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Old 24-09-2023, 06:56   #1
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Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

I'm looking for comments from people who have experience with cleaning products related to getting the grime out of a bilge. On my S2 11.0A, there is a bilge channel that is about 10" deep that runs under the sole, for the length of the keel, this is fairly easy to access and clean, however, on the aft end of the channel is a bilge-well that is about 18" deep, and the access plate is annoyingly offset so cleaning the bilge-well by hand is difficult at best. Last year while on the hard, I tried engine degreaser, and then an enzyme-based septic tank cleaner to try and break down the decades of shower soap, diesel, and the general flotsome and jetsom that found its way into the bottom of the boat that built-up the grime.

The boat now has only a slight tinge of a diesel smell that I believe can be completey eliminated if I can get rid of the grime that is in the bilge well, and other than trying to manuver a toilet brush down there through the offset access plate, does anyone know of any product that can be used to breakdown the grime so it can be simply washed away?
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Old 24-09-2023, 06:59   #2
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Re: Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

Try an orange based degreaser or cleaner. I buy mine at Home Depot.
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Old 24-09-2023, 07:14   #3
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Re: Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

I would use Sodium Hydroxide. (Caustic Soda)

You will need to exercise extreme caution,
Observe all safety precautions,
Have neutralizer handy (2 gals of white vinegar)

Rubber gloves, Eye protection.
Some gasses might develop, have fans running.
Dont have any aluminium in the area.
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Old 24-09-2023, 08:27   #4
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Re: Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

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Originally Posted by sy_gilana View Post
I would use Sodium Hydroxide. (Caustic Soda)

You will need to exercise extreme caution,
Observe all safety precautions,
Have neutralizer handy (2 gals of white vinegar)

Rubber gloves, Eye protection.
Some gasses might develop, have fans running.
Dont have any aluminium in the area.
This is SUCH a bad idea... just NOOOOOO!

It is dangerous to you, and to parts of your boat. Using this kind of heavy duty corrosive is completely unnecessary. The whole process of using NaOH for something like this is fraught with hazards, and telling someone to use this who does not have a good understanding of the hazards involved is irresponsible.

We use a cleaning product called KrudKutter. It has proved very effective against all kinds of bilge slime. It will not blind you, dissolve your skin, or your boat. There are any number of other brands of potent surfactants that can do as well. Be aware, however, that diesel fuel oder is a VERY tough one. Diesel soaks into many surfaces. Depending on how porous they are will have a large impact on the success of your cleaning effort no matter what you use.

For especially difficult places we have sprayed generously with KrudKutter and let it soak for an hour or more, then come in with either a long handled brush, or a borrowed or rented powerwasher. We have a wet/dry vac to collect the resulting liquid if it contains ANY oil because we do not want to pump it overboard. The big advantage of a powerwasher is it minimises the amount of water being added, and hence needing to be collected for disposal.
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Old 24-09-2023, 08:54   #5
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Re: Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

We carry sodium percarbonate (primary ingredient in OxyClean) to dose our holding tank (1 tablespoon a day adds oxygen to help with odors). On occasion, I add a tablespoon to the bilge water. Pretty impressive results.
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Old 24-09-2023, 09:52   #6
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Re: Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

I recommend you avoid all the hassle, potential danger and probable re-occurrence by employing Biocide's Marine Shocker in the bilge. It is a safe, Eco-friendly solution of time released Chlorine dioxide that will eliminate all organic or chemical odors - just place the Marine Shocker tea bag-like packet in a couple of ounces of tap water in the tub provided and leave the boat overnight while it works. As a gas it will permeate every nook and cranny including carpet and upholstery. Even eliminates cigarette smoke-smell with one application. For my 46 foot boat I use two units- one in the fore peak one in the aft cabin when I close up for the winter and have zero residual odors when I return in the spring. Last spring I helped a friend who professionally details boats and cars to successfully remove a pervasive odor from a 60 ft Hatteras that had resisted elimination for several years by using 5 Marine Shocker units - 1 unit per closed space including the engine room. Next morning odor totally gone.
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Old 24-09-2023, 09:56   #7
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Re: Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

engine cleaner in a car center, then steam cleaning,
you will eat in the bilge!
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Old 24-09-2023, 10:44   #8
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Re: Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

Although a sodium hydroxide application could give the bilge cleanliness you desire, the hazards to you and the boat far outweigh the advantages. Yes, it dissolves many organic compounds that you want removed but also many that you want to keep such as your skin, eyes, sinuses and tissues of the mouth (from the vapors). Many industrial degreasers could leave your bilge spotless but, again, the hazards are severe so they won't be listed here. Follow one of the other less hazardous suggestions listed above.
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Old 24-09-2023, 13:24   #9
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Re: Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

I had to deal with the aftermath of a runaway diesel a few months ago. The boat reeked badly.
It almost knocked you out when you opened the companionway.
This smell was the worst I ever had to deal with. Worse than a holding tank full and ripe out in the sun. Oily slime everywhere.

Simple green and paper towels worked. No smells and a very clean bilge now.
Use it right from the spray bottle and wipe, I did not dilute it. It cleaned up the oil and everything else, not to mention no smells.
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Old 24-09-2023, 14:29   #10
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Re: Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

Plus one for the simple green and paper towels… it works for me.
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Old 24-09-2023, 19:03   #11
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Re: Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

Sometimes the real "magic" of cleaning is just some elbow grease.
Many times I've used "Windex" glass cleaner to clean surfaces that had been contaminated with diesel fuel.
I guess it's the ammonia in it, whatever, it works pretty well and is not prohibitively expensive.
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Old 24-09-2023, 19:22   #12
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Re: Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

A second plug for orange hand cleaner/degreaser such as can be found at HD. It usually has a light grit in it too that helps rub off stubborn dirt or grease. I used it on my engine compartment and aft space and it worked well on decades of baked on grime. Hard to envision the tight space you describe but perhaps a medium stiffness brush on a handle might help with the scrubbing.

And my experience agrees with the earlier statement on elbow grease.
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Old 24-09-2023, 20:09   #13
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Re: Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

Not for cleaning, but for post-cleaning odor and algae prevention, does anyone else use A/C pan tablets?

I toss a few down there every time I'm on the boat

I expect someone will tell me what I'm doing wrong
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Old 24-09-2023, 22:49   #14
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Re: Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

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Not for cleaning, but for post-cleaning odor and algae prevention, does anyone else use A/C pan tablets?
👍👍 They are cheap and work well to prevent algae and other bio-sludge forming in the bilge.
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Old 25-09-2023, 05:09   #15
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Re: Chemical cleaning product for grime in the bilge?

I appreciate the many suggestions. Some of them are not practical simply because of the accessibility problem I mentioned in the original post. I wanted to try something that can sit and dissolve the grime since I can't really wipe it out. To that end I've gotten a few good suggestions that I'll try at the end of the season when I'm back on the hard.
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Originally Posted by GreenWave View Post
:
Thanks; as long as it doesn't require scrubbing, it could be an option, since access is the problem.
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Originally Posted by sy_gilana View Post
:
Thanks; I'll try less caustic options first.
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Originally Posted by SailingHarmonie View Post
:
I appreciate the concern; I'm going to try milder solutions first.
Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingharry View Post
:
I like this, but I think I'll do that will be for ongoing upkeep after the heavier stuff is gone.
Quote:
Originally Posted by NightSky46 View Post
Biocide's Marine Shocker
I really like this; it was what I was trying to achieve with the septic enzyme powder I tried.
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Originally Posted by bil56 View Post
engine cleaner then steam cleaning
Lack of access is the problem with a steam cleaner.
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Mathis View Post
:
I appreciate the concern. I'm comfortable with caustic compounds, but at that, for this issue, it would be only as a last resort.
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Originally Posted by NorthCoastJoe View Post
,
,
Quote:
Originally Posted by skipperpete View Post
,
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nekton73 View Post
&
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bowdrie View Post
:
Thanks folks, but again, access is the problem here, and degreasers/cleaners without the elbow grease don't seem to do it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by flightlead404 View Post
&
Quote:
Originally Posted by osprey877 View Post
:
I like this idea for maintenance.
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