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How to Polish Pontoons for a Mirror Finish (And make it last!)

How to Polish Pontoons for a Mirror Finish (And make it last!)

By: Jim Harmer

It’s funny how pontooners get about their pontoons.  Despite the fact that it makes no difference in durability, and the fact that you’ll end up needing to shine them up again before too long, and the fact that half of them are below the water line, we still like a nice mirror-like finish on our pontoons.

In this guide, I’ll show you the best practices for polishing your pontoons so they look their best out on the water.

If you take your pontoon boat to your dealer and ask them the cost to give you a mirror-like finish and apply Shark Hide, the price is usually around $400 (US), so you’re saving a good chunk of money by doing this project by yourself, and it’s not very hard–just time consuming.  Expect the project to take about 3 hours start to finish–depending on the size of your boat.

Step 1: Prepare the Pontoons

First thing you’ll need to do is remove any algae or buildup on the pontoons.  For those of us who trailer our pontoon boats after each use, this won’t apply, but for those who leave the boat docked or at the marina for extended periods, there is likely to be some buildup.  This is especially true for saltwater pontoons because of the salt deposits.

If there is no visible buildup on the pontoons, then a simple pressure wash with water  will do fine.  If you don’t have a pressure washer, then just do your best to wipe down the surface with a wet rag as you spray.

Step 2: Apply Cleaner

Cleaner will do nothing to actually polish the pontoons, but if you skip this step you’re unlikely to make the polished finish last more than one trip on the lake.

I recommend using toilet bowl cleaner.  Some people use acid baths or other products specific for pontoon boats, but most people I’ve seen just use regular old toilet bowl cleaner mixed in a bucket with 2 parts water and 1 part cleaner.

It can take a long time to apply this to a 22′ pontoon, so I recommend getting a simple one gallon sprayer (like the kind used for your yard) from Home Depot or Lowes.  Go over the entire boat and spray a coat.

Do not let the cleaner dry, but let it sit for as long as it can before it starts to dry up at all.  If it dries, it will leave deposits and will only make matters worse.  Don’t leave it on too long, so work in sections.

Spray off the cleaner thoroughly.  You may want to get a wet rag again and rub as you spray to be sure it’s all off.

Step 3: Buff

If you just want your pontoons clean, you can skip this part.  You may have your finish done with step 2 and you’ll be ready to apply the Shark Hide.  However, if you want that mirror-like finish on the pontoons, then this is the step that will give you the best results.

First, you’ll need a polisher.  Get a Makita, get a Dewalt, get what you want, but remember that some of them are a little overzealous and can put circle marks on the boat if you aren’t careful.  A good choice if you’re in the market is this one from Porter Cable.

Using a wool or other similar pad, go to town and start polishing them ‘toons!  Work in small sections and be careful about the pattern you polish in (not straight up and down lines, for example) so your marks don’t show.  Go in a nice swirly “s” pattern to blend in your movements.

This part of the job will likely take about 2 hours on a standard size pontoon boat.  You don’t realize just how much surface area there is to cover until you get started.

Step 4: Apply Cleaner

At the risk of sounding redundant, you’ll need to re-do step 2.  You can’t leave any polishing compound on the pontoons at all or else it’ll get sealed on there and look terrible.

Since this is the last step before the Shark Hide sealer, be extremely thorough to be sure that the entire surface is cleaned off and rinsed very well.

Step 5: Apply Shark Hide

Just about every pontooner who does this job uses Shark Hide.  For some pontoon boat owners, this is step #1 before they ever put a new boat in the water.

The Shark Hide will come with instructions, but it’s very vague on how much to mix of the solution with water.  Most of the pontooners choose about 3 parts water to 1 part shark hide.

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