Saturday, October 8, 2011

My favorite Bottom Cleaning Tools

My last paint job, I used Micron 66. It lasted 2 years, in spite of dire warnings that it would peal in brackish water.. It didn't. I spoke with the factory and they repeated the tale, but I spoke with a rep at the boat show in Annapolis and he explained that it was winter haul-outs that caused the trouble. He also said that if you use the bottom paint up, running for 2 years, scrub a few times, and sand a little before repainting, it's all gone and that reduces the  trouble. I used Micron Extra this time, which I've used before but found slightly less effective. I may go back to Micron 66 next time, unless the new Micron 77 is out, which is brackish compatible. But this is all off-topic.

Notice that the scraper blade is curved; it quickly wears to match the average curve of the hull, making the scraping action both more efficient and more gentle on the paint.

I do end up scrubbing 2-3 times before I consider paint spent. You need a scraper that...
  • gives leverage for hard growth and enough handle for 2 hands. I have sore hands.
  • is soft enough not the remove paint.
  • floats.
Mine is made from 1/8-inch polyethylene sheet and closet rod split with a saw curf. A screw secures the blade. My first version used a Home Depot plastic paint scraper with the handles removed, which was OK but perhaps a bit too aggressive. The polyethylene sheet is better (I generally get it from work, but we have used the heavy dividers that show up in some binders). There is no need to sharpen the sheet; it will wear to something of an edge very quickly. I use the same scraper to clean off my spiffy new Manson anchor; there's just enough handle and it stashes easily in one of the winch handle holders on the bow. I keep a few on the boat, in case I can get helpers--not often, really.

Of course, use the scraper as little as possible. Try to clean before there is hard growth. Even then, use an easy hand, and only where you must.

The best pads for removing soft growth are...
  • easy to hold.
  • self-cleaning.
  • have enough loops to pull off small barnacles.
  • don't remove soft paint.
  • 5 inches square seems a good compromise of coverage vs. scrubbing pressure. The one in the picture is smaller, which can be better when some of the growth is hard.
  • floats, at least for a while.
Mine are berber carpet squares, not pile carpet--that will just smear things around. You need the irregular loop pattern. I got the idea from a professional hull cleaner and I like them to be both very gentle and effective; far better than the 3M pads generally recommended.  Because they are carpet, they conform to the curves of the hull. They work very well in combination with Atlas Fit gloves, which keep them from sliding out of your hand.

And they are free (I have cut-offs from our rec-room carpet installation)!


rev. 6-10-2013. Yup, the Micron CSC was less effective than the Micron 66. Some hard growth starting at 20 months, though not too bad. But more than Micron 66. Switched to West Marine PCA Gold (great price on sale).

rev. 8-31-2015.  To my surprise, the West Marine PCA Gold is performing just as well as the Micron 66, and for 1/2 the price, and better than Micron Extra. I'm going to try tho stretch it to 2 1/2 years and do it in the spring. It is basically gone now, but it's always good to wear off more paint and the growth will slow when the water cools.

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