most important reasons to keep your bilge clean are:
You can get
bilge cleaner in most marine hardware stores, however, it can be
expensive. Liquid Tide is less expensive and does as good a job.
Containing no phosphorus, being biodegradable, cutting grease and dirt and
having a clean smell make it a good choice. However, if you are going to
be using a large amount of cleanser, or if you will be discharging the
cleanser into the water, choose an environmentally friendly alternative.
take in more water than others. It is normal for some water to be in the
bilge since it can leak in at the stuffing box(es) and rudder post(s).
However, if you find an unusual amount of water make sure that you don't
have a leaking through-hull fitting or pipe. If your boat usually has some
water in the bilge just add liquid detergent to the bilge and let the
rocking of the boat do the cleaning for you.
and dirt can be removed with detergent and perhaps a little elbow grease.
However, steam cleaning can be an alternative. Steam cleaning is a harsh
method that can cause paint to peel, especially on a wooden boat. As they
say on the stunt shows, don't try this at home. Seek out a professional
and check their references.
are found in the ribs or partitions in the bilge which allow water to pass
through them and flow to the lowest bilge points usually where the bilge
pump is located. This allows the water to be pumped out either
automatically or manually.
keep these holes clear of residue to prevent blocking the water flow. Most
boats will have a light chain running through the limber holes which
allows you to pull it back and forth to dislodge any foreign matter.
model boats have drip pans installed under the engines to prevent oil from
dripping directly into the bilge. Whether you have drip pans or not it is
a good idea to put absorbent pads under the engines. They not only absorb
the oil that could drip but provide a quick way to find leaks. Each time
you do an engine check, which should be each time prior to starting, check
the pad to see if any new oil spots have appeared. If so, try to track
down the source immediately.
to look for:
inspect the bilge and its surroundings with a flashlight at least once a
month. Look for the following:
Lift up the
float switch on your electric bilge pump to make sure it turns on the
If you find
unusual amounts of water, be sure to track down the source.
through-hull openings and fittings.
that all fittings below the waterline have double hose clamps.
sea-cocks to make sure that you can turn them off. You could sink your
boat if a hose comes loose from a seacock and you can't stop the flow of
water because the valve is corroded.
corrosion and rust.
unusual growth or mildew.
pipes, hoses and clamps.
it is illegal to pump oily discharge overboard. If you find oil in your
bilge water turn off the bilge pump and find an alternative way of
disposing of the oily water. Don't think just because there is only a
little bit of oil it is okay. The test for illegal pollution is simply a
"visible sheen" on the water.