how to properly clean a boat so it doesn't smell like diesel

My Boat Smells Like Diesel, How Do I Get Rid Of The Smell?

Getting rid of the smell of diesel in your boat shouldn’t be a catastrophe.

Show of hands, how many of you suffer from this terrible smell of lingering diesel onboard your boat? I thought so, it’s brutal, I know. But how do you get rid of the smell? I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve to help you get a diesel free smelling boat once again

But first, why does my boat have a diesel odor to it?

There are several reasons why your boat smells like diesel:

  1. A prior spill somewhere in the boat that you haven’t fully cleaned
  2. A leak in your fuel tank or a fuel line
  3. Poor ventilation

The first two are to fix with a little effort. The third is unfortunately a design flaw in your vessel, sorry no love for you there.

Diesel can be a pain in the butt to get rid of. It’s a strong pungent odor that’s unmistakable. The first thing you need to do is assess the situation. Finding exactly where in your boat the diesel smell is coming from.

Does it smell in the bilge, cockpit, cabin, where? If you had a spill at some point you may not have cleaned it all up. Thus, in turn leaving you with a diesel smell somewhere onboard.

Fresh air is your friend

Since you pin pointed the source of the diesel smell you’ll want to open up the entire boat to let it breathe. Fresh air and ventilation are your best friends here. If you recall from the chapter on boat mold, stagnate air is molds best friend. So let there be air!

Go through the entire boat open up the bilge/engine room, cabin, portholes and hatches to allow air to fully circulate throughout the boat.

Ok great, the boat is open and you’re ready to move on.

Clean the area of your boat that smells like diesel

Because you know where the smell is originating from you know where to clean. Depending where the smell is will determine the method you will use to clean your boat. Lets start down in the engine room/bilge.

Detailing the engine room

First thing you’re going to do is grab your shop vac and suck up all standing water in the bilge. After you’ve done that pull up any oil absorber pads you have under your motors and gear cases.

Once this is complete, grab your preferred citrus cleaner/degreaser and mist the entire engine room with it. I mean all surfaces, bulkheads, motors, under the motors, generators, bilges, fuel tanks, and ceiling. Hold off on the floor as the last step, you don’t want to get the floor sticky. My preferred citrus cleaner is Zepp. Let it sit for a few minutes to loosen up the dirt and attack the odor in the engine room.

boats bilge smells like diesel heres the best way to clean it

After the cleaner has sat for a few minutes. GENTLY mist with a hose the motors, generators and any surfaces you sprayed it on. I cannot stress “mist gently” enough. You don’t want to saturate any wiring harnesses, etc. Spray down the bilges and under the motors. The motors and generators will dry rather quick. While they’re drying, grab your shop vac again and suck up all the water again till its bone dry down there. Now inspect the engine room and wipe any residual dirt off to make sure everything is clean.

The leg work lies in cleaning, this is what will help you eliminate the diesel odor in your boat. If there are any spots you are unsure of clean them again.

Cleaning the cabin

Your access to your engine room may be in the cabin and over time you might have spilt some diesel in the cabin. You need to clean the cabin of your boat if it smells like diesel. Start with the fabrics, your blinds or curtains may have some diesel odor, start there and work your way down. Try a vinegar solution on the blinds, spray it on let it soak and then wipe them clean.

I know vinegar has a wicked smell but its the lesser of the evils when you’re getting high off of diesel fumes in the boat. After you’ve fully cleaned the blinds and fabrics, clean the couches. If they are leather, use a quality leather cleaner/conditioner combo. If fabric, use a steam cleaner to make sure you eliminate the diesel odor.

How to get diesel smell out of a boats cabin

The last piece of the puzzle in the cabin is the carpet. You have one of two options here. You can mix up a baking soda solution and scrub the carpet and vacuum up the solution. Or you can take out your steam cleaner again and clean the carpets this way. I prefer the latter.

The common entity in the cabin is fabric type materials, they hold odors in them. The key is to clean all fabrics completely otherwise we won’t be able to rid the boat of its diesel smell.

The pièce de résistance – Ocean Air 

Our original product Ocean Air is the final piece to a diesel free boat. Best part about it is its the easiest product you’ll ever use on your boat. Pop the top and place the container in the affected area and let it go to work for you. Our proprietary formula attacks diesel vapors at the source eliminating them over time.

After cleaning the affected area open an Ocean Air Container, and air the boat out. Every time you come down for the next week, air the boat out. Letting the air circulate helps the product attack the odor vapors better..

If for some reason the diesel smell persists you may not have cleaned well enough.

Freshly cleaned engine room to get rid of diesel odor in boat

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