How to get rid of boat smells?

Owning a boat can be great joy and it is a very pleasurable hobby but when your boat sits unused for long periods of months over the winter months in storage it will quickly build up a musty boat smell or odour and when the summer arrives this may put you off from your sailing for a couple of days until the smell subsides.

Many factors can contribute to the build of of boat odours and these can include fuel, mildew and mould and unfortunately it’s inevitable that unused boats will accumulate odours. It can be difficult to pinpoint the the cause of boat smell or odour but if you know where to look for it you can quickly eliminate it or prevent it from reoccurring in the near future. 

Marine Head and Toilet

The most common place to begin with eliminating boat odours is the toilet and it’s a good idea to begin scrubbing down your boat before the start of the season or after extended usage outdoors. If you find that the smell still persists after you’ve given it a good and through clean, it could be that the discharge hose needs to fixed or replaced. To check the discharge hose for odours, rub a clean cloth up and down the hose jacket and then sniff the cloth. For a more through test you can, wrap a hot, damp cloth around the low point of the discharge hose then leave it to cool, remove and sniff it. If this test reveals a nasty odour then the sanitation hose is the culprit and it will need to be replaced. 

Boat bilge

The bilge of the boat is another area which can often be the source and cause unpleasant and smelly odours. Seawater, oil and runoff drain into a bilge and it can become stagnant and over time it develops a putrid smell. You can always add environmentally free disinfectant to the bilge and see if it helps to get rid of the odour but the secret to prevent a buildup of unpleasant boat odour is to keep the bilge clean and dry as often as you can. 

Cushions and upholstery

 Boat cushions and upholstery can easily retain unpleasant odours  and it’s a good idea to clean them at every chance you get. Get into the habit of cleaning on a regular basis because if you neglect this your boat will gradually develop a unpleasant and smelly odour which will be more difficult to eliminate. You can wash cushions and upholstery once a year to remove any foul odours. If you store your boat away during the winter months remove cushions, upholstery and mattresses to prevent mildew and mould from forming.  

Anchor chain and rode locker

Another common source of unpleasant and foul smells is the anchor chain and rode locker. The rode locker gets muddy every time the anchor is pulled up. We recommend that you clean your anchor locker by taking everything out and using a bleach and water solution to wipe down the surface. Once you’ve cleaned it leave to dry and air before you put it back in place. Frequent cleaning of the locker interior and anchor chain will assure you that the breeze abroad the boat is a pleasant one. 

Engine compartment

Boat engine compartments or rooms can easily fall prey to unpleasant odours of grease, grime, exhaust and fuel but these can be eliminated quite easily. Use a good degreaser and eliminate old oil build-up and grease that has accumulated on the engines. Wash the engine compartment walls with an equal mix of vinegar and water as this will leave it looking clean and pristine. It’s a good idea to line and place absorbent sheets at the bottom of the compartment as it will catch leaks, drips from the engine and it will make cleaning a little bit easier next time around.

Food lockers and refrigerators

This is most obvious one however it can still be a nauseating odour if food waste is not disposed off properly. The food locker may smell musty if it’s been unused and not maintained.  Try to maintain a clean fridge and food storage space as this can easily contribute to hidden smelly boat odours.  

The best way to prevent smelly and unpleasant boat odours is by maintaining and cleaning your boat on a regular and timely schedule and this will go a long way to ensure that your boat is in a pristine, good condition when you next go sailing.

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