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Fishing net off the side of a Bennington pontoon boat

How to Clean Your Aluminum Pontoons


Aluminum pontoons look great when a pontoon boat is fresh from the dealer, but that beautiful reflective shine will fade after a while. Bare aluminum is subject to surface oxidation, and it can be discolored by prolonged exposure to a variety of minerals, organisms, and chemicals in the water. By adopting a strategy of regular cleaning during the boating season, you can keep oxidation and discoloration at bay and keep your pontoons looking great. It can take days, weeks or months before discoloration becomes noticeable, depending on the body of water your boat is in. Regularly inspecting your pontoons and cleaning them as soon as they begin to lose their shine is much easier than restoring them after they have become badly oxidized or discolored. Follow these three steps to clean your aluminum pontoons.


Wash Your Boat


If your boat is relatively new or doesn’t spend much time in the water, this step can be as simple as a quick rinse by hand with a bucket and sponge, or with a hose or power washer. If you’re diligent about keeping the pontoons clean, this step is quick and easy. However, if there is visible, significant build-up on the aluminum, you will need to apply a cleaner.


Clean Your Aluminum Pontoon


There are countless options on the market for boat cleaning solutions, but they all do the same thing: clean aluminum. There is no ‘wrong’ choice. Two popular aluminum cleaners are Sharkhide or Biokleen. Whichever cleaner you use, the general directions are to apply the cleaner, scrub it into the aluminum, let it sit for several minutes, rinse it off and repeat if necessary. If you are unsure about how long to leave the cleaner on the aluminum, you can test it on a less-visible part of your pontoon. Apply the cleaner to a small piece of aluminum on the underside of your boat and rinse it off after a short period of time, repeating and increasing the amount of time until you have achieved your desired result. Some more aluminum safe cleaning products are listed below:

• Zing Formula IV

• 1 Step Aluminum Cleaner

Streak Master Aluminum Cleaner

• Barkeeper’s Friend (available at Wal-Mart and other major stores)

• Oxisolv’s Aluminum Cleaner

Mother’s Wheel Mist


Polish Your Aluminum Pontoon


Now that your pontoons are free of discoloration, it’s time to apply metal polish. This step can take some time, but if done properly it will only need to be done once in a while.


Many boat owners swear by Sharkhide or Biokleen metal polishes. In addition to a metal polish, you’ll need a polishing ball, a standard cordless drill and a clean terry cloth.


Application of the metal polish should be done based on the directions on the container. Generally speaking, this will involve placing metal polish on the polishing ball, running the cordless drill clockwise at a slow speed to start, then increasing speed once the polish is absorbed. Guide the polishing ball down the length of the pontoon while moving the drill in a small ‘S’ pattern to blend the polish into the surface of the aluminum. This can take a little practice. After the polish is applied, buff it out with a second polishing ball or a clean, dry terry cloth. The last step for any boater worth his salt is to apply Sharkhide, a sealant and protectant that ensures you get the most out of your hard work and effort.


That’s it! Your aluminum pontoons will look brand new and be even more resistant to oxidation and discoloration in the future. Step one should be done on a regular basis, while steps two and three should be done when necessary. The process is somewhat labor-intensive, but it only has to be done a few times a season and takes about two hours for a 22-foot boat.


Bennington pontoon boats deserve to look great all the time. Keeping the aluminum clean and polished is one of the best ways to maintain your boat’s appearance and value.