Dec 20, 2018

Clogged BilgeWhen a boat is in the water, the bilge will often collect water that enters the boat from weather, interior leaks, and via the stuffing box. Within the bilge the bilge pumps pump water from the bilge, overboard – preventing the bilges from overfilling. We hope.

Clogged Bilge

Clean BilgeThe bilge is undoubtedly one of the dirtiest parts of the boat – it is where dust, detritus, stagnant water and sludge can collect. If left stagnant, this water can emit smells and can cause blistering and damage to fiberglass. In extreme circumstances, engine oil or fuel can also leak into the bilge, creating a fire hazard.

Clean Bilge

The bilge requires special care and maintenance. A few items in particular:



1) The bilge should be kept water-free. Hatches and floorboards should be lifted regularly to see the water level and manually pump any sitting water. This will allow you to see how much water is entering the boat and allow early diagnosis of leaks. In addition, by draining the water, any debris can be removed easily. If left, the debris can easily clog bilge pumps, causing them to overheat and fail.

Interlux Bilgekote

Interlux Bilgekote2) If any oil/fuel is found in the bilge, this should be separated and disposed of appropriately

3) The bilge should be cleaned regularly – using a bilge cleaner (a degreaser) or a strong detergent

4) The bilge should be ventilated – air should move freely so that fumes from carbon monoxide, gasoline or diesel collect and cause harm or hazard. Bilge blowers should be checked regularly, and blower hoses should be inspected to ensure that they are connected and intact.

Bilge Cleaning ProductsAn often overlooked maintenance item that I recommend is off-season painting. This serves a number of purposes: It forces a thorough clean and degrease of the all the bilge areas, it guarantees a good inspection and allows the painter to confirm that drain holes and bulkheads are in good condition, and allows a fresh surface to work with after spring launch. There are a number of products that can be used to paint a bilge – the best offer a sealing element, and prevent grease/dirt from building up.

Bilge cleaning products

To sum up – the bilge should be kept clean and dry, and should be checked, cleaned and maintained regularly to prevent potential problems during the boating season. Winter is the perfect time to check this season’s maintenance off the to-do list!

Ask AndrewAndrew McDonald is the owner of Lakeside Marine Services – a boat repair/maintenance firm based in Toronto. Andrew has worked in the marine industry for 12 years and is a graduate of the Georgian College ‘Mechanical Techniques - Marine Engine Mechanic’ program.

Questions or comments for Andrew? Email him directly via: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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