How to Remove Hardened Barnacles from Boats and Stainless Propellers

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Kenny asked: How do I clean the hardened barnacles off of stainless propellers?

When barnacles harden anywhere on your boat, they might as well be concrete. Cleaning them off is a simple process, but it is labor intensive and will give the average person a good workout. Here’s what you need to do.

Scraping Method

You Will Need:

  • Heavy rubber gloves
  • Putty knife or paint scraper (nothing flimsy)
  • Stainless steel mesh glove
  • Lime remover
  • Propspeed

Steps to Remove the Barnacles:

  1. Begin by protecting your hands with heavy rubber gloves. The surface will be rough and without protection, your hands can become scratched.
  2. Use the putty knife or paint scraper to knock the barnacles loose. Work slowly and scrape to get under the edges of the barnacles. Metal scrapers have more strength, but use caution not to damage the surface of the boat. It’s best to dull the edge first. If you choose a plastic tool, you can round off the edges to help prevent scratching the boat.
  3. Once the big pieces of barnacles have been removed, use the stainless steel mesh glove to remove the remaining finer particles from the surface.
  4. Once all the barnacles are removed, clean the surface with a lime cleaner to remove any remaining residue on the surface.
  5. After the surface is clean, consider applying a protective product such as Propspeed. These products provide a slick base that makes it easier to remove barnacles in the future, but it only works if it’s applied it to a clean propeller.

Power Washing Method

You Will Need:

  • Power Washer
  • Rubber gloves
  • Protective eyewear
  • Hydrochloric acid or Hull cleaner
  • Lime remover
  • Scraper

Steps to Remove the Barnacles:

  1. To power wash the barnacles away, it is best to have them dry.
  2. Remove the boat from the water and allow the barnacles to dry for several weeks. This method can be done while the barnacles are wet, but may not be as effective.
  3. Have a wide, open area to work in.
  4. Spray the barnacles with the power washer at an angle to get underneath the edge.
  5. A parallel spray works best.
  6. Use caution as the pressure from the water may cause the barnacles to fly when they are released.
  7. Work in small sections until all of the barnacles are removed.
  8. Once the majority of the barnacles are removed, acid can be applied to the surface to aid in removing the remaining pieces.
  9. Apply hydrochloric acid or commercial hull cleaner to the surface.
  10. Scrape away the remaining pieces.
  11. Lastly, clean the surface with a lime remover and wash the propellers thoroughly.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • The more often you clean barnacles, the less difficult the job will be.
  • If the removal task is too daunting, there are professional services that will remove the barnacles for you. However, the process is time consuming and can be costly if there are many barnacles and/or the boat is large.
  • Removing the barnacles will keep the boat running smoothly and efficiently.

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