react on your boat, start by testing on a less conspicuous area. Repeat this process as needed until you feel the logs and tubes are thoroughly clean.
STEP 3: Polish
Now comes the fun part – polishing. For this you will need marine metal polish, a polishing ball, a cordless drill and a terry cloth. It is not necessarily a hard project, but it is time consuming; prepare to spend anywhere from 2-3 hours on this step. Luckily, you shouldn’t have to do this all that often.
Begin by reading the instructions on the polish container. Essentially, you will be adding the polish to the polishing ball, setting the drill to low speed in a clockwise direction, increasing the speed as the polish absorbs, and guiding the ball in tight ‘S’ motions to blend it in. Small circular motions are best as moving the ball up and down or side to side will leave polish lines.
Once the polish has been applied all over, you’ll want to buff it out with the terry cloth.
STEP 4: Re-Apply Cleaner
This step is often overlooked but it can truly be the difference between mirror-like reflectiveness and streaky, less shiny aluminum. Re-applying cleaner will help to remove any residual polish, which can seal onto the aluminum if left untreated, creating a very unappealing look. So, repeat Step 2, cleaning and rinsing thoroughly to ensure all polish residue is removed.
STEP 5: Apply Protectant
Lastly, it’s a good idea to apply some marine metal sealant to protect the aluminum from oxidation, salt deposits, algae, etc. Follow the instructions that come with the protectant, which most likely call for a mixture of 1 part sealant to 3 parts water.
This step can be performed on tubes and logs prior to heading out on the water, not just after a good polish, but you’ll still want to thoroughly clean and rinse the aluminum beforehand. Sealant will keep your boat protected from the elements longer, keeping your from having to polish more frequently.
Admittedly, polishing your pontoon can seem quite daunting because of it’s labor intensity and consumption of time, but we guarantee your boat will look brand new if you put your heart into it. So, if you’re pontoon is a looking a little rough around the edges, carve out a nice chunk of time this weekend and get to it. You won’t be disappointed!