SAIL - - Boat Works Ask Sail -

If you want a clean bilge, you have to scrub it. There is no pour-in so­lu­tion. If an ap­pli­ca­tion of soapy wa­ter would work, sinks and bath­tubs would stay clean. As a rule, the first step in clean­ing a bilge is to drop in an oil-ab­sorbent pad or pouch to try to sep­a­rate and re­move as much oil as pos­si­ble. In your case, if you have al­ready used de­ter­gents, and if there was oil in the bilge, it is emul­si­fied and the pads will no longer work. The sec­ond con­sid­er­a­tion is the lo­ca­tion of your boat dur­ing the clean­ing. If it is in the wa­ter, you may need to catch your bilge pump dis­charge to be le­gal and/ or re­spon­si­ble. (Speak­ing of which, dur­ing any soak­ing stages, be sure to dis­able the bilge pump.) Given that your stated ob­jec­tive is to dis­in­fect, I would start by pour­ing in a gal­lon or two of white vine­gar, then add wa­ter as needed to flood the en­tire area you are try­ing to clean. Chlo­rine can be more ef­fec­tive, but it is also more dan­ger­ous to your health, harder on your boat and more dam­ag­ing to the en­vi­ron­ment. Stick with vine­gar, and give it a few hours to max­i­mize the ef­fect be­fore pump­ing the bilge dry. After that’s done, come back with a strong so­lu­tion of laun­dry de­ter­gent (Wisk is good) and hot wa­ter. Ca­ble tie and tape a suit­able brush to a length of dowel, and do the best you can to brush the en­tire sur­face area of your bilge. This will dis­lodge de­posits and hope­fully put them in sus­pen­sion in the de­ter­gent so­lu­tion. After that, pump—rinse—pump—rinse—dry. An­other ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tive is to use a pres­sure-wash wand. How­ever, in my ex­pe­ri­ence this ap­proach can also be dis­tress­ingly messy if the bilge is re­ally dirty. In ei­ther case, the only last­ing so­lu­tion to bilge odor is to get the bilge free of ev­ery­thing ex­cept wa­ter.

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