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Olivia Hudak

By: Olivia Hudak on April 22nd, 2022

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Why does Oxidation Happen to my Boat? (Removal Tips)


Have you ever looked at a boat and noticed that it doesn’t seem very shiny? Even if the boat is still fairly new. That would make sense for the boat to look duller because of oxidation. If you’ve been around boats for a bit, I’m sure you’ve heard the word oxidation. Oxidation can occur with many different objects, not only with boats, as it is the process of substances reacting with oxygen. 


Oxidation can occur in many different instances. Common examples include; an apple turning brown when it’s exposed to air, the Statue of Liberty, the breathing process of humans, a metal boat exposed to water and air along with many other processes. All of these examples are forms of oxidation that show how different the scenarios can be. 


If this is something that can happen anywhere, why is it so noticeable with boats? Boats are in water most of the time. That water acts as a medium that speeds up the process of oxidation. This means that water allows oxidation to occur at a higher rate than it would in air. 


A way to think about it is a highway versus a back road. The highway allows you to get from point A to point B much faster than a back road would. This is the difference between the oxidation rate in water versus air. As a result, if your boat sits in water for even a short period, oxidation will begin to show its effects. 


Oxidation is a form of corrosion that can cause your boat to lose its shine. Although this form of corrosion is not typically structurally damaging, if you want to keep your boat looking shiny, you’ll want to understand what is happening. You’ll also want to know how to prevent the reaction. 


What is Oxidation?

Oxidation is the process that occurs when a substance naturally attempts to move into a stable state. As the substance changes, the characteristics also change with it. A substance loses electrons when the substance reacts with oxygen. Some elements lose electrons faster than others. 


For example, an apple that is cut in half going through the process of oxidation is considered a fast reaction. It shows by turning brown and mushy. A metal going through the process of oxidation is considered a slow reaction. This is based on how quickly an element loses electrons.


A great example of oxidation is the Statue of Liberty. The outside of the Statue of Liberty is made out of copper which is a metallic brown color. However, when oxidation occurred, it caused the copper to turn green. The green color is a result of properties that have been altered due to the reaction.


For a boat, oxidation will take the shine away from the exterior. It will leave your boat looking dull, especially below the waterline. Or if you have iron bolts, they will rust after some time and turn brittle. All because the properties of the boat’s exterior have changed due to oxidation.


Boats are a great example to show the effects of oxidation. This is because boats are constantly out in the elements that prime for the process of oxidation. This is also why you may have seen a boat or two that are noticeably less shiny under the waterline. 


How Can Oxidation Affect Boats?

Oxidation has no preferences on which boats it will affect. No matter whether you have a fiberglass boat or an aluminum boat. Oxygen will react with most materials boats are made of and cause changes in appearance. 


The process of oxidation will be sped up by water which is why it is such a concern with boats. It is, even more, sped up in saltwater because of the presence of an electrolyte. Saltwater facilitates the corrosion of metals in different ways. Since oxidation is a form of corrosion, the process occurs even faster in saltwater.


If you leave your boat tied to a dock or parked in the water all the time, it will likely oxidize after some time. It’s a natural process that you must expect after a while. Especially since the process is sped up when an object is exposed to water. 


Pontoon Boats

It always seems that oxidation takes a bigger toll on pontoon boats rather than on fiberglass boats. This is because the toons of a pontoon are made out of aluminum. 


Although aluminum is one of the more resistant metals, it still can fall victim to oxidation. This is because the metal is reacting with oxygen molecules in the water. When this happens the reaction results in a property change on the aluminum. 


The reaction results in a chalky substance appearing on the aluminum. The substance can be seen on the toons of the pontoon. It changes the appearance of the toons from shiny to dull by coating the outside of the toons.  


Fiberglass Boats

Fiberglass boats are also not immune to the process of oxidation. Oxidation can be seen on fiberglass boats after sitting in water or out in the elements for a prolonged period. This process will cause the surface of the fiberglass boat to also become less shiny.


You can see this occur on older fiberglass boats that have been exposed to water, air, and rain for some time. The bright shiny colors may look duller than they did when the boat was brand new. It is something that cannot be completely avoided.


How to Remove and Reduce Oxidation on a Boat

There are steps you can take to reduce the effects of oxidation on a boat. There are also ways to remove oxidation from your boat. Doing these steps will get your boat looking brand new in a short amount of time. 


To reduce the effects of oxidation, there are precautions you can take. The most simple way to prevent oxidation is to clean your boat regularly. Make a habit of cleaning the entire exterior and interior of your boat often and it will help reduce oxidation from ruining the looks of your boat. 


One of the things that can help prevent the reaction from taking place is to paint the bottom of the boat with anti-fouling paint. This is something you can do with an aluminum boat to protect the bottom against growth and oxidation. 


Bottom painting acts as a barrier to help prevent all different kinds of corrosion. Since the reaction of oxidation causes a form of corrosion, it falls into this category. 


If you notice your fiberglass boat has some dullness caused by oxidation, sometimes all it takes is a good buff and wax. Buffing your boat will get the chalky substance off your boat and get it looking as good as new. Waxing your boat after buffing it will help protect it against corrosion for a while as well.


Some products are specially made to remove oxidation from a boat. These products work to remove and protect your boat against oxidation. Be sure to check the specific product you want to use to verify that it is safe for use on your boat.


Barletta Protection

Barlettas are crafted with the thought of oxidation in mind. Although, after many many years it is likely inevitable, some things help reduce the chances that the reaction will take place.


Barletta offers a Metal Jacket tube protectant as an option. Metal Jacket tube protectant is a form of ceramic coating. This product in particular is thicker and more durable than other ceramic coatings. Because it is much thicker and more durable, it protects the toons against oxidation to a further extent. 


Barlettas also anodizes the rails that form the structure of the boat to further protect the boat against oxidation. The rails are anodized at high standards to help protect the metal from all the elements they will be exposed to. This also includes the rub rail right above the toons on your boat which may be exposed to water more often.


Long-Lasting Effects

Oxidation can be somewhat preventable and treatable. However, after a boat has been in the elements for some time, it will likely occur. No matter how well the boat is taken care of. It will likely cause some unsightly effects after a while. 


Oxidation alone isn’t always very harmful to the structural integrity of a boat. However, oxidation doesn’t always work alone. Other forms of corrosion are not so easy to fix on boats. Some can be extremely detrimental to your boat.


That is why it is always important to keep your boat clean and up-to-date on maintenance. It can save you money and time in the long run. Maintaining your boat is such an important part of boating. It will allow you to get the most out of your boat for a long time. 

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About Olivia Hudak

Avid boater and Barletta Boats team member, Olivia is no stranger to the water. She was on the MSU wake team through college and continues to ride the wake in her spare time.