Environmentally Friendly Boating

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Every boater loves being on the water. A clean marine environment is a vital aspect ofenjoying the boating experience. With over 300,000 boats registered in Florida today, the cumulative actions of boaters can have a significant impact on the health of the marine environment. You can help to keep our waterways clean and healthy by following these Clean Boater tips from Florida Boat Detailing LLC.

Gas and Oil

Fuel Bib Use a fuel bib or small towel when fueling. Small drips and spills of gasoline, diesel, and other petroleum products add up and can have a serious effect on the marine environment, such as: death of fish, mammals, and birds; cancer, mutations, and/or birth defects; destruction of plant life; and reduction of food supply for marine organisms. Fuel cautiously

  • Fuel your boat slowly and carefully – attend the fuel nozzle at all times.
  • Make sure the fuel nozzle connects to the fuel tank to prevent static discharge.
  • Only fill the tank to 90% since fuel expands as it warms up.
  • Use your hand to check for air escaping from the vent. When the tank is nearly full, you’ll feel an increase in airflow. Also listen for a gurgling sound indicating the tank is nearly full.
  • Fill portable gas tanks on shore – where spills are less likely to occur and easier to clean up.
  • Outboards: close tank fuel vent when boat is not in use to save fuel from vapor loss.
  • Built-in fuel tanks: install fuel/air separator in the air vent line from tank to prevent air
  • vent spills.

Reduce two-stroke engine use Inefficient two-stroke engines release up to 30 percent of their gas/oil mixture unburned directly into the water. For every 10 gallons of gas used, more than two gallons of gas and oil go into the water in the form of a rainbow sheen seen when the motor is idling.

  • Consider replacing a carbureted two-stroke outboard (no longer manufactured) with a quieter, cleaner, and more efficient direct-injection two-stroke engine or a four stroke engine.
  • If you have a large outboard you don’t plan to replace, consider purchasing a small four-stroke "kicker" to use when trolling or moving short distances. You’ll save money on fuel, save wear-and-tear on your larger motor and enjoy a cleaner environment.

Handle spills appropriately  When detergents, soaps, and solvents are put on fuel spills, fuel that might otherwise evaporate from the surface is scattered down into the water. This "rainfall effect" causes pollution in all levels of the water, rather than just the surface, and is very difficult to cleanup. Additionally, detergents can contain chemicals that are harmful to marine life.

  • If you have a spill wipe it up with a rag – don’t hose it off into the water.
  • If fuel is spilled into the water: Call 1-800-OILS-911 and the Coast Guard at 1-800-424-8802 for any spill, large or small, that causes a sheen. Don't use soap or dish detergent - they worsen the problem and their use on spills in the  water is against federal law.
  • If a spill occurs in a marina, notify the marina management immediately.

 Bilge Care

Bilges are also a potential source of pollution since they tend to collect engine oil, fuel, antifreeze, and transmission fluid. When an automatic bilge pump is activated, these fluids are pumped overboard. Absorbent bilge pads absorb petroleum products but not water. When soaked with oil, they can be disposed of properly. Control oil in the bilge

  • Place oil absorbent pads or bilge socks in the bilge to catch oil.
  • Place an oil absorbent pad under the engine.
  • Replace oil absorbent materials when heavily soiled or saturated, or at least once a year.
  • Keep the engine well tuned: no leaking seals, gaskets, or hoses.
  • Change oil filters often. Slip a plastic bag over the filter before removal to catch drips.
  • Secure fuel hoses to prevent chafing and leaks.
  • Never discharge or pump any bilge water that appears oily or has a sheen into or near the water– it is against the law.
  • Use oil absorbents or water/oil separators before pumping the bilge.
  • Trailer your boat to an area that provides containment before removing bilge or boat plugs.
  • Do not use bilge cleaners - they simply spread out the oil and do not remove it from the water.


Clean Vessel Act Logo look for the CVA symbol to find a pumpout station Untreated sewage contains microorganisms that can cause human diseases such as gastroenteritis, hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, and dysentery. Therefore, waste from holding tanks or portable toilet should NEVER be dumped into the water. Even treated waste contains nutrients that can cause algae blooms which use up oxygen that fish and other marine life need to breathe. Handle sewage appropriately

  • Most boats in Oregon have marine heads with Type III marine sanitation devicespumpout sign (holding tanks with no treatment) or carry portable toilets on board. Use pumpout facilities for Type III marine sanitary devices (MSDs) and empty portable toilets at dump stations or at home.
  • If your boat has a holding tank with a Y-valve and through-hull fitting, keep them locked closed when inside coastal waters or on lakes or reservoirs.
  • Use restrooms on shore whenever possible.
  • Establish a regular maintenance schedule for your MSD based on manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Avoid using additives like quaternary ammonium compounds (QAC), formaldehyde, or zinc sulphate in your holding tank. Use safer enzyme-based products to control odor and reduce solids.
  • Consider installing a filtered air holding tank.
  • Keep diapers, sanitary napkins, oils, solvents, and other harmful chemicals out of toilets.
  • Dispose of your pet’s waste properly.

Vessel Maintenance

General upkeep of boats generates household hazardous wastes such as solvent paint recycle 100x150waste, used antifreeze, used oil, old gasoline, used batteries, mercury containing bilge pump switches, and out-of-date flares. These wastes pose a threat to the environment if they are improperly disposed into the water, air, or ground. Use less-toxic alternatives

  • When possible, use paints that are water-based and not solvent based.
  • Buy bilge pump switches that do not contain mercury. Check with your local marina regarding disposal of mercury-containing bilge switches.
  • Use less-toxic propylene glycol antifreeze (usually pink).
  • Use premium or synthetic two-cycle engine oil.

Re-use and recycle whenever possible

  • Share any leftover chemicals, paint, or varnish.
  • Recycle used motor oil, antifreeze, and other engine fluids. Prior to recycling, store in separate closed containers to prevent escape, mixing, or fire hazard. Oil mixed with other substances is not recyclable.
  • Encourage your marina to offer oil recycling.
  • Trade in a used battery for a possible credit toward a replacement battery.

Manage and dispose of waste properly

  • Do not dump oil, antifreeze, or other liquid wastes into the water or trash.
  • Bring items to a local hazardous waste collection day - visit www.earth911.com for information.
  • Keep out-of-date flares as "backups" on the boat along with the number of required in-date

 Boat Bottom Paint

Antifoulant coatings on boat hulls are another toxic threat to marine life. These coatings contain compounds such as copper to kill marine organisms so that they don’t grow on the underside of a boat. However, these coatings, especially soft (a.k.a. ablative, self-polishing, or sloughing) coatings, also release toxic compounds into the water. Hard coatings also have antifouling properties, but limit the amount of toxic metals leached into the water. Maintain your hull wisely

  • Consider alternatives to toxic "soft" bottom paints. Some good alternatives are silicon, polyurethane, Teflon, and other hard antifouling coatings. These alternatives rely on a slick surface to discourage the growth of marine organisms rather than killing them.
  • Consider storing your boat out of the water to prevent fouling.
  • Do hull work inside or under cover where rain can’t wash dust, oil, or solvents into the water. Use a dust-less or vacuum sander, or a drop cloth to collect all paint chips, dust, and residue. Dispose in regular trash.

 Boat Cleaning

Many products used to clean boats contain toxic chemicals such as chlorine, phosphates, and ammonia. These products can enter the water during boat cleaning and can poison marine life. Degreasers dry the natural oils fish need for their gills to take in oxygen. The best way to keep toxic chemicals out of the water is to not use them at all. In many cases, "elbow grease" will go a long way. Clean gently

  • When possible, wash the boat on land where the washwater can be contained or filtered.
  • Wash your boat frequently with a sponge and plain water.
  • Use detergents sparingly.
  • Avoid cleaners with bleach, ammonia, lye, or petroleum products.
  • Use phosphate-free, biodegradable and non-toxic cleaners, such as those in the table. Though much less harmful, these cleaners can still harm marine life and should be used only on land when possible.
  • If your boat has a "hard" paint on it, wash over grass or soil with an environmentally friendly detergent.
  • If your boat has a "soft" paint coat, do not clean the boat bottom while in the water – this creates a discharge of toxic paint into the water.
  • Wait 90 days to clean a newly painted hull, as it will release more toxins when new.
  • Wax your boat – a good coat of wax prevents surface dirt from becoming ingrained.
  • Clean wood with a mild soap powder and a nylon brush – not harsh chemical cleaners.
  • Ask your ship’s store to stock common alternative products like those listed in the table and biodegradable spray-type cleaners that do not require rinsing.

The following are toxic products and alternative (Environmentally Friendly).

  • Aluminum cleaner - 2 Tablespoons cream of tartar in 1 quart hot water.
  • Bleach - Borax or hydrogen peroxide.
  • Brass cleaner - Worcestershire sauce. Or paste with equal parts of salt, vinegar, + water.
  • Chrome cleaner/polish - Apple cider vinegar to clean; baby oil to polish.
  • Copper cleaner - Lemon juice + water. Or paste of lemon juice, salt, and flour.
  • Fiberglass stain remover - Baking soda paste.
  • Floor cleaner - One cup white vinegar in 2 gallons water.
  • General cleaner - Baking soda + vinegar. Or lemon juice + borax paste.
  • Head cleaner - Put in baking soda and use a brush.
  • Mildew remover -Paste using equal parts of lemon juice + salt, or white vinegar + salt.
  • Scouring powders - Baking soda or salt. Or rub area with half of a lemon dipped in borax, then rinse.
  • Stainless steel cleaner - Baking soda or mineral oil for polishing, vinegar to remove spots.
  • Varnish cleaner - Wipe with ½ cup vinegar + ½ cup water solution.
  • Window cleaner - One cup vinegar in 1 quart warm water, rinse and squeegee.

Gray Water

In addition to boat wash water, water from sinks, washers, and showers is discharged directly without treatment. This "gray water" is often rich in nutrients that pollute the water and encourage the growth of unwanted algae.

  • Use upland laundry facilities and showers whenever possible.
  • Limit the amount of water you use in sinks and showers.
  • Use phosphate-free, biodegradable soaps.
  • If possible, collect and properly dispose of gray water and refrain from discharging it overboard.


Trash – plastic bags, foam containers, bottles, cans, discarded nets, fishing line, and other refuse – can injure or kill aquatic life and birds by trapping or suffocating them. Along with being unsightly, trash can also foul props, clog water intake fittings, and damage fishing nets. Contain trash: nothing overboard!

  • Bring a container aboard to collect your garbage and keep it from blowing overboard.
  • Don’t toss any garbage or cigarettes overboard; cigarette filters are plastic and deadly to birds and fish.
  • If trash blows overboard, retrieve it – consider it "crew-overboard" practice.
  • Recycle cans, glass, plastic, and newspapers.
  • Bring used fishing line to recycling bins at your marina or tackle shop.
  • Encourage your marina to provide well marked trash cans and recycling bins.

Fish Cleaning

In small quantities, fish waste is scavenged by crabs and other marine animals. However, in an enclosed marina basin decomposition of excessive fish waste can produce foul odors and harm water quality through increased nutrient and bacteria levels and decreased dissolved oxygen. This can cause fish kills as well as an unsightly mess. Dispose of fish waste properly

  • Do not throw fish waste, unwanted bait, or bait packaging into marina waters.
  • If available, use fish cleaning stations.
  • Recycle fish parts by composting it with peat moss, burying it in the garden as fertilizer, or freezing the fish waste toreuse as bait.
  • Discard fish waste over deep water or in the trash.


Aquatic Invasive Species

Exotic plants and animals can hitch a ride attached to your boat and trailer or be present in water taken in by your boat. Hitching from one waterbody to another, these aquatic invasive species (AIS) spread quickly and can become established in another waterbody. They can harm water quality and fish and wildlife habitat by displacing native species and by blocking light needed by underwater plants. Once introduced, control of aquatic invasive species is very expensive and extermination is extremely difficult. Stop the spread of AIS!

  • Clean...

all aquatic plants, animals and mud from your boat, motor, and trailer and discard in the trash. Rinse, scrub, or pressure wash, as appropriate, away from storm drains, ditches, or waterways. Lawns, gravel pads, or self-serve car washes are best.

  • Drain...

all standing water from your livewell, bilge, and internal compartments.

  • Dry...

your boat between uses if possible. Leave compartments open and sponge out standing water. Find a place that will allow the anchor line to dry. Never launch a dirty boat

  • It is illegal to launch a boat with aquatic species on the hull, motor, or trailer.
  • Even if launching in the same water you came from, do your best to remove visible aquatic species and mud from your equipment prior to launching.
  • Engine flushing and boat rinsing after being in salt water is highly discouraged because of the potential for transporting invasive species.



Florida Boat Detailing - Boats & Reflections from Florida Drone LLC.

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