How to Clean Pontoons on a Trailer – The Easy Way!

How to Clean Pontoons on a Trailer

When you buy a new pontoon boat, the last thing you want is to see some minerals and all sorts of filth accumulating on the pontoons. 

Unfortunately, this is inevitable, especially if you use your boat frequently on open waters. The accumulation damages your boat’s aesthetics, making it look like a crumbling mess. 

Water stains, algae, and mineral build-ups are only normal on pontoons, and they get even worse when the boat is out of the water and left uncleaned.

In some cases, the build-up will look like concrete when the pontoons remain uncleaned for a long time. The oxidation is normal, but it discolors the boat over time.  

Since I purchased my Bennington pontoon, I’ve been so passionate about maintaining its gleaming sheen, and I can assure you that it hasn’t been a walk in the park. 

But the good thing is that I’ve learned various methods and tricks for cleaning the various parts of the boat, and I’ll share them in this article.   

If you are looking for easy ways to clean your pontoons on a trailer, you’ve come to the right page. 

It’s indeed trickier to clean the pontoons while the boat is still on the trailer, especially the underneath, but you don’t have to worry about it since I’ve got you covered.

In this guide, I’ll show you some tips on how to clean your pontoons on a trailer and leave your boat shining like a brand new one!

How to Clean Pontoons on a Trailer

How to Clean Pontoons on a Trailer (2)

Cleaning the pontoons after using your vessel may not be the most pleasant part of owning a boat, but it’s certainly necessary not only for aesthetics but also for longevity. 

To give your boat pontoons a good clean on every side, you’ll need to get some tarpaulins. Then follow these steps to get the job done: 

#Step 1: Set Your Tarpaulins Down on the Ground

Depending on the cleaning method you intend to use, you’ll want to lay some tarpaulins down to protect the grass. 

This is paramount, especially if you want to use acids when cleaning the boat. Acid-based cleaners like muriatic acid are perfect for removing stubborn stains and build-ups, but they can destroy grass within no time. 

So, you need to lay down some tarpaulins to protect the grass or flooring. The acid may ruin even concrete floors. 

#Step 2: Lift the Trailer Over the Tarpaulins 

Once you lay the tarpaulins on the ground, drive the trailer over them and ensure that the pontoons are within reach for easy cleaning. 

You also need to ensure that the trailer is near a power socket and water supply. If you can’t reach the required things, you need to re-adjust the tarpaulins before grabbing the cleaners. 

#Step 3: Lift the Pontoon Boat off the Trailer Bunks

The next thing you need to do is temporarily raise the boat off the trailer to be able to reach the bottom part of the tubes. 

However, you don’t want to lift the boat so high to prevent or limit the damage in case it slips off. About 6 to 8-inches should be enough to let you work on the toons. 

Here is the procedure you need to follow to lift your pontoon boat off the trailer safely: 

  • Ensure that the trailer is on a flat surface.
  • Lower the front part of the trailer to the floor to raise the transom. If you are working with a large boat, you may need some help lowering the front. 
  • Use some wooden blocks to keep the transom lifted and place a wooden plank between the blocks and tubes to avoid damaging the boat. 
  • Position a hydraulic bottle jack underneath the trailer’s tongue and lift the front part. You may need to place blocks below the front cross member for the boat’s support as the jack outspreads.
  • Lower the hydraulic jack and put some wooden shims or plates beneath it for more height. 
  • Then repeat the process until you gain the desirable height. The boat should be level or with the bow a little bit higher.
  • Place the cinder or wooden blocks and a wooden board beneath the front cross member to support the pontoon boat. 
  • Lower the jack gently until the boat’s weight rests on the three columns of blocks and wooden plates. 
  • Remove the hydraulic bottle jack and check whether the boat is stable enough to let you work on the pontoons and brighten them without any risks. 
  • Do not remove the trailer when cleaning the pontoons, as it should act as a safety device to catch the boat if the blocks fall or slip off. 

#Step 4: Choose the Best Cleaning Method 

#Step 4 Choose the Best Cleaning Method 

Once your boat is in a perfect position for cleaning the pontoons, it’s time to brighten the tubes. 

Now, there are several boat cleaning methods you can use, but not all of them will work best on pontoons. 

Here is a list of the best aluminum pontoon cleaners that I recommend:

Algex Cleaning Method 

Designed for cleaning aluminum boats, Algex is the best way to get rid of algae and other marine scum that stick to your pontoons. 

All you have to do is spray the cleaner on the pontoons and leave it to sit on the tubes for about two to three minutes. It will effectively work on the algae and marine debris within no time. 

Then rinse the pontoons off with a pressure washer. If you don’t have a pressure washer, a normal garden hose is still a good alternative, but you’ll need to use the highest setting for the best results. 

While this cleaner is quite aggressive on algae, it will not cause any harm to pontoons or any other parts of the boat when used appropriately. 

This method is excellent if there is no extreme mineral build-up or oxidation on the toons. However, if that is what you are dealing with, you will want to try the next method. 

Vinegar Solution

When your boat is exposed to the sun and moisture, the exterior suffers the most. Your pontoons will fade away and easily sustain spots and stains. 

For this type of problem, the vinegar solution is the best cleaning method. Vinegar uses acetic acid, which means that it works magic on oxidation, mineral build-up, and even discoloration. 

It can quickly restore your pontoons’ showroom glimmer that they lost after a few trips to the lake. 

To clean your pontoons with vinegar, you’ll need to mix it with distilled water and put the solution in a spray bottle. 

You can also add a few drops of mild soap or pontoon wash to boost the cleaning potency and increase efficiency. 

Then spray the mixture on the affected areas and let it sit on the tubes for about 30 to 60 seconds before you start wiping. 

Once the cleaner reacts with the spots and stains, use a clean rag to wipe away the residue and scrub the tough stains with a soft bristle brush. 

For more stubborn stains, you may have to spray the surface all over again and wipe once more to achieve a fresh look. 

When all the stains are gone, and the toons look new, it’s time to dry them up. Use a clean rag to absorb the moisture and see whether you’ve done a perfect job. 

Toilet Bowl Cleaner Method  

Did you know that you can easily clean your pontoons with a toilet bowl cleaner? 

I have used the toilet bowl cleaner several times when cleaning my toons, and all I can say is that it’s an excellent method. 

Although I don’t use this method every time I clean my pontoon boat, the toilet bowl cleaner works really well. But it requires you to use a stiff brush to scrub off stubborn stains and mineral deposits. 

So, you’ll need to be extra careful when working with the brush to avoid scratching the surface or leaving unnecessary abrasions. 

Depending on how long your pontoon boat has been in the water and the nature of the stains, you may need to rub off any marine scum with a brush before cleaning it. 

Don’t forget to have some safety gear like protective gloves when working the toilet bowl cleaner, especially if you have sensitive hands. 

Then hose the toons down with a pressure washer and spray some diluted toilet bowl cleaner. 

If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can use a sponge and then rub the cleaner before leaving it for about 5 minutes. 

Finally, hose the pontoons down and see if any parts need more cleaning. If you are happy with how the toons look, use a clean towel to dry them up.  

Muriatic Acid Method

Muriatic Acid Method

Muriatic acid is a common aluminum cleaner used across the US by many pontoon owners. It works well on aluminum boats and boat tubes. 

But before you grab this acid to use it on your pontoons, you should keep in mind that it’s a highly corrosive acid that can easily ruin your soft boat. 

It can also be hazardous when used wrongly. So, if you are not comfortable working with acids, I recommend that you stick with the previous method as they are less risky. 

Otherwise, you might end up with ruined, darkened pontoons, and this is exactly what you want to prevent. 

To safely use Muriatic acid to clean your aluminum pontoons, you need to dilute it to prevent etching your tubes. 

Once you dilute the acid, spray it to the affected parts with a spray bottle and rinse it off immediately. Do not let the acid sit on the tubes as it can eat up the material and worsen the condition. 

To get the best results, you can use a pressure washer to rinse the tubes right after spraying the diluted acid.  

When cleaning your pontoons with the Muriatic acid, you want to ensure that there are no kids or pets nearby. 

You also need to protect yourself adequately by wearing a mask, protective clothing, and gloves. Then ensure that you are not spraying the acid against the wind for extra safety. 

AC Coil Cleaner Method 

If you are wondering whether the AC Coil cleaner works well on pontoons, the answer is yes. 

The AC Coil cleaner is a cheap and easy method of cleaning pontoon tubes, and it works magic. 

However, there are some risks involved, and I’ll mention them later so you can decide whether using this method is worth it. 

To use the AC Coil cleaner on your pontoons, all you have to do is spray it evenly on the tubes. Then use a soft brush to outspread the cleaner around and detach the marine scum. 

Once you have spread the cleaner all over the pontoons, let it sit for about a minute and rinse it off with a power washer. 

Again, when using this cleaner, you need to ensure that you are down the wind to prevent it from getting to you.

Also, wear some protective gear like gloves and face masks as the cleaner can easily burn your skin. 

Among the cons of using strong acids like the AC Coil cleaner to brighten pontoons is that it may damage anodized elements on the boat like the railings. 

It may also ruin your galvanized trailer when left to sit on for a long time. So, you need to be very careful when working with the AC Coil cleaner to avoid damaging your boat or trailer. 

Ideally, spray only on the affected areas as directly as possible to ensure that it doesn’t get to vulnerable parts.  

#Step 5: Rinse the Pontoon and Trailer 

Once you are done cleaning the pontoons with your preferred method, you need to power wash and rinse the pontoon and trailer properly. 

The best way to do this is by hosing them down to get rid of all the acid or cleaning solution and chemical build-up. 

If there are any stains or mineral accumulation left, you can repeat the cleaning process on the affected areas and pressure-wash the toons before patting them dry. 

How to Clean Your Pontoon Boat’s Exterior

How to Clean Your Pontoon Boat’s Exterior

There are many ways you can use to clean your pontoon boat’s exterior, but not all methods are safe for everyone. 

One of the easiest and quickest ways to clean a pontoon boat’s exterior is vinegar. It’s not only an effective and proven method but also a cheaper option for cleaning pontoons. 

When using vinegar to clean your pontoon boat’s exterior, you need to mix it with diluted or fresh water for safety and efficiency. 

I also use the Star Brite Ultimate Aluminum Cleaner, and it does the trick perfectly, especially on the toons.  

What I love most about this aluminum cleaner is that it’s designed specifically for aluminum and shreds away stains, spots and oxidation effortlessly. 

It’s a simple way to get rid of oxidation, marine growth, water spots, and stains. You won’t have to worry about rust as the product doesn’t have any corroding effects on aluminum pontoon boats. 

Other methods that you can use to clean your pontoon exterior include the use of toilet bowl cleaner and acids like muriatic and AC Coil cleaner. 

The acids are very effective and efficient, but you need to be comfortable working with them for maximum safety. 

It may also affect some vulnerable parts of the boat which are oxidized, such as the railings. It would help to be extra cautious when working with such acids.

If you are not used to working with acids and are not ready to take risks with caution, I recommend that you stick to vinegar and other cleaners that use weaker acids to clean your boat’s exterior. 

For fiberglass areas that don’t sit in the water like your toons, there is no need to use harsh cleaning methods. You can use some soapy water and a soft brush to clean the fiberglass. 

Overall, cleaning your pontoon boat’s exterior is crucial when you’ve pulled the vessel out of the water at the end of the boating season. 

It will let you store your boat while it’s perfectly clean, and you won’t have to do much when it’s time to launch it again in the spring. 

What is the Best Aluminum Cleaner for Pontoon Boats?

What is the Best Aluminum Cleaner for Pontoon Boats

The best and top-rated aluminum pontoon cleaner is the Star Brite Aluminum Brightener. This product works perfectly on aluminum pontoon boats when removing lime deposits and marine growth. 

Star Brite Aluminum Pontoon cleaner uses weak acids that allow you to work safely on the pontoons and remove all the oxidation with ease. 

It reduces the risks posed by other harsh cleaning methods, such as damaging the railings and other parts of the boat. 

Even more good news, the pontoon cleaner comes with a small pump sprayer for easy application and safe procedure. 

Other aluminum pontoon cleaners that can give you a great value for your money include the Toon Brite Aluminum Cleaner and the 3M Aluminum Restorer



Q: How Do You Clean Pontoons on a Trailer?

A: To clean pontoons on a trailer, you need to lift the pontoon boat off the trailer bunks for a few inches. 

Depending on the cleaning method you intend to use, you also need to lay some tarpaulins to protect the grass or the floor. 

Some of the most common pontoon cleaning methods include vinegar, toilet bowl cleaner, muriatic acid, AC Coil Cleaner, and other products like Star Brite Aluminum Brightener. 

The best cleaning method for you will depend on the condition of the tubes and whether you are comfortable working with acids or not. 

Q: What to Use When Temporarily Raising Pontoon Boat? 

A: You can use wooden blocks to raise the boat off the trailer bunks. Do not lift the boat so high as it would result in much damage if the blocks sink or collapse. 

A hydraulic bottle jack and wooden planks are also crucial when temporarily raising the boat. 

Q: What Do You Use to Clean Anodized and Polished Aluminum Pontoons?

A: While anodized and polished aluminum is very durable, it can still naturally fade or accumulate deposits with continuous exposure to the sun and water. 

To clean anodized and polished aluminum, you need to use a safe and gentle method as some cleaning products may damage the aluminum polish. 

The best way to clean anodized and polished aluminum pontoons is by using fresh water, mild soap, and an abrasive sponge or a soft brush. 

Once you finish cleaning the pontoon, the next thing to do is pressure washing before drying to prevent water spots. 

Do not use harsh chemicals on the anodized aluminum since the acids may react with the aluminum unless you want to anodize your aluminum and apply another aluminum polish. 

Q: How Do You Remove Build-Up from a Pontoon Boat?

A: The best way to remove build-up from a pontoon boat is wet sanding with abrasive sandpaper. 

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that acids will not work. The truth is that strong acids are actually effective in getting rid of mineral build-ups and lime deposits. 

However, the acids would require you to keep the boat wet or immersed for a long time to dissolve all the mineral deposits. 

The drawback of this strategy is that the acid might eat up the aluminum even before it fully dissolves the build-up. 

Also, it wouldn’t be so practical to build an acid bath to let your huge pontoon boat sit on for long periods to remove the limestone. 

So, the best way is to use sandpaper and scratch horizontally to ensure that any excess abrasions will be less visible. 

Then clean the boat with a reliable pontoon cleaner before finishing the job with a polish to restore the finish that will protect it from future marine growth. 



Cleaning pontoons on a trailer can be a tricky project, but this does not mean it’s impossible to restore the tubes’ mirror-like finish.

You can easily brighten the tubes while the boat is still on the trailer. All you have to do is lift the pontoon boat properly to temporarily work on the tubes. 

Then choose the appropriate pontoon cleaning method and get the job done within no time. 

The methods discussed in this article are proven effective, but be sure to choose one that suits your specific needs. 

Nonetheless, you’ll need to be a bit cautious when cleaning the tubes as the acidic cleaning agents can easily ruin your trailer and other anodized parts of the boat. 

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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