THE NITTY GRITTY
How much did it cost to fix the blisters? How long will the repair last? When I found my 33ft Cape Carib (built in Hong Kong in 1975) for sale on the market, the seller told me that a yard had offered him a quote of $8,000 to fix the blisters, thinking that I might find the news intriguing. There were about 60 serious spots. Would his yard just Dremel some pockets and trowel in a Marine-Tex type, or go more effectively with new glass? No matter. When an owner puts a boat with an obvious case of blisters up for sale, he’s trying to say he’s negotiable.
I made my own estimate of the repair cost and revised my offer to buy the boat. He reluctantly accepted. The reduction was how I justified doing the work myself. Still, nobody wins: I took on hard, dusty, noisy work, expensive materials, itchy, sweaty breathing contraptions fogging my glasses, blinding me half the time…. and so on. Transportation, expendables and beverages were all there too. The project cost about $500. Fortunately, the right side of the hull was not involved.
How long will my repairs last? The original hull with poor quality control in production and stop-gap repairs along the way survived for forty-three years. I think I’m good.
Without a doubt, the best way to “clean” stainless steel parts is to have them electropolished. Electopolishing is an electrochemical process that cleans the stainless and removes any surface iron particles, leaving a shiny and far more rust-resistant surface. The downsides of electropolishing are its high cost and the environmentally unfriendly waste products resulting from the process.
Another option is to manually polish and buff the stainless with cleaning compounds and either a rag or power buffer. This is definitely a far more environmentally friendly process, but very time-consuming and not quite as effective as electropolishing.
Fortunately, there is also third way to clean stainless, at least those small parts that are not attached to the boat—citric acid. Citric acid powder is derived largely from citrus fruit and is very environmentally safe. Food-grade citrus acid powder is even used as an additive in snacks and pharmaceuticals, and then added to water and heated, becomes a safe-to-use “poor man’s electropolish” for stainless.
I personally use a hotplate to boil the water and an old stainless sauce pan to hold the parts and citric acid solution. Depending on how badly the parts are rusted, I mix between 1½ to 3 cups of citric acid powder for each quart of water, then boil the parts for 20 to 60 minutes.
Bewarned, the citric acid bath will not remove sealants or other non-metallic substances, so any silicone rubber or caulking compounds you want cleaned off must first be removed by hand. Once the parts have been “boiled” clean they then need a thorough cleaning with freshwater to remove any and all traces of the acid.
While not perfect, a citric acid bath does a very effective job of cleaning small stainless parts with minimal effort and at very reasonable cost. Five pounds of citric acid costs less than $ 15 online. s
Before and after: the citric acid soak works wonders
Boil the parts for 20 to 60 minutes, depending on how rusted they are
The cleaned parts are rust-free with minimal effort
The parts before cleaning
A 5lb container of citric acid is inexpensive and easily obtained