Do you have a boat restoration project on your plate right now? Or do you only aim to help your vessel last longer? Well, if you want to do that, then you should never forget about boat windscreens. Because like anything else on a boat, these windscreens take a really good beating and deserve some TLC as well.
But hold on a minute! Before you go get your cleaning supplies, ask yourself: do you know how to properly clean them? It’s okay for you to think that they’re easy to clean, but you should always remember that not every windscreen is the same. They’re often made of different materials that will react only to a certain cleaning technique.
For this article, we’ll be talking about how to clean a boat windscreen made from acrylic and vinyl, because these are the two most common materials on the market. So without further ado, let’s get to cleaning!
How To Clean Acrylic Boat Windscreens
You only need to consider two requirements for cleaning acrylic:
- Don’t scratch it
- Don’t use chemicals
This includes everything from household cleaners to chemical mists, fumes, and even unintentional contact with all types of fuel. So whatever you do, do not think of using any typical cleaner on an acrylic windscreen. You’ll only damage it!
As for avoiding scratches, forget about using tough sponges or steel wool. Your only solution should be to wet it often with fresh water and use a clean, soft cotton cloth to wash the surface. Also, dirt and built-up salt can scratch acrylic so, to remove tough stains, you can use mild soap, but never go for detergents, spray, or glass cleaners.
On a final note, here’s another thing: avoid rubbing the surface when you’re cleaning. Again, this is for preventing scratches which can hamper the visibility of the screen itself. You can use a garden hose to wash the boat windshield down and help remove anything on the surface, including dead bugs and other dirt. And if you don’t have a soft clean cloth to use, you can just use your hand to wipe away any hard to remove grime.
How To Clean Vinyl Windscreens
As for vinyl windscreens, cleaning them is not as straightforward as cleaning acrylic. If you take a walk down any dock, you will see that plenty of boat owners neglect their clear vinyl. Sunlight is the biggest enemy of vinyl screens. Constant exposure to it causes the clear vinyl material to turn opaque, then yellow. Over time, this will ultimately become brittle due to the loss of plasticizers, which help hold the structure together. These plasticizers can actually evaporate due to sun exposure!
To properly maintain vinyl, you often have to consider what brand it is. This is because some brands actually recommend a specific type of protective cleaner so as to not void warranty. Use anything other than what the manufacturers want, and your warranty is gone.
Before applying any solution, make sure to thoroughly wash the vinyl. And don’t use anything harsh on it as well, much like acrylic. This is due to vinyl’s surface being relatively soft. Wetting the glass will “hydrate” the material and soften grime such as dirt and salt. Once that’s done, wash with soft cotton fabric. You can use anything cotton that you can find: old T-shirts, cotton flannel, or even old terry cloth. Never use something like a paper towel, for these are too harsh and will scratch the vinyl’s surface.
Avoid using soap as much as possible, because it can extract plasticizers and gradually make the material more brittle with time. And to prevent spots from forming, pat-dry the surface with a soft cloth. You can use a 90/10 mixture of water and white vinegar as a cleaner, which is effective for removing spots. But remember to rinse this thoroughly, or your windscreen will stink.
Boat windscreens might seem like you can leave them alone and forget about them, but they’re not. They need some TLC too! So follow these simple cleaning tips to keep them spic and span whenever you need to go out on the water. You’ll thank yourself later.