Cleaning Onboard


When you clean your boat, your dishes, or yourself onboard, your cleaning products could end up in the water. Products used on boat hulls and decks often contain microplastics, chlorine, ammonia, potassium hydroxide, and solvents, all potentially harmful to the aquatic environment.


Detergents containing phosphates (such as washing-up liquids and laundry detergents) can lead to nutrient enrichment causing algal blooms and oxygen depletion, causing localised suffocation of aquatic life.


Other products, such as degreasers, can dry the natural oils that fish need for their gills to function properly. Many cleaning products also contain chemicals which can disrupt the reproductive cycle of fish, invertebrates and amphibians.


In addition, for inland waterways the Canal and River Trust Terms and Conditions for Boat Licences requests that phosphate-free detergents are used on board, particularly in washing machines and dishwashers.


  • When cleaning your boat, especially on the water, it is recommended that you avoid using cleaning products altogether and only use fresh water  and a good scrubbing brush. This also helps to protect any sealants which can perish and lose colour from using certain detergents.
  • For more stubborn marks on deck, and for sanitation or personal hygiene, always choose more environmentally sensitive products. Avoid chlorine and bleach which are toxic to flora and fauna, and phosphates which encourage algal growth. Explore our Green Blue Business Directory for eco-friendly cleaning products.
  • Watch out for products that have ‘polyethelene’ in the ingredients list, as this means it contains microplastics. These smaller bits of plastic can be more readily ingested by wildlife and enter food chains. Instead source more eco-friendly alternatives that contain natural exfoliating ingredients e.g. apricot seeds.
  • If you have a washing machine onboard, use a phosphate free detergent.
  • Waxing your hull keeps you fuel efficient and reduces the need for cleaning products to be used over the season.
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