How Do You Get Scratches Out Of Fiberglass Kayaks

If you’re a kayaker, you know that scratches on your boat can be a real pain. Not only do they make your boat look bad, but they can also compromise its structural integrity. But how do you get scratches out of fiberglass kayaks?

How Do You Get Scratches Out of Fiberglass Kayaks?

There are two methods to get scratches out of fiberglass kayaks. If the scratches are primarily shallow and small, the boat will only need a thorough clean and a finishing compound layer. However, if there are some deep scratches, you may need to opt for wet sanding and machine polishing. 

Kayak maintenance is essential to keep your boat in good condition and prevent further damage. Scratches can occur quickly, especially kayaking in rocky areas or through branches. But don’t worry, with a little bit of elbow grease, you can make your kayak look as good as new!

Here’s a detailed overview to get both minor and deep scratches out of your yak. 

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How to Remove Minor Scratches?

For this method, you’ll need a sponge, soma soap and water, petroleum jelly, and a finishing compound.

Step 1: Clean the Kayak Thoroughly

The first thing you should do is thoroughly clean your kayak. Use soap and water, and wipe the boat down with a sponge. After a thorough washing, you’ll be able to see the depth of all the scratches and decide the best approach to proceed.

Step 2: Rub the Scratches With Petroleum Jelly

Get a soft rug, and put a dollop of petroleum jelly on it. Then, apply the jelly to the scratches, moving the rag in a circular motion. You may need to repeat this step a couple of times until you see the scratches start to fade.

Even then, the scratches may not disappear. Petroleum jelly is light, and it’s only suitable for mild repairs. Deeper scratches will need wet sanding. 

Step 2 Alternative: Wet-Sand the Kayak

If the scratches aren’t fading with petroleum jelly, you can try wet-sanding them. Buffing scratches out goes a long way, and it’s an easy process.

To wet sand a kayak, grab medium-grit sandpaper and dip it in soapy water, then start rubbing it against the scratches in a circular motion. Repeat the process for all the scratches, then dry the kayak using paper towels.

Avoid using coarse sandpaper because it may dig too deep into the fiberglass and cause more damage. Medium grit is fine, and it’s better to start with finer papers, then go your way up.

Step 3: Apply Polishing Compound

After the petroleum jelly and the sanding, it’s time to polish the kayak. Again, use a polishing compound suitable for fiberglass, preferably one with a percentage of wax in it. Without wax, the polish will come off quicker than you want it to, and the scratches will return.

Now, grab an old rag and put some polishing compound on it, then start rubbing it on all the areas you wet-sanded earlier. 

Afterward, run your hands over the scratches. If they’re still rough to the touch, you may need to apply one more coat.

Step 4: Apply Wax

If your compound of choice doesn’t contain wax, it’s okay. You can always apply a layer of wax after finishing polishing. All you need to do is buy a wax seal and follow its repair instructions. Then, you mostly only need to wipe it down on the surface. 

How to Remove Deep Scratches From Fiberglass Kayaks

If the scratches on your fiberglass kayak are too deep to get out by wet sanding, you may try machine polishing.

Step 1: Clean the Boat Thoroughly

Before attempting to do anything, it’s better to clean the kayak thoroughly, removing its ropes in the process. Chances are, your kayak has been collecting dirt and grime for quite some time now. If you start working on the scratches while they’re dirty, you’ll be rubbing the dirt in. 

It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t use dish detergents for this step. They leave behind streaks that are hard to remove, and you don’t want any more marks on your kayak.

Step 2: Apply Polishing Compound

After cleaning the boat, wet a rag and wring it well. Then, run it over the kayak, and dry the surface thoroughly to ensure no grime or streaks.

Now, use a cloth to rub the polishing compound on the scratches. For each small part, you can use a lemon-sized dollop.

Step 3: Off With the Machine Polisher

Now that you applied the polishing compound, it’s time to grab the machine polisher and work it. Use a medium pad, preferably made of foam, because wool pads are harsh on fiberglass, and they work faster and are more potent than foam.

Adjust the machine to your preferred speed; 2000 rpm will work fine. Afterward, put the pad on the kayak’s surface, and turn the machine on. 

If you do this in reverse, the polisher may skid on the smooth surface. 

You don’t want to get injured from something as easy as fiberglass polishing, so it’s better to follow the correct order.

Keep mild pressure on the machine while you’re moving it. The pressure should be firm enough to keep the pad on the kayak and gentle enough not to push the pad harshly onto the fiberglass.

Keep moving the machine in a circular and up-and-down motion, moving slowly and carefully on the kayak.

Step 4: Use a Finer Pad for Polishing

After running the machine polisher on all the scratches, you’ve completed the hardest part. Now, wipe the whole kayak using a towel. I recommend microfiber because it’s highly absorbent and removes all the tiny bits of the lumped-up compound.

Next, you’ll replace the polishing compound with a finer one. You can also use a fine pad to be gentle on the kayak because you just used an abrasive material. 

Then turn on the polishing machine again, and run it on all the scratches in a circular motion. Do the same as you did in the last step, and you’ll eventually see the surface shinier than ever.

Step 5: Apply Wax

Wax always comes last because it tops off the polishing compounds you used. However, you can choose any brand you prefer, as long as it provides a lustrous finish. Wax should keep your fiberglass kayak shiny for at least a year, so you may want to see a couple of reviews before choosing. That way, you learn from other users’ experiences.

Your kayak may need more than one coat of wax, depending on how rough its surface is. Still, it’s easy to apply wax; all you need to do is apply it to a soft cloth and start rubbing it on the kayak’s surface. You can use a microfiber towel instead of a soft cloth. Keep rubbing until the surface is dry, then wipe with a clean towel.

Final Word

Fiberglass is one of the easiest materials to buff out. Sometimes, only a thorough clean and some petroleum jelly will do. In more severe cases, you’ll need to wet-sand the surface and machine-polish it.

In all cases, make sure to give the kayak a once-over before starting, so you know how deep the scratches are.

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