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How To Keep Your Bilge Clean

Maintenance & Repair > How To Keep Your Bilge Clean

Bilge Cleaning
There are several important reasons to keep your bilge clean. Bad odor, bacteria buildup, rust and corrosion of equipment stored in the bilge area can all occur if proper care is not taken. If you stay up on the maintenance of your bilge it will be easier to keep clean.

Bilge cleaner or liquid detergent can be used to clean the bilge area. Either way, make sure it removes grease and dirt well. First you will want to turn off your bilge pump. Pour the cleaner into the bilge area and scrub with a soft brush. Let the cleaner sit for a few minutes and then vacuum out the dirty water. (It is important to vacuum the water out and not let the bilge pump take out the dirty water because it is illegal to dump any oily bilge solution into the water and is subject to a fine by the USCG). Rinse the bilge area and turn your bilge pump back on.

Tip: you can pour about 1/3 of a cup of bilge cleaner into the bilge area once it is clean to help prevent buildup of grease and odor.

Monthly Inspection
Initially when you check the bilge area, you will probably see a little water in there. If there are unusual amounts of water in the bilge area, you will want to figure out what the source is and fix it. The problem could be a through-hull fitting, leaking pipe, or maybe your bilge pump isn't working correctly.

In order to keep your bilge clean and safe you should inspect it thoroughly each month. Here is a small checklist of things to look for:

  • Check for corrosion and rust in the bilge area as well as on the bilge pump.
  • Check for mildew.
  • Check hoses and clamps to make sure they are secure and in good condition. Also make sure that any fittings below the waterline are double-clamped.
  • Check the float switch on the bilge pump by lifting it up to make sure it automatically turns the pump on.
  • Check the wiring and replace corroded wires as well as ensure that the wires are above the waterline.
  • Check the through-hull fittings.
  • Check the seacocks to make sure they are properly lubed and able to turn on and off. (Seacocks can corrode and become mechanically frozen if not lubricated periodically).
  • Check the limber holes to make sure they are clear of residue and that water can flow through them. (Some boats have a chain that goes through the limber holes so that you can pull it back and forth to clear the openings of the limber holes).

By following these few steps each month you will end up enjoying more time on the water and have an added sense of safety as well.

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