Keep Your Non-Skid Decks Clean
By Brian Gordon, Last updated: 6/8/2020
Squeaky-clean non-skid is paramount to a safe boating experience. Allowing dirt and grime to build up in the valleys of a non-skid’s textured surface decreases its effectiveness, which on a pitching deck can result in a nasty fall or a one-way slip into the drink. Stepping aboard a dirty boat is also a downer. Another reason to keep it clean beyond esthetics, dirt and grime under the press of a deck shoe act as an abrasive that can wear your non-skid out.
When selecting a cleaning product for your boat, consider environmentally sustainable formulas that utilize low-toxicity ingredients. Deck Cleaners and Boat Soaps to consider include West Marine Citrus Boat Soap and West Marine Non-Skid Cleaner with PTEF. Both of these products are formulated for maximum effectiveness and use low-toxicity ingredients that minimize harm to the environment.
This article summarizes how to clean four types of non-skid:
- Gelcoat non-skid
- Painted non-skid
Sustainable products help to reduce our impact on the marine environment.
Both molded-in and aftermarket rolled-on gelcoat non-skid provide the ideal home for dirt and grime that tends to collect in the valleys of the non-skid pattern, where it can be hard to remove.
Cleaning gelcoat non-skid involves the removal of surface dirt and stains. This can be a one-, two- or three-step procedure, depending on how stubborn the dirt and stains are to remove. After completing step one, two, or three (as the situation dictates) you can, depending of the condition of your non-skid, move on to an optional step four.
Step One: Remove the surface dirt. Scrub your decks and the rest of your boat with a medium-stiff deck brush and a boat soap specifically formulated for the marine environment. If your boat and your non-skid come up clean, you can call it “done”; or move on to optional step four if you like. However, if after washing your non-skid with boat soap some dirt or stains remain, move on to step two.
Sometimes, a boat soap like this is all you really need.
Step Two: For stubborn, hard-to-remove dirt, use a non-skid deck cleaner, such as Pure Oceans Non-Skid Deck Cleaner with PTEF. Testing has shown that in addition to removing stubborn surface dirt, West Marine Non-Skid Cleaner with PTEF also removes most stains.
Step Three: For any stains that remain after step two, try using a Fiberglass Stain Remover. These are typically mild, acid-based stain removers that remove most types of stains. When using an acid based stain remover, wear rubber gloves, eye protection and keep it off of paint, varnish or galvanized surfaces, as it may dull these areas.
Optional Step Four: If your gelcoat non-skid is in good condition and not oxidized, you can protect it with a liquid polymer wax. This may come as a surprise to some who believe that applying wax to gelcoat non-skid will make it slippery. For old, worn non-skid this may be true. But for non-skid that is in good condition, Shurhold Industries has shown that gelcoat non-skid can be polished and protected without a loss of traction. For an informative video on the Shurhold system, check out the video at the end of this article. Or read our West Advisor Article on gelcoat care and restoration.
West Marine Non-Skid Deck Cleaner removes most surface dirt and underlying stains.
Treadmaster glue-down non-skid mats are a popular replacement for factory non-skid that has worn out. The mats are a mixture of nitrile rubber and ground cork.
For general cleaning, the US distributer for Treadmaster recommends that you scrub it with a medium bristle deck brush, using a boat soap that is specifically formulated for the marine environment—the same as you would for washing down the rest of your boat. For hard-to-remove, ground-in dirt, Pure Oceans Non-Skid Deck Cleaner with PTEF is safe to use.
Clean Up Chemical Spills Promptly
According to the manufacturer, Treadmaster “resists the chemical effects of oil, fuel and other commonly used substances, however any spillages should be cleaned up promptly to avoid surface staining.”
Regarding stain removal, the manufacturer is a bit vague: “Cleaning of spillages should be carried out using a cloth or soft brush and warm water containing a mild detergent. The surface is rubbed very gently to remove the spillage, then rinsed with plain water. Cleaning fluids containing solvents, bleach, and abrasive cleaners, must never be used.”
Faded or stained Treadmaster can be restored to its original color with Treadcote, a proprietary coating developed by the manufacturer. Available Colors include White Sand, Teak, Blue, and Gray, which are available in one-liter containers as a Special Order from West Marine. To order, call 1-800-BOATING (262-8464).
KiwiGrip is an acrylic polymer coating that provides a durable, homogeneous, elastic, low-glare, non-skid surface. Due to its ease of application, it is also a popular replacement for factory non-skid that has worn out.
KiwiGrip can be cleaned with boat soap, water and a soft bristle brush that can penetrate the peaks and valleys. KiwiGrip can be pressure washed, but it is often best to scrub it with soapy water, followed by a high-pressure rinse. Bleach can be used, but it must be very diluted.
Stain and Solvent Resistance of KiwiGrip
KiwiGrip is impervious to common spillages, such as cola, carbonated drinks, peanut butter, jelly, alcoholic beverages and detergents, but can be damaged by some solvents.
Diesel, oil, acetone and gasoline spills can damage KiwiGrip. Solvent spills should be quickly mopped up and the area promptly scrubbed with boat soap and a soft bristle brush. Allowing any of these substances to pool on KiwiGrip can cause damage, which will need to be repaired.
Care of Painted Non-Skid
One- and two-part painted-on non-skid (the kind with embedded grit) can be washed, using a soft bristled brush and your choice of a boat soap, or to add a degree of protection and shine, with a combination wash and wax. For removing stubborn dirt, we suggest Pure Oceans Non-Skid Deck Cleaner with PTEF, described above. For any stains that remain, try using a fiberglass stain remover, which is normally safe for use on painted surfaces—however you should test this product on an inconspicuous area first. When cleaning painted-on non-skid, be careful to not scrub too hard, as hard scrubbing can, in some cases, dislodge the embedded grit.
For an informative video about how gelcoat non-skid can be protected against the damaging effects of the weather and the sun, watch below.