Stainless steel deck hardware is rugged, but it shouldn’t be ignored. There are several easy steps to keep the gleam on and the dull brown patina off.
As with protecting gelcoat and preserving wax, thorough and regular
washdowns are essential to remove salt, dirt and other contaminants from stainless steel. “Fresh water is your first line of defense,” says John Woody Cronin, owner of Tower Plus 2000 in Jupiter, Fla., the manufacturer of Woody Wax and other boat maintenance products. “You’ve got to get the salt off your stainless. If you don’t, oxidization will set in.”
Cronin’s company makes Ultra-Pine Wash & Wax Boat Soap, which can be applied with a brass sprayer attached to a dock hose. The product mixes with the water as the boat owner washes the boat from top to bottom.
“Salt-Away, Salt-X and Star brite Salt Off are a couple other products people use to clean salt off their boats,” he says. “These products help break the salt down faster than just plain water.”
Cronin says salt trapped against metal, such as under canvas covers and T-tops, is a prime cause of oxidation. “Stainless in these areas must be cleaned and dried. Any water left on the metal is going to contain some salt, and you don’t want that.”
If oxidation does occur, leaving an unsightly brownish residue, Tracy Baldwin, owner of Newport Yacht Detailing in Newport Beach, Calif., says any cleaner safe for chrome or brass will work well on stainless steel. “Resist the temptation to use sandpaper or steel wool,” he says. “Abrasives can destroy the finish.”
Once the stainless is clean, Baldwin applies a good wax to protect the finish. He uses 3M and Collinite metal polishes. “The wax leaves a slick finish on the stainless and allows it to breathe,” he says. “You can see a real difference once it’s been cleaned and waxed.”
The wax you buy for the hull often will also work well on stainless steel. Just be sure to read the label and don’t use anything that doesn’t specifically say it’s safe to apply on metals. Heath Schuman, president of Schuman’s Cleaning Service in Grasonville, Md., says he uses Collinite Liquid Fleetwax 870 on stainless hardware, the same wax he uses on fiberglass. Mike Myers, owner of Gem Polishing in Tracey’s Landing, Md., uses Flitz Polish. The company also makes a stainless steel cleaner. Myers also likes Sheila Shine, a polish commonly used in the restaurant industry to clean stainless steel kitchen appliances. Tower 2000’s Cronin markets the CPR System, a corrosion protection and restoration system for anodized aluminum, stainless steel and chrome.
“Stainless steel is relatively easy to maintain,” says Baldwin. “Just keep it clean, keep the salt off it, and wax it every few months.”