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Boat polishing – the secrets of success

Dull, faded and worn fibreglass can easily be restored to original colour and a brilliant shine by using the right materials in just three simple steps:
smiley shades

  1. Hose down the boat to remove mud, sand, salt and bird droppings.
  2. Prepare with Pre-wax Treatment or Clean Cut Compound.
  3. Apply good quality boat wax or polymer glaze to enhance and protect the shine.

Then there’s the fourth step – step back and admire! You’ll be delighted by the result.

Here’s an example

Margaux before polishing

Margaux before

Margaux was thoroughly washed down, then a couple of areas that had been worn by rubbing fenders were hand treated with Clean Cut Compound.

Margaux after polishing

Margaux after

Prewax Restorer was applied with the orbital polisher, then the bonnet was changed and the restorer buffed off without allowing it to dry too much. A wipe over by hand removed the last traces.

A fresh bonnet on the orbital polisher and UltraGlaze was applied, then buffed off with a clean bonnet. The whole job on this 21 foot Etap was done in a couple of two hour sessions.

Works on dark colours

Here’s a faded laser dinghy that has been restored using Clean Cut Compound and Prewax Colour Restorer, finished with Performance Boat Wax.

Faded blue laser dingy

Faded blue dingy

Repolished blue dingy

Polished blue dingy

Alan Dalziel was quoted £250 for a pro job, and did this himself for a third the cost, including purchasing a variable speed sander-polisher. Thank you Alan for the photos.

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Pre-wax Colour Restorer

Recommended as a pre-treatment before applying boat wax. The effect is dramatic even on old surfaces.

BoatSheen prewax colour restorerPre-wax colour restorer lifts out dirt and impurities, removes fine scratches, salting, oxidation and old wax residues to restore the true colour. Can be used to remove wax prior to painting or fibreglass repair. Boatsheen Pre-wax colour restorer uses a gentle polishing action, but contains no coarse abrasives.

Pre-wax colour restorer 250ml £12.95 Buy now
Pre-wax colour restorer 500ml £17.50 Buy now
Pre-wax colour restorer 2.5litre £55.00 Buy now

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Clean Cut Compound

BoatSheen Clean Cut CompoundFormulated specially for restoring worn and scratched fibreglass surfaces. BoatSheen Clean Cut has a mild cutting action that removes scratches, leaving a deep lasting shine. It can be applied by hand or by orbital polishing machine.

  • Free from ammonia and silicones
  • For hand or machine application
Clean cut compound 250ml £7.50 Buy now
Clean cut compound 500ml £12.50 Buy now
Clean cut compound 2.5 litre £45.00  Buy now
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Carnauba wax

A hard natural wax from Brazil

carnauba trees

Carnauba trees

Carnauba wax is one of the hardest and most long-lasting natural waxes known to man. It is extracted from the leaves of the carnauba palm (Copernicia prunifera), a native of northeastern Brazil.

Carnauba in boat wax

Carnauba is the main ingredient in our Best Brazilian Boat Wax. It’s ideal for the purpose because it’s practically insoluble in water and harder than concrete in its pure form. When applied to your boat, it tends to penetrate the pores in the gel coat or paint and form a hard surface that can be buffed to a brilliant shine.

Properties of carnauba

Pure Carnauba Wax

Pure Carnauba Wax

The glossiness and hardness of of carnauba wax are well-known, but even when it does age, it doesn’t lift off like many other finishes, but simply dulls down. The protection remains for a considerable period of time, and the gloss can easily be restored by a quick buff over, or by applying a top-up with Carnauba Wash Concentrate.

Carnauba wax also performs well in strong sunlight. The pure wax has a melting point around 80°C, among the highest of natural waxes, and it provides a natural sunscreen.

Carnauba in shoe polish, food and cosmetics

The extraordinary properties of carnauba have led to its use in a huge variety of products. Car polishes, furniture polishes and shoe polish often contain a small proportion, and it’s used extensively in the food industry, where it ends up as a finishing agent in baked foods and as the glaze on chewing gum and tic tacs. Modern cosmetics use it in products from lipsticks and eyeliners to skin care preparations and sun screens.

Magic or marvel?

With this variety of applications, carnauba wax can be seen as something of a magic bullet, but to be a useable end product it has to be correctly formulated for the specific application.

The presence of carnauba doesn’t mean the product will work for everything. You wouldn’t coat your boat with mascara, sun screen or shoe polish, but you should be equally wary about using car polish. Where carnauba wax is used in car polishes, it’s usually a very small proportion, together with abrasives that polish the surface by cutting into it. Fibreglass gel coat and hand painted finishes are much softer than car paint, so the result is a quick fix that damages your boat and a shine that doesn’t last.

A correctly formulated boat wax, with a high concentration of grade 1 carnauba can make a stunning impression on your boat. It looks good, adds value and provides lasting protection. It won’t last indefinitely, but it’s probably tougher than the original surface and it’s certainly much more easily replaced.

Our specialised carnauba boat waxes

Best Brazilian boat wax – Our best liquid wax for grp or painted surfaces

Premium Sport Boat Wax – Serious wax for the boat owner who wants the very best

Carnauba Wash Concentrate - tops up the carnauba when you wash

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Best Brazilian Boat Wax

Our best liquid wax for grp or painted surfaces

BoatShen Carnauba Boat Wax

Hard Brazilian carnauba wax blended into a cream form that makes it very easy to apply. Leaves no chalky white deposits around wood or trim – just wipe on and buff to a brilliant silky smooth shine.

Contains no abrasive cutting compounds, so it doesn’t cut into the surface and is safe to use on both grp and painted boats.

  • Deep waxy shine resists dirt
  • Durable carnauba wax
  • No abrasives – safe on paint or grp surfaces

500ml covers up to 1800 sq ft (170sq metre). Additional coats build a deeper shine.

BoatSheen Best Brazilian Boat Wax 250ml £12.95 Buy now
BoatSheen Best Brazilian Boat Wax 500ml £19.50 Buy now
BoatSheen Best Brazilian Boat Wax 2.5 litre £65.00 Buy now

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Comparing Boat Polishing Machines

Rotary sander-polishers are great general-purpose machines, but orbital polishers are better for regular polishing. This comparison table compares the advantages of each.

Rotary sander-polishers


Variable-speed rotary sander-polishers are great general purpose machines, well suited to repair work, sanding, and compounding. They are the workhorse of a repair yard, but not the best for regular polishing.

Rotary action

rotary disk
With a rotating disc, the outside edge moves much faster over the surface than the centre. The outer section of the disc does most of the work, with the centre doing practically nothing.

To cover large areas quickly, a machine needs a large head, but the larger the head, the greater the peripheral speed of the disc. In practice, 180mm (7 inch) is the maximum for hand-held rotary machines.

When using a sander-polisher, it’s tempting to apply excesssive pressure or to wind up the speed, but this can overheat the edge, leaving comet tails or permanently damaging the gel coat. For fibreglass, we suggest a maximum of 600 – 1000 rpm, and when a rotary machine is used for polishing, we recommend the use of a soft foam pad.

Orbital polishers

Orbital polisher

Orbital polishers are specialised for finish polishing, but less suitable for compounding. They have a light fast action that can be far more efficient for polishing than a rotary machine. Despite the larger head and fast speed, they can’t overheat the surface.

Orbital action

For polishing, the ideal action is like the movement of a hand with the whole pad moving at the same speed in small orbits. A machine with this action has no hot spots or cold spots and can have a much bigger pad than a rotary machine with no danger of overheating. An orbital pad 275mm (11 inch) diameter is more than double the surface area of a 7 inch one.

All of this means that an efficient orbital polisher can buff the topsides of a boat in minutes, and makes it practical to maintain a brilliant shine on larger vessels. The hand-like action is easily controlled, can’t damage the surface and won’t run away from the operator.

For routine polishing and maintenance, an orbital polisher can easily pay for itself on the first few jobs.

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Cleaning and restoring painted wood

Maintenance and protection

Painted canal boat

Traditional paintwork on a canal boat

Wash gently with fresh water and a soft brush or use BoatSheen Carnauba Wash and Wax.

Protect with BoatSheen Best Brazlian boat wax. This provides a durable waxy protection without any damage to the paintwork.


For dull surfaces, use the gentle polishing action of  BoatSheen Pre-wax colour and sheen restorer followed by BoatSheen Best Brazlian boat wax.

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Cleaning and restoring painted metal


Rinse off salt and dirt with clean fresh water.

Use BoatSheen Polymer wash & Wax concentrate to provide a slick hydrophobic surface from which water just sheets away. Add a capful to a bucket of water or apply by pressure washer.


Protect painted metal surfaces with BoatSheen Glaze.


To remove stuck-on contamination like tar, industrial dust, tree sap and overspray, use BoatSheen Eraser Clay and lubricant. Eraser Clay is a dense mineral resin mixture which is used with the lubricant to glide over the surface, picking off anything stuck to it. It is a non-abrasive process that produces an extremely high grade finish.

To restore shine and colour to faded paintwork, use BoatSheen Pre-wax colour and sheen restorer. This lifts out dirt and impurities, removes fine scratches, salting, oxidation and old wax residues to restore the true colour. It uses a gentle polishing action, but contains no coarse abrasives.

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Removing scratches from fibreglass, polyester, grp or gel coat

Worn and abraded fibreglass can nearly always be restored to a brilliant new surface by compounding. This is an abrasive process that cuts back to a new surface. It is generally much more satisfactory and quicker than painting over problem areas.

BoatSheen Clean Cut Compound is formulated specially for restoring worn and scratched fibreglass surfaces. Apply it with a pad or machine and rub firmly to polish out the marks. It has a mild but progressive cutting action which means that it initially removes scratches, but becomes finer and produces a shine as it is worked. This means that a single grade is suitable for removing scratches and producing a shine.

Clean Cut Compound is suitable for hand or machine use with a rotary sander-polishing machine.

We recommend that compounded surfaces are further polished with BoatSheen Prewax Colour Restorer and finally protected with a good quality wax or glaze.

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