How To Clean and Polish Your Aluminum Pontoon Boat For Max Shine

How To Clean and Polish Your Aluminum Pontoon Boat For Max Shine

In this article, we will go into detail on how to clean and polish your aluminum pontoon boat for a mirror-like finish that lasts a long time!

When you think about it, it is funny that you have to regularly wash something that spends most of its time in the water. Pontoons must have a weird sense of humor since they tend to get dirty very fast if they are not regularly maintained.

My guess is you have probably experienced this first hand since you are reading this article. The aluminum pontoons on pontoon boats can really get dirty after a few trips. Typically this does not affect the boat performance but it does impact the appearance of the boat. This is especially true since pontoons look really clean and shiny when they are new.

How much does it cost to have a professional detail a pontoon boat? Most professionals charge $500 to $600 or more to polish and clean a pontoon boat depending on the overall length of the boat.

Cleaning your pontoon boat can get really expensive if you ask an expert to do it for you. Charges usually range from between $500-$600 depending on boat length.

This is a crazy price considering that this is a job that you can do yourself. The products that you need to clean and polish aluminum pontoons are cheap and readily available. In addition, these products are durable meaning that they won’t require quick replacement.

You can ensure that your pontoon looks clean and fresh by implementing five simple steps. These steps will require you to put in some considerable effort.

Because of this, make sure you dedicate enough time to this exercise. After the last step, your pontoon will be the cleanest pontoon around. It might even be mistaken for a new one once you are done.

How To Polish Pontoons In Five Easy Steps

1. Preparation

This is perhaps the most crucial stage in this process. Skipping this stage will definitely mean that you won’t achieve that clean and shiny look that you desire. Preparation involves removing all the dirt on your pontoon. The most common things that people clean off are algae and scum. The buildup of algae and scum increases if your pontoon remains docked at sea after you use it. The salty sea conditions facilitate the formation and accumulation of algae and scum.

You can prevent the buildup of algae and scum by cleaning your pontoon after every trip. A light wash with a pressure washer after a trip will reduce algae build up. You can also choose to trailer your pontoon rather than leave it docked out at sea. This will eliminate the possibility of algae buildup.

If there is a lot of algae build up, then your preparation will take a long time. Algae and other sea debris can be notoriously difficult to remove.

You might have to go inch by inch with your pressure washer and this will take a lot of time. In addition, you might need to scrub off stubborn algae. If it comes to this, do not use hard material to scrub off the algae. It is very easy for you to damage the pontoon if you use hard material.

If the build-up of algae is low or minimal, a simple wash with a pressure washer will do just fine. If you don’t have a pressure washer you can wipe the pontoon with a wet rag. The second option will take longer and it’s a lot more work.

2. Applying Cleaner

This is a crucial step in ensuring the longevity of your clean. If you skip this step there is a high likelihood that all your hard work will be undone once you get back into the water. In fact, it is a guarantee that your work will come to waste if you ignore this step.

*This is how I have done it. You may choose to use a product like Toon Brite [Amazon Link] or other targeted product. Because I have not tried it I cannot give you a review at this point. The following is how I did it based on the recommendation of other pontoon boat owners:

From my experience and at the recommendation of other pontoon boat owners, you can use a toilet bowl cleaner for this step. It achieves the same results as other cleaning methods. The best thing about using toilet bowl cleaner is that the product is cheap and readily available. I personally use the cheap dollar store brand toilet bowl cleaner.

Other methods like acid baths require specific products that can prove to be really expensive and hard to find.

All you need to do is to mix the toilet bowl cleaner with water. After that, use a sprayer to apply the mixture on your pontoon. After that, let it sit on your pontoon to the point where it is almost dried up. After that, spray the mixture off with clean water.

If you let the toilet bowl mixture dry up, you will have to clean it out by going back to the first step. This can be extremely frustrating and time-consuming. To avoid this, spray your pontoon in sections. Spray it on a section, give it a few minutes and then rinse the solution out with clean water. Then proceed to the next section until you have applied the solution to the entire pontoon.

After you rinse, you can choose to wipe the pontoon with a wet cloth, this will ensure that you have completely wiped off all of the solution. I like to spray everything down with a car wash or all purpose cleaner to help neutralize the chemicals in the toilet bowl cleaner. This is not a mandatory step but you can try it if you have time and you want to be thorough.

3. Buffing

This is actually an extra step in this process designed for people who want to achieve a shiny look on their pontoons. The pontoon will be clean after the second step. This third step will add a shiny factor to the pontoon. You can skip this step and go straight to the last one if you only wanted to clean your pontoon.

This step will give your pontoon that shiny new glow. You first need to find proper polisher. There are a number of polisher options that you can choose from. Before you choose one, do a bit of research to see how people rate the polisher. You can find very useful reviews on sites such as Amazon.

Makita and Dewalt are among the most common polisher brands that most people opt for.

You need to be careful with the polisher brand you go for. A poor-quality polisher will mean a poor-quality buff. Some low-quality polishers can even damage your pontoon. A high-quality polisher will do a high-quality job. You can choose a wool pad to go with your high-quality polisher.

**Circular motions are the way to go when it comes to buffing. You should try to avoid up and down motions since they might leave noticeable lines.

You need to set aside about 2-3 hours to do this job properly. It might even take more time depending on the size of the pontoon. The best approach for buffing is not to have a set timeline. Take all the time you need to ensure that you’ve buffed all parts of the aluminum log.

4. Applying Cleaner

That’s right, you need to repeat step two to ensure that your hard work doesn’t go to waste. You need to follow all the steps detailed in step 2.    

The reason for repeating is that you need to clean out the polishing compound. If you leave it on, it will seal on to the pontoon. Once it seals on, it leaves a really unpleasant site.

Ensure that you are thorough and that all the compound is cleaned out. Remember to rinse with enough water before the cleaner dries. You should be really careful to ensure that you do not mess up all the good work you have done before.

5. Applying Shark Hide

Shark Hide is the go-to product for pontooners everywhere. Everyone associated with pontoons knows the value of Shark Hide. It is the product that protects pontoons around the world from the harsh elements of seawater and lake water too. Some pontoon owners begin using Shark Hide on their pontoons even before the pontoons hit the waves.

Basically, Shark Hide seals and protects the aluminum pontoons. There is no doubt that Shark Hide works. There are lots of reviews on the internet that detail how good Shark Hide is. Every person who uses Shark Hide can approve of its use.

Shark Hide works to protect the aluminum logs from dangers such as oxidation, rust, and stains. It also slows the accumulation of algae but it does not eliminate it completely. In addition, Shark Hide helps you maintain that sharp shiny look on your pontoon.

Unfortunately, Shark Hide does not come with clear instructions as to how you are supposed to use it. Most people prefer to mix Shark Hide and water in a ratio of 1:3.

Where to buy Shark Hide: You can find it at Amazon, but I found Eastwood to be a lower price. There may be other retailers who offer it, but I know these two sources carry the product.

Is There an Alternative To Shark Hide?

Yes, there are other products that work, but Shark Hide is one of the most popular. While Shark Hide is popular, it is not the only option. Some pontoon boat owners and detailers are having some success with alternative products.

These alternatives include:


Alumetron which claims it can last up to 10 years. I have not personally used Alumetron, but it gets fairly good reviews. Only one person said in their review that it did not last and started to come off shortly after use. In a reply from the manufacturer, it was claimed to be an installation problem.

Ceramic Coatings

This is a newer product and one that I use a lot on fiberglass boats, my daily driver vehicles and also on my vintage collector vehicles. I am a big fan of ceramic coatings and their protection can last years. On my fiberglass boat at the coast, the ceramic coating has lasted almost two seasons and still going strong.

I mention this here as an alternative, but I have not found much about it being used on Pontoon boats yet. If you try it let me know your thoughts in the comment section below. I have used Marine 31’s Captain Coating and also McKee’s 37 Coating. The McKee’s is easier to apply.


I think we have covered quite a bit of information in this article about making your pontoon boat look as good as new. It will not be an easy or quick job. If you can, set an entire day to clean your pontoon boat.

It might take a lot of time but you will be really impressed with the result. You can even have some friends over to help you with the job. That way you can do the job faster and you can be more thorough with your cleaning.

It is essential that you follow all the steps detailed above. If you skip a single step, you will not achieve that clean and shiny look that you are after.

In addition, make sure you follow all the instructions. It is the only way that you will ensure that the pontoons remain clean for a long time As previously stated, cleaning you pontoons can be a long and tiring exercise. You need to take good care of your pontoons to reduce the number of times you have to clean it. You can start by washing the pontoon with fresh water after every trip. In addition, you can choose to trailer your pontoon rather than parking it in the water.

Follow the steps above and you’ll have the freshest, cleanest, and shiniest pontoon on the water.