A powerful bilge cleaner is all it takes to get squeaky-clean bilge on your boat. So, while shopping for one, you might have questions like “Do bilge cleaners work on oily residues?” or “Do I have to scrub after applying bilge cleaner to my boat?”
The truth is- not all cleaners lift grease the same way. At present, bilge cleaner concentrates are available in a wide range of formulas.
The best bilge cleaner is one with active, biodegradable cleaning agents. It also destroys bacterial growth and foul odor inside the bilge.
Now, we’ve researched a few popular bilge cleaners and came up with eight awesome options for you. So, get one from them with the help of our buying guide. Have a look!
What Is Bilge Cleaner?
Bilge is the lowest part of a boat’s hull. In simple words, it’s the compartment that stays submerged in water when you’re cruising. Grease, grime, and sludge will accumulate inside the bilge, and they may ruin a show-worthy boat over time.
Bilge cleaner is basically a cleaning solution that dissolves these impurities and flushes them away with bilge water. These products are widely available, budget-friendly, and easy to use.
What’s special about bilge cleaners is that most of them are biodegradable and sea-safe. They usually come in US quarts and gallons. One quart of a decent bilge cleaner is enough for a 25-foot sportfishing yacht.
What Does Bilge Cleaner Do?
A bilge cleaner removes tough oil stains off the bilge surface on your boat. It’s a two-step process. First, there’s a chemical reaction between the grease-covered bilge and the cleaning agents.
The cleaner is poured inside the bilge, and then it gets mixed with water. At this point, you’re required to run the boat for a certain amount of time. It will slosh the solution around and provide consistent scrubbing.
Slowly but surely, those long-standing stains come off the bilge and get thrown out with bilge water.
8 Best Bilge Cleaner Reviews
For some people, buying a new Bow Rider is easier than keeping the old one clean. But wait, there are bilge cleaners that remove grease, scum, and transmission fluids all by themselves. Have a look at the coolest options below!
1. Star Brite Super Orange Citrus Bilge Cleaner
Scrubbing dirt off the bilge with a long stick can make you hate sailing sometimes. If you can relate to that, you’ll find this StarBrite bilge cleaner a total lifesaver!
This biodegradable bilge cleaner by StarBrite comes in two different sizes- 32oz. Quart and one whole gallon. We like this cleaner for a lot of reasons.
First, it thoroughly dissolves tough stains, grease, and hydrocarbon fluids. You need only 32 ounces of this cleaner for a 30-foot boat.
That’s because this product actually comes with a citrus extract formula like those top-shelf household cleaners.
Super Orange is the best bilge cleaner for its superior cleaning performance and the pleasant smell it leaves afterward. Not to mention, it will keep the bilge pump running at full throttle!
- Emulsifies tough oily residues in one hour
- Safe on plastic, metal, and fiberglass surfaces
- It leaves the bilge smelling fresh and citrusy
- Suitable for up to 30-foot boats
- It takes time to activate cleaning agents
2. Star Brite Heavy Duty Bilge Cleaner
Star Brite is the go-to brand of bilge cleaners for us. They have everything from mild, biodegradable cleaners to powerful degreasers. We particularly like this product because it gets grease, oil, and sludge off our sailboat.
The first thing we noticed about this bilge cleaner is that it has a biodegradable formula.
If you have stubborn scum and water stains on the bilge, you’re going to like its formula as well. We’ve seen this dynamic cleaner save old bay boats and motor yachts on more occasions than one!
Star Brite recommends using a quart of this cleaner for every 25ft of the boat. Its powerful concentrate dissolves grease and sludge without blemishing plastic, metal, or fiberglass surfaces.
We also found out that this cleaner effectively removes fuel stains once you pair it with the Star Brite Max Boom!
- Suitable for cleaning bilge and other parts of the hull
- Protects fiberglass, plastic, and metal surfaces from damaging
- 1-gallon quantity for big sailboats and ships
- It doesn’t have a strong chemical smell
- Not as effective on long-term fuel stains
3. Better Boat Premium Bilge Cleaner Concentrate
The bilge surface is prone to grease, sludge, and nasty bacteria growth. If you want the bilge to be “Monica Clean!”, Better Boat Store has something you’ll surely like!
First things first, this bilge cleaner has powerful cleaning agents for degreasing a dirty bilge. So, no matter how late you are in the whole boat-cleaning game, Premium Bilge Cleaner’s got your back!
The Better Boat cleaner helps your bilge pump to operate as efficiently as possible.
You also get an odor-free boat from a single cleaning cycle. In fact, its cleansing solution is so effective that you can go a whole month with that visibly brand-new bilge!
We didn’t expect much from a twenty-five-dollar bilge cleaner. But this Star Brite cleaner sure turned it around. It has made our boat-cleaning regimen much easier than before, if not faster! And honestly, we did not see that coming!
- You need only 5 ounces of this cleaner for a standard, 15-foot speed boat
- Ideal for maintaining a bilge pump during the cold months
- Requires zero manual scrubbings after emulsification
- Suitable for eliminating grease, fuel, oil, and sludge
- It might not brighten the bilge area as much
4. Star Brite Power Pine Bilge Cleaner
Boat oil, grime, and all possible bilge gunk don’t stand a chance in front of the mighty Star Brite. This bilge cleaner is strong, affordable, and doesn’t stink of harsh chemicals like most degreasers on the market.
Compared to other StarBrite bilge cleaners we reviewed, the Power Pine is hands down the strongest. Just one gallon of this super-concentrated cleaner equals 384 gallons of cleaning solution!
You need one ounce of Power Pine for every 3ft. of bilge length. So, a one-gallon tub should last a couple of months. To keep things simple, pour a generous amount of cleaner on the bilge and run your Donzi for at least one hour!
Lastly, what’s interesting about this bilge water cleaner is that it uses the boat’s motion to scrub off the grease. So, the longer you run the boat, the cleaner the bilge will get!
- Biodegradable, environment-friendly formula
- Suitable for both fresh and saltwater vessels
- Quickly emulsifies stubborn fuel stains and grease
- Available in 32oz and 1gal. sizes
- It’s tough to dissolve old stains and discoloration with this cleaner
5. Star Brite Sea Safe Biodegradable Bilge Cleaner, 32 oz
The fact that Star Brite has a popular line of bilge cleaners inspired us to try one more! And what can we say- their Sea Safe Biodegradable Bilge Cleaner turned out to be one of a kind!
For example, the cleaner is made of safe yet powerful cleaning agents. They really put a dirty bilge in its place and deodorizes an entire Jeanneau NC 795.
Its sea-safe formula is free of phosphates and harsh chemicals. You can confidently use this bilge cleaner for lifting age-old grime stains and sludge.
The instructions are the same as before- pour in and pump out! Finally, the cleaner should emulsify any oily bilge water you have sitting inside the bottom part of your boat.
In fact, one 32oz bottle of this Star Brite best-seller cleans the entire bilge of a 25-foot boat. We also noticed how it keeps an automatic bilge pump running smoothly throughout the season.
- You can use it as often as you like
- Phosphate-free cleaning solution for a 25-foot boat
- Doubles up as a bilge pump cleaner
- Plastic, metal, and fiberglass-safe formula
- The cleaning solution is not that effective on the dry bilge
6. Oil Eater AOD1G35437 Original Cleaner/ Degreaser
Bilge happens to be that one spot where grease, sludge, smell, and dirt get together to have a party. Well, in that case, only the Oil Eater can break it off!
This 1-gallon bilge water cleaner is trendy for cleaning power cruisers and big fishing boats. It goes by the name Oil Eater and dissolves tough oil stains pretty fast.
We like this water-based bilge degreaser for its concentrated solution. It’s basically a no-nonsense cleaner with excellent deodorizing properties.
Oil Eater emulsifies greasy residues so that they can wash off the bilge with water. Give it a good two hours, and the bilge of your watercraft should be as good as new!
Its formula is free of acid, petroleum, and abrasive substances. Therefore, you may use it on asphalt, HVAC, boat hulls, and decks as well!
- Lifts old oil stains from bilge, concrete, asphalt, etc.
- Powerful, multi-purpose cleaner concentrate
- USDA-approved, non-toxic, non-corrosive bilge cleaner
- Also suitable for boat hulls and decks
- It doesn’t lift grease when diluted
7. Sudbury 800G Automatic Bilge Cleaner, 1-Gallon
The Sudbury bilge cleaner is the closest thing to an all-green, cleansing solution. It belongs to the Sudbury Boat Care line and does a wonderful job of keeping the bilge compartment free of grease, grime, and odor.
Unlike bacterial bilge cleaners, it doesn’t contain oil-eating bacteria. What it does contain is a 98% biodegradable cleaner concentrate. For many boat owners out there, the Sudbury bilge cleaner is a miracle worker.
It quickly emulsifies grease and mixes it with the bilge water. So, if you got a secondhand boat and are dealing with an old buildup, you should give the Sudbury cleaner a chance.
Overall, we were impressed with its performance on a really gunky bilge. We would use this cleaner undiluted for the first two runs. It’s got enough cleaner for an 8-meter trawler or a short-range cruiser.
- Heavy-duty, biodegradable formula
- Kills long-standing bilge odor
- Dissolves heavy grease and grime
- Suitable for 8-meter boats and smaller
- Users must wear gloves while pouring the cleaner
8. West Marine - Citrus Bilge Cleaner
Nothing beats a citrus-scented cleaner when it comes to degreasing the bilge section of your boat. We really liked the Star Brite Super Orange cleaner and were secretly looking for a similar one.
That’s when we found out about the West Marine bilge cleaning solution. It’s got everything you want in a cleaner for regular use. For one, the biodegradable formula of the West Marine cleaner is praise-worthy. It’s gentle on the wires, and the bilge doesn’t rust once dried.
Similarly, the formula is more than safe for plastic, rubber hoses, and metal. We also liked how fast it cleans up the bilge of a Sea Ray Bowrider. If you have an identical model, West Marine will do justice to your beautiful boat!
- A phosphate and petroleum distillate-free cleaning solution
- Effectively breaks down grease, oil, and scum
- It comes with a gentle citrus scent
- Deodorizes bilge for a fresh-smelling boat
- Might need two whole bottles for a dirty cabin cruiser
Things to Consider Before Buying a Bilge Cleaner
A bilge cleaner isn’t expensive, but your cabin cruiser is. Therefore, the bilge degreaser you choose shouldn’t lay a spot on the boat’s surface or oxidize it the next day.
In our search for the eight greatest bilge degreasers of all time, we got to know about these essential qualities. Make sure you read the whole thing!
Grease and scum usually stick to the bilge without any intention of moving. On top of that, organic residue and fuel will eventually collect in the bilge compartment- making your pricey boat a fire hazard.
That’s why you must clean that area periodically with a safe, biodegradable bilge cleaner.
We don’t recommend phosphate-rich cleaners with harmful surfactants. They not only are bad for marine life but also leave a chemical residue in the bilge.
People usually consider grease and grime to be tough stains. Some of them will try an acidic home remedy to find the bilge all rusty in a few hours.
Real bilge degreasers are not run-off-the-mill baking soda repackaged in big plastic containers. In fact, they’re quality cleaners with an eco-friendly concentrate.
This is another reason why degreasers like Oil Eater and StarBrite take one or two hours to lift, remove and emulsify organic residues.
Cleaners with decent degreasing power may emulsify stubborn oil stains to some extent. But they won’t be as effective as bilge cleaners with oil-eating microbes.
If you ask us, StarBrite is a dependable brand for the bilge, hull, and deck cleaners. Well, a good degreaser will lift stains and emulsify everything in one liquid. And StarBrite has a million of those.
In what measurements you’re going to use, the bilge cleaner is pretty straightforward. A rule of thumb is to pour one ounce of cleaner per 3ft. of the waterline. So, if you know the length of your boat, you can do the calculation.
Using too little of the bilge cleaner might get rid of the most recent stains. But the tough stains will be hard to lift. And if your boat happens to have a lot of them, mix cleaner and water in a 1:3 ratio.
Ease of Use
Biodegradable bilge cleaners aren’t abrasive on plastic, metal, and fiberglass surfaces. Anyhow, that doesn’t mean you’ll go all Professor Utonium on the bilge compartment.
Use a high-concentrate cleaner reasonably. It takes just one quart of a good bilge cleaner to do a 25-foot boat.
As a matter of fact, you can’t dump your boat gunk straight into the lakes and oceans. It’s because the stagnant bilge water is fuel, grease, and a little bit of gasoline.
These are combustible liquids in their own right, and the new emulsified waste is no better than that.
So, no matter what sort of cleaner you use, don’t forget to check in with your local marina about oily bilge water disposal. We guess that there’s already a treatment facility or a Hazardous Waste Collection Center nearby.
Apart from cleaning bilge, you may use a biodegradable bilge cleaner on concrete lanes, driveways, and garage floors.
Star Brite and West Marine bilge cleaners are safe on plastic and metal. You can wrap up the cleaning process a lot sooner and have enough time on your hands for the deck.
Without an automatic bilge cleaner, you might have to scrub the greasiest parts of the boat yourself. If that’s something you’re not up for, look up the StarBrite oil-absorbing foam on their website.
3 Easy Steps of Bilge Cleaning
No one will deny that scrubbing bilge is one of the hardest things they had to do for their boats. You need a reliable bilge cleaner that saves your effort and time. And frankly, cleaning bilge is not that hard!
Here are three ways to clean the bilge like a boat maintenance agency. So, hold on to your money and wash bilge like a pro!
Step 1: Pump the Bilge Compartment Dry
Although cleaners require that the bilge area is wet, you should initially mop it dry. It will help you get rid of loose dirt and some amount of sludge. Before you dump a whole gallon of bilge cleaner through the hatch, make sure to check the connections and wiring.
Step 2: Pour Bilge Cleaner as Needed
This step will vary from boat to boat and the overall gunk in the bilge compartment. If you haven’t serviced your boat in a while, you might notice hard stains here and there.
So, when it comes to bilge cleaners, you can pour as much as it’s needed.
Dedicated bilge degreasers work faster than all-purpose cleaners and homemade baking soda solutions. Choose a bilge degreaser with a concentrated formula so you can dilute it later as necessary.
Step 3: Rinse with a Soft Brush
Bilge cleaners automatically clean the bilge. They use your boat’s motion to reach deep inside the compartment and emulsify all impurities with water.
So, unless your boat is in really bad condition, you don’t have to lend a hand. Just sit back and enjoy the ride!
Follow your state’s regulations for draining bilge since it’s illegal to dump this emulsified substance into the water. It’s another reason why some people will go with biodegradable soap and a stick brush.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How often should I clean the bilge?
The bilge is meant to be cleaned after every few fishing trips and sailing. Boat owners usually clean their watercrafts every month or two. If your boat is an older version of Bowliner, you should scrub its bilge area every 3-4 weeks.
2. Which StarBrite bilge cleaner is the most effective?
StarBrite Power Pine is the most potent bilge cleaner from the brand. We also can’t rule out their Power Orange bilge cleaner for its natural deodorizing quality.
Their Sea-Safe bilge cleaner is incredible for saltwater crafts such as motor yachts and multi-hull boats.
3. How to get rid of the foul smell in the bilge?
The foul odor occurs from bacteria growth in the bilge compartment. If the bilge stays wet even when you haven’t used the boat, it can attract mold, mildew, and all sorts of bacteria.
To get rid of the smell, you can get a citrus-scented bilge cleaner. Finish up an entire bottle of bilge cleaner on your first day of boat maintenance.
4. Can bilge cleaners remove old fuel stains?
Rather than investing forty-something bucks on an all-purpose cleaner, get a water-based degreaser. An industrial-strength degreaser will make the work much easier for you. Oil Eater and Better Boat bilge cleaners are extremely reliable for the job.
Bilge water contains five to ten different wastes such as transmission oil, diesel, grease, sludge, and even gasoline. That’s why the bilge compartment either stinks or looks awful for most of the year.
Luckily enough, we found the best bilge cleaner from StarBrite at an unbelievable price. It’s biodegradable, sea-safe, and fights grime like a total beast!
A strong bilge cleaner like the StarBrite Power Pine will make sure your watercraft looks good and works great! It also dissolves impurities pretty well- helping the automatic bilge pump roar throughout the seasons!