With all those harsh water stains and rust spots making your boat look like a dilapidated mess, you might be willing to try anything to get it back to its showroom sheen. And we mean anything -- including muriatic acid.
While cleaning aluminum pontoons with muriatic acid might seem like an easy way to restore that shine without working out your scrub muscle, the cleaning agent poses some very real dangers for both you and your boat.
Does Cleaning Aluminum Pontoon Boats with Muriatic Acid Work? Is It Safe?
For the record, lots of marinas and detail shops will swear by muriatic acid for its powerful ability to remove stubborn stains and even rust. But in the wrong (or inexperienced hands), muriatic acid can cause serious damage to your boat.
That said, it’s important to read through others’ experiences with the cleaning agent to find out how they use it so you can safely clean your aluminum pontoons. Generally speaking, it can be safe as long as you follow the right protocol when you give it a try.
Steps on Cleaning a Pontoon with Muriatic Acid
Yes, there is a safe (and right) way to use muriatic acid to clean pontoon boats. Following these steps carefully should let you achieve that stainless look and feel you’re hoping for without causing any serious damage to your boat.
Step 1: Dilute the Muriatic Acid
A word to the wise: muriatic acid is a very powerful corrosive substance. So using it as is can cause significant damage to your pontoon tubes and the other elements around it. That’s why most pontoon boat owners recommend diluting the acid in water.
There’s really no golden ratio here, but a 1:1 measure might be a little on the strong side. Consider dialling it down to 1:4 acid to water first and then adjust your ratio depending on the outcomes you get out of the cleaning process.
Step 2: Try a Spot First
If you’re hoping to get rid of a stubborn spot, then there might not be a need to drench your tubes in your acid mixture entirely. Pour your solution into a spray bottle and spritz a little on your chosen problem area.
Do NOT let the solution sit for more than a few seconds. Wait up to 15 seconds before you rinse. Avoid splashing the water in an upwards direction and instead pour a gentle stream of water from the top down. This prevents any drops of muriatic acid from getting on other parts of your boat.
Step 3: Work in Small Areas
If you’re trying to get your whole tubes cleaned up, avoid pouring your solution all in one go. Divide your tubes into manageable sections and work in smaller areas. This just makes it easier to rinse off the solution when time is up, and prevents soaking sections for longer than they should be.
Step 4: Rinse It Good
Don’t be stingy with water -- water is your friend in this situation. Trace amounts of muriatic acid left on the surfaces of your boat can eat away at the aluminum and cause corrosion over time. So make sure you rinse it good. For an added measure of protection and care, consider washing your boat with your chosen wash after you treat the spots with muriatic acid.
Again, muriatic acid can be a dangerous substance not only for your boat but also for you. If you ever decide to give this cleaning hack a try, make sure you remember these safety tips:
Wear protective gear like gloves, googles, and even a face mask. Don’t wear clothes you don’t want to discolor or otherwise destroy.
Keep kids and pets away from the area at all times.
Make sure the rise water flows into a drain and away from your home, your garden, and other potentially susceptible areas
Check weather conditions and position your boat away from the wind so droplets of your solution don’t end up in places you don’t want it
Rinse down the ground underneath your pontoon as well, especially if your kids and pets tend to play in that area
Are There Safer Alternatives?
Of course, there’s always a safer way to clean your pontoon. There are tons of different cleaners on the market with the same stain-removing power as muriatic acid, but formulated for safer use.
Starbrite Aluminum Cleaner is a common favorite among pontoon boat owners for its ability to strip away stubborn stains on pontoon tubes. And we can tell you from experience it works great!
The biodegradable formula removes oxidation, dirt, lime deposits, and waterline stains while also working as a aluminum polish. And because its not quite as toxic or corrosive as muriatic acid, there’s really no need to slap on a face mask and safety goggles. We highly recommend it.
That Showroom Sheen
Sure, it might feel exciting to try a new cleaning hack, but muriatic acid is no joke. If you’ve used it before with success, then feel free to keep it as a cleaning staple. But if you’re new to this pontoon cleaning business and you’re worried about damage that can be caused by cleaning aluminum pontoons with muriatic acid, you might want to try alternatives like Starbrite first.