Bilge Cleaning and Inspection

It's not a fun job, but these tips will make it way less painful.
Sam McGinley
Even if you don't want to go down there, your bilge is amongst the most important places on the boat. You should thoroughly clean and inspect the bilge after every trip, or at least once a month, to prevent any catastrophic issues.
There are plenty of cleaners out there to get the job done. Shurhold offers everything you need in one place so we used their products for this demo.
This bilge that has sat untouched since our last inspection. Sand and dirt has come from somewhere as it always does. Additionally, some new corrosion has formed on the sea strainers. The first step is to clean everything, making it easier to spot problems.
Start with a liberal application of Serious Marine Cleaner over almost every surface in the bilge. The cleaner will start cutting grease, stains, dried fuel and caked on grime. The white scrubbing pad is perfect for attacking sticky fluids. It won't leave green residue like the green scouring pads do. Use towels to wipe up the gunk.
Use a wire brush to scrub any rust and corrosion off of the brass and metal fittings. Be sure to inspect the unit itself for cracks and damage to the hoses. Once that's done, test all of your bilge pumps and inspect them for any debris that may hinder the float switch.
For boats with raw-water systems, it's important to check your strainers and seacocks. Exercise every lever to prevent seizing. Leave the system you're checking closed and remove the top with the appropriate tool.
Pull the based and flush its contents. Scrub off any barnacles or corrosion with the wire brush, then reinstall and put the top back on. Remember to reset the seacocks to the proper position.
Finally, spray any metal or brass with corrosion inhibitor. A liberal application will limit future problems and make your next cleanup much easier.
This bilge is clean, inspected and ready to go. You'll have piece of mind knowing all of your systems are fully functioning, safe and water ready. Now get out on the water!


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