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Old 11-01-2010, 04:41   #1
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Creating a Spotless Bilge...

Hi all, i'm new here and i'm looking to get some knowledge on cleaning a bilge out. Our boat is glass and the engine is diesel. I have tracked the smell to leaking fuel delivery pipes from the tank pouring small amounts of fuel over the back of the engine and down into the bilge. I have replaced these pipes and stopped the leaks here but I am now faced with that horrible diesel smell through everything inside the boat. To top it all off my wife has a health condition which means she is VERY!!! sensitive to chemicals. So this leads me on to my main question, has anyone here managed to clean a bilge out without using nuclear grade cleaning products? we will be scrubbing this boat down from ceiling to keel bolts (even under the cockpit!) and I don't mind elbow grease (within reason). Any help would be much appreciated.
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Old 11-01-2010, 05:04   #2
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Water Blaster...

When I brought Boracay I was faced with a boat that had had old engine oil in many places from an old, leaky engine.

I tried all the usual chemicals and none really worked.

What did work was a high pressure water blaster. Just the cheapest basic model from my mega hardware store. Took most of the oil off and I used the bilge pump to pump the result into drums. I paid to dispose of the worst of it at a commercial disposal facility. The remainder I pumped into a 20 litre beer fermenter where the oil was absorbed by oil absorbent pads.

Anything that was still there came off with a water soluble degreaser that also came from my local mega hardware store (use only under adult supervision in a well ventilated space).

It was a truly horrible job that took months (mostly working out how to do it).

Of course just after I finished I found there was a commercial firm that would do it. I don't know what they are like but it may well be worth talking to them. Link to Scrub a Tub
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Old 11-01-2010, 05:40   #3
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When you got the bilge clean I'd suggest that you put diapers on the engine bed (under the engine and oil pan). We don't use the special engine diapers that are expensive as gold but ordinary diapers, the largest we can find. They are designed to hold lots of poo so a little oil is no problem Our engine (Perkins) leaks all kinds of funky fluids

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Old 11-01-2010, 05:46   #4
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Like the regular diaper idea,will pick some up today.Are there brand specific.I have a west.(british-leyland).marc
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:41   #5
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Another option would be a good steam/vapor cleaner. I'm in the currently process of cleaning my engine room with one. It works well without any chemicals and even better with an all purpose cleaner sprayed on beforehand.

Regards, Carl
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:49   #6
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Yup, Simple Green or Fast Orange and a steam cleaner.
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Old 11-01-2010, 08:58   #7
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Clean Bilge

I use Automatic Dishwashing detergent (Powder, tablets or liquid) (You know... for that noisy thing under the counter in a house) It smells "ok"

And a long handled brush to get under everything. The detergent will not foam up and render the bilge pump usless. Drop one of the ADW tablets in the bilge every once and a while and it will remain clean and schmegma free. Pump the initial oooz into a see through container and let settle Then drain off the good water and dispose of the gooo.
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Old 11-01-2010, 10:28   #8
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I am doing the same thing and the diesel smell is one that prevails and the crew finds most objectionable. After some testing on things like lines, canvas and fixtures, here is what works for me.
- Simple green or Fast Orange with Calgon water softener in the water. Soak for about 30 minutes. (Some people have used Tide laundry cleaner) The odor from the cleaner was gone when using Calgon. If you like the Orange (or Green?) smell sorry.

For the bilge my approach once the engine work is done will be:
(Before starting - Turn off the bilge pumps.)
1. Simple Green mixed into water - fairly strong, with Calgon as recommended on box/bottle.
2. Scrub everything down, starting with the engine room and switching to new scrubbers between the engine room and the bilge.
+++ using a new toilet brush and toothbrush was recommended and you will want to throw them away the first time.
+++ Ensure you get the underside of the floor boards, (sailboat where the the 1" of water is spread on the sides of the bilge for 90% of any trip. )
3. Rinse well with fresh water.
4. Dry it out
5. Replace/install oil absorbers.

My understanding is all the water you are "washing out" needs to be captured and legally disposed of or you should be fined for sheening the water. This means you will need an old shop vac to dry out everything and somewhere to dispose of the outcome. Thanks to S/V Antares for the great idea - that will save a lot of effort in getting rid of the waste. (Amazing how simple ideas are overlooked)

I like the idea of steam cleaning as it may eliminate many of the extra chemicals in use and minimize the water discharge. However, steam cleaners (like pressure washers) are notorious for getting past seals, damaging light plastics, penetrating electronics, etc. So keep clear of those if they are in the bilge or on the engine.

Here is what has been suggested preventatives:
++ Toss Calgon in the bilge from time to time and let it work its magic while sailing. Many claim it works great as a preventative without soap.
++ Mix 50/50 Water/White Vinegar in a garden sprayer and spray the bilge, under the floor boards, etc. once or twice a year. (Then leave for a few days because you made the air acidic.)
++ Bilgebuster with all the ozone issues that may occur. (and it is expensive). This gets rid of the odor, but I may not smell an even bigger issue.

I wish I could give credit but I have been looking into this issue across so many sites I am not sure where they came from.
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Old 11-01-2010, 10:51   #9
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yep, forgot about the Calgon. Unfortunately, every store I've been in down here doesn't have it.
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Old 11-01-2010, 18:14   #10
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Steam Cleaning the Gunk...

Thanks for all the ideas guys, i will look into the steam cleaning option further as I would like to stay away from chemicals if possible. luckly the design of our bilge keeps all gunk in a small narrow trough just above the keel so i should be able to control the slashing of having a steam cleaner inside the cabin.

Thanks once again
Damien
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Old 11-01-2010, 18:32   #11
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Someone else on this forum (sorry, forgotten who), recommended "Orange TKO" to clean diesel taste/smell out of water tanks as it is non-toxic. The web site claims:

"Orange TKO is a citrus cleaner/degreaser made from the peel of the orange. It is an emulsifier which contains no synthetic chemicals, petroleum distillates, or detergents. It is also 100% environmentally friendly, biodegradable, and non-toxic."

HOME

I got a bottle and liked it. It does work very well on oil. It also smells quite a bit better to me than Simple Green. Very concentrated. You mix it at the rate of 2 oz. per gallon of water.

Carl
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Old 11-01-2010, 19:36   #12
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One other note - regardless of your approach, put in fans for ventilation before starting. Even steam will cause the petrolium distillates to become airborn and able to enter the lungs. If I don't want it in the bilge, I certainly don't want to breathe it.
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Old 11-01-2010, 19:50   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marc2012 View Post
Like the regular diaper idea,will pick some up today.Are there brand specific.I have a west.(british-leyland).marc
Yes.

For Yanmar, use Huggies.
For Perkins, use Treasures.
For West, use Pampers.
And for Cummins, I suggest Abena adult diapers.
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Old 11-01-2010, 21:45   #14
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Don't use disposable diapers......they may be ok when the bilge is dry but when they get wet they fall apart.....and you wind up with all the diaper goo in the bilge...it is really slimy.

Seriously oil sorbs are only a buck
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