The Right Products

How to restore your faded fiberglass

Published in the February 2011 Issue Published online: Feb 28, 2011 Ask The Expert
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To determine how badly faded a hull is, owners should rub the surface with a clean rag. If the chalky surface rubs off onto the rag, the gelcoat is heavily oxidized and needs some work. However, with hundreds of different products on the market, all touting to be the best cure for dull, faded gelcoat, finding the best products for the job can be overwhelming.

One-part cleaner/wax products are a good place to start. These compounds are usually some form of wax combined with a very mild cleaner, a very mild abrasive compound and sometimes a lubricant. Applied with a buffer, they do a good job on mildly dulled or chalked areas.

Also included in the single-part products category is restorer/wax. These typically have a more aggressive rubbing compound than the cleaner/waxes. Some products claim to have an abrasive that continues to break down when being applied, producing a finer finish.

There is another class of products touted to be the best solution for faded and chalky gelcoat. These products are usually in the form of an acrylic or similar coating, much like floor wax. These liquids are very thin and easily applied. They quickly dry, leaving behind a waterproof coating that fills in the gelcoat surface to form a shiny layer. Since the coating is very thin, multiple coats are usually required.

The downside to these products is that the coating will wear away or turn yellow. Depending on the conditions, the finish has one to three years of life. In most cases, a yearly reapplication of several coats is suggested. After that, a total reapplication is needed. The selling point is the ease of application and the instant shine achieved.

Other products used to remove oxidation are polishes and waxes. Polishes are best applied with a buffer and a clean pad. Users should apply the polish and buff out until the gel coat color is uniform and glossy. They shouldn't buff at a high speed since there's a risk of overheating the surface. Once the color is uniform, a good quality paste wax for maximum protection and shine can be applied. Most paste waxes will last three to six months and should be re-waxed appropriately.

Before repainting the boat, compounding is usually the last process employed. Rubbing compounds come in variations from mild to heavy-duty. They are usually applied to the surface and then buffed with a power buffer. Pads should be changed often as they tend to get clogged with the rubbing compound and gelcoat.

The best results are a uniform color and smooth satin finish. The more aggressive rubbing compound alone won't produce a shine. The surface also has to be polished. After polishing, an application of a good paste wax should result in an almost showroom finish.

A great product to help throughout the cleaning process is Shurhold's Buff Magic, a fiberglass reconditioner and deoxidizer. It's formulated to be user-friendly, whether buffing by machine or hand. The company's microfiber towels are super-soft and extra-strong and are ideal for polishing and shining gelcoat surfaces.

For areas that need a little more help, Shurhold's Dual-Action Polisher's 6-inch oscillating head allows anyone to get the same great finish, without burns or swirls. General detail maintenance like waxing and buffing can now be done in half the time, with half the effort and half the amount of product. The Buff Magic Compounding Pad is six and a half-inch in diameter and made of 100 percent twisted wool. This pad was designed to work with Buff Magic and is perfect for removing oxidation.

Shurhold's Dual Action Polisher costs $149.98, while the Compounding Pad is $23.98. A three-pack of Microfiber Towels is priced at $18.98 and a 22-ounce can of Buff Magic is $28.98. Dedicated to educating boat owners, Shurhold provides key tips for boat value preservation at For more information call 800-962-6241.

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