Taking your jet ski out on the water for some fishing or fun in the waves is a great way to enjoy the lake or ocean. However, when the party is over, and it’s time to head home, you need to know how to clean and detail your PWC to perfection.
Cleaning and detailing the jet ski ensures that no saltwater or debris starts to erode the hardware of the ski. It also keeps the gel coat of the hull in great condition. If you’re looking for a buyer for your jet ski, ensuring it’s in tip-top shape helps you get a higher asking price from the buyer.
Cleaning and detailing your jet ski isn’t as challenging as you think. All you need is a few basic tools of the trade, some cleaning products, and a bit of time. We put together this guide to give you everything you need to know about how to clean and detail a jet ski.
- How To Clean & Detail a Jet Ski
- Gather Your Equipment and Cleaning Products
- Rags and Cloths
- Use a Pressure Washer and Tools to Make the Job Easier
- Step 1 – Start with a Rinse
- Step 2 – Soap Up the Ski and Wash it Down
- Step 3 – Clean the Jet Ski Seat
- Step 4 – Wiping Down the Jet Ski
- Step 5 – Pro Tips for Polishing and Detailing the Jet Ski
- Cover the Jet Ski for Storage
- Is It Worth It to Have Someone Detail Your Jet Ski?
- Wrapping Up – The Level of Detailing is Up to You
How To Clean & Detail a Jet Ski
Are you ready to pull your PWC from the water and whip it into shape? Start with moving the jet ski into a shady spot to complete the job. Follow these steps to cleaning and detailing your jet ski, and you’ll get a world-class finish you can be proud of.
Gather Your Equipment and Cleaning Products
First, you need to gather the equipment you need for the task. Here are the basics you need to clean and detail any jet ski.
There are dozens of specialized marine soaps to clean your jet ski. A web e-tailer like Amazon has dozens of products readily available. We recommend going for a product offering you the most washes per bottle.
Look for products with marine-based formulations and biodegradable ingredients. Some people think soap is just soap, but that’s not the case. Look for brands offering sealants and protectors built into the formulation.
- Cleans and brightens – Recommended by Sunbrella, a leading outdoor fabric manufacturer, 303 Marine Multi-Surface Cleaner provides the ultimate cleaning power for all water safe surfaces, including all types of fabric and vinyl.
- Rinses residue free – This multi-purpose detailing spray easily removes dust and dirt from your prized marine possessions. Simply spray on and wipe off with a microfiber towel, and you will soon see your accessories have a spotless shine from the amazing effects of this invisible drying cleanser.
- Versatile – This alcohol-free detailer is safe for use on a variety of surfaces including chrome, upholstery, plastic, metal, aluminum, rubber, stainless steel, paint, and more. Use 303 Marine Multi-Surface Cleaner on your boat, canoe, kayak, or any other watersports toy.
- Directions – Spray on surface until wet, then wipe up or rinse clean. For best results on fabric, apply product and use a soft-bristle brush to agitate soiled surface before wiping up dirt or stain with a damp cloth. For extremely dirty surfaces, increase soak and/or agitation time. Repeat if necessary.
Rags and Cloths
You’ll need old rags to clean off the dirt and wipe down the jet ski after you rinse it off. Look for specialized wash mittens featuring microfiber materials that won’t scratch the paint. We recommend getting a chamois leather cloth for the final wipe down and detailing.
Use a Pressure Washer and Tools to Make the Job Easier
If you want the best results possible and clean the boat in half the time, we recommend investing in a pressure washer. Look for a model offering you a chamber for inserting your cleaning chemicals.
The pressure washer comes with attachments for soaping up the PWC and rinsing it off. We recommend buying a scrubbing brush attachment for the pressure washer to remove the stubborn dirt and debris around the boat.
Step 1 – Start with a Rinse
Start your wash with a light rinse of the boat. Rinsing it first removes the bulk of the fresh dirt and grime on the PWC, preparing the surface for soap. Rinse everything down to remove the salt water, and flush the engine of all saltwater.
The pressure washer makes it easier to remove stubborn dirt and grime. Ensure that you’re using the right pressure head and the correct setting on the pressure washer. High pressures and some heads may damage the decals and the paint.
Step 2 – Soap Up the Ski and Wash it Down
After rinsing off the easy-to-remove stuff, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and wash the boat. Start by soaping it up. If you’re using the pressure washer, add your soap to the compartment and set the washer to foam., Spray the foam over the entire boat and cover every inch.
If you don’t have a pressure washer, you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way. Add the soap to water, take your wash mitten, and soap up the boat. After you finish the soaping, leave it to soak for a few minutes.
The soaking process allows the chemicals in the cleaning formulation to penetrate the tough deposits of dirt and grime in the footwells and other hard-to-reach spots.
If you’re using the pressure washer, fit the brush attachment and wash the jet ski properly from bow to stern. If you have the wash mitten, make sure you give it a good scrubbing. After you finish the scrub, give it another few minutes before moving on to the next step. The time allows the soap to remove any stubborn deposits.
After you finish with the soaping and scrub, it’s time to rinse the jet ski off again. Grab the pressure washer or the hose and rinse it off thoroughly. Ensure you remove all soap from the surface to ensure you don’t have any water spots after it dries.
After rinsing it off, it’s time to move onto the seat.
Step 3 – Clean the Jet Ski Seat
You’ll need to clean off the seat after rinsing down the boat. We recommend removing it from the boat and cleaning it separately. This allows you to wipe down the interior storage area under the seat after cleaning the boat’s exterior.
Remove the seat and soap it with your chemicals. Scrub it down with the pressure brush or by hand, then rinse it off. Finish by letting the seat dry in the shade, but don’t leave it in the sun. Leaving it in the sun to dry results in the materials cracking.
If you find small black spots on the seat cover, it’s a sign that mildew is starting to grow. Mildew is notoriously hard to remove.
You’ll find that scrubbing does little to remove the stains. We recommend picking up a marine-grade vinyl cleaner from Amazon. Apply it to the seat, wait for it to activate, and then wipe the mildew away; it’s as easy as that.
After cleaning the seat with your vinyl cleaner:
- Rinse it off and dry it using your chamois leather.
- Take the opportunity to wipe out the interior storage area and check that the battery terminals have no signs of corrosion.
- Apply some electrical lubricant to the battery terminals before fitting the seat.
- Re-fit the seat and ensure that you have all the clips securely in place.
Step 4 – Wiping Down the Jet Ski
With the seatback in place, it’s time to wipe down the jet ski. By this time, the water will have dried on the boat. As a result, you’ll probably notice you have water spots and streaks on the hull and the gel coat. Grab your chamois leather and saturate it in water.
Wring it as dry as possible, and start wiping the boat down from bow to stern. Give it a once over, and then wring out the cloth in a bucket of fresh water. Repeat the wipe down once or twice to ensure you get the best finish.
The chamois leather is the best choice for the wipe-down. This soft leather cloth ensures that you won’t end up scratching the gel coat or paint. They are affordable and last forever with the right care.
After finishing with the chamois, grab a microfiber cloth and buff the surface to a high shine. You now have a clean boat that’s ready for storage. However, if you want to take things to the next level, it’s time to start the detailing.
Step 5 – Pro Tips for Polishing and Detailing the Jet Ski
For the finishing touch, it’s time to detail the ski. You’ll need a high-quality polishing compound and a carnauba-based wax formulation for this step. We recommend going for a wax with a spray applicator over one that you rub into the polishing pad.
The spray-based product offers you a consistent wax application to the ski. With the rubbing compound type products, you’ll find that some areas get a thinker application than others, wasting your wax.
You’ll need an orbital polishing machine for this part of the job. You can polish the boat by hand, but it will save you plenty of time and effort if you have a machine to do the work. Most orbital polishers are affordable. We recommend choosing a model with as many polishing heads as possible.
Make sure that you apply the wax or polishing compound in the shade. Doing this step in the sunlight causes the wax and polish to dry too fast, making it hard to polish out.
Start with the polishing compound, and apply it to those areas of the boat that are dull or in need of extra attention. Buff out the dull areas with the machine using a slow, circulation polishing motion.
Cover the hull with the wax spray after you finish polishing the neglected areas. Wait for it to dry and use the orbital polisher to polish off the wax, leaving the hull with a pristine shine that looks as good as new.
Repeat the steps for the front and side of the jet ski. We recommend avoiding applying the wax all at once. When you get to the final areas, the wax will be hard and challenging to remove, especially by hand polishing methods.
After finishing the polish, take a microfiber cloth and hand-polish the ski lightly. You don’t have to put elbow grease into this. Just give it a light polish to remove any wax you missed with the machine.
Cover the Jet Ski for Storage
After cleaning the jet ski, the final step is covering the boat. The cover keeps the sun off the paint, increasing the longevity of the paintwork and decals. Leaving your jet ski in the sun all day will fade the decals and color, reducing the resale value of the jet ski.
Most dealers will include a cover if you’re buying a new ski. If you’re buying used, ask the owner for the cover before you go, as it’s common for them to forget to include it when handing over the watercraft on delivery.
Cover the ski and tighten down the cover to ensure that the wind doesn’t blow it off. We recommend that you don’t cover the ski when transporting the watercraft.
Is It Worth It to Have Someone Detail Your Jet Ski?
Washing and detailing your jet ski isn’t as challenging as you think. The cleaning products and tools don’t cost much, and they last for ages. However, the one thing cleaning your jet ski does cost you is your time. Time is all we have in this world, and some people can’t afford to take an hour or two out of their week to detail their ski.
When you get back to the dock after a hard day on the water, the last thing you’re thinking about is the cleaning and detailing of your jet ski. You just want to go home, and you’re happy to hand off the responsibility of cleaning your boat to someone else.
Our experience is that a professional detailing service will never take the same time and dedication to clean your jet ski as you will. You’ll find that you get a much better result doing it yourself. However, a detailing service can be a real blessing if you don’t have the time to do it yourself.
Most professional detailers will charge you the same amount of money to clean a small car to detail your jet ski. If you don’t get onto the water that often, using the detailing service might prove valuable to you.
Wrapping Up – The Level of Detailing is Up to You
Detailing your boat is all about your personal satisfaction with the job. Maybe you’re fine with a quick rinse after a day on the water to handle your cleaning and maintenance. Or, perhaps you need to bring your boat back to showroom condition before you haul the trailer home.
The level of detailing depends on your personal preference. This guide gives you everything you need to know about cleaning your boat from stem to stern. We recommend you give your boat a full cleaning after every other use to keep it looking in great shape.