Thetford Marine Cleaners
Given the millions of gallons of crude oil currently wreaking havoc on the Gulf of Mexico, the damage we do to the marine environment every time we wash our boats with harmful chemicals may seem comparatively small. But if we’re going to vilify the oil industry for defiling one of our beloved sailing areas, shouldn’t we make sure we’re doing our part—no matter how small—to protect our playgrounds?
Last year, Thetford Marine sent me an assortment of eco-friendly marine care products: Bilge Cleaner, UltraFoam Black Streak Remover, UltraFoam Deck Cleaner, Mildew Stain Remover, and Boat Wash. This stuff doesn’t just come in green bottles; the Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment program has certified all of the aforementioned products to be free of inorganic phosphates, hazardous solvents, and environmentally harmful surfactants. Since I’m no chemist—and I didn’t have the courage to down a shot of boat wash—I’ll have to take the EPA’s word for the green promises of Thetford’s marine care line. But you don’t need a lab coat to scrub a boat, so I put these solvents to the real test—seeing if they actually clean stuff.
For the most part, they did. Last fall, aboard Sailing World’s Albin 26 AO, I dumped a generous helping of the Bilge Cleaner into to the bilge, which tends to fill up over a winter on the hard. When I returned to the boat a few weeks ago to do some spring cleaning, the bilge was full, but not overly slimy. The Bilge Cleaner had kept the algae at bay, and once I pumped out the bilge, the slime wiped away easily. I used a light solution of Boat Wash and water to wipe away years of accumulated dirt and mildew from the boat’s interior, and after hours of exposure to the solute, my skin wasn’t the least bit irritated. The one cleaner that didn’t perform with flying colors was the Mildew Stain Remover (now called Multi-Purpose Stain Remover). I gave the stain remover to my father, who had been looking for a way to eliminate some mildew stains embedded in the vinyl upholstery aboard his boat. “It did nothing to remove the stains,” says Dad. “To be fair, the stuff might work just fine on ordinary mildew stains, but these stains were deep inside the pores of the vinyl, like somebody had drawn on it with a Magic Marker.”
I’ve yet to test the UltraFoam Black Streak Remover or the UltraFoam Deck Cleaner, even though AO presents plenty of applications for both. The Thetford Marine products I have used, however, work well for everyday boat-cleaning tasks, and their reduced environmental impact makes me feel a lot better about myself.