How to Wash and Service Your Boat for a Clean Creek

Properly Manage Your Boat: Keep Trash, Oil Solvents and Toxicants Out of Our Creek  Classic Wooden Boat in Spa Creek

Did You Know?
•    Boat bottom paint and solvents are identified as sources of toxic contaminants in Spa Creek
•    A drop of oil can pollute a million drops of fresh water
•    A single quart of oil can pollute 250,000 gallons of drinking water
•    Everything that washes into gutters and storm drains from your boat ends up in Chesapeake Bay
•    Cooperstown, New York is in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Imagine the damaging effects of this huge area draining into Chesapeake Bay.

Keep Trash Out of the Water

•    Put nothing in the water, even cigarette butts
•    Rescue anything that gets blown in.  Plastics and aluminum drink tabs are deadly to fish and birds.
•    Buy products without excess packaging
•    Purchase refreshments in containers you can recycle

Recycle!  What & Where?
•    Cans, glass, plastic, newspaper, antifreeze, oil, and lead batteries.
•    Recycle your used monofilament fishing line by taking it to a tackle shop.
•    Visit or or
•    Call 1-800-4-RECYCLE for locations.

Fueling your boat
Fuel expands as it warms, so fill only to 90% and fill up just before leaving on a trip. Use oil absorbent cloth to catch drips and overflows. Fill portable fuel tanks ashore. Report spills to the U. S. Coast Guard at 800-424-8802. Add a fuel stabilizer to your tank if you use your engine frequently.

Washing Your Boat
Wash gently and often. Use sponge and plain water. Wax your boat - - a good coat of wax prevents surface dirt from becoming ingrained. Use detergents sparingly and use phosphate-free biodegradable and non-toxic cleaners. Do not use chlorine! Clean wood with a mild soap powder and nylon brush. Conserve water - - put a spray nozzle on your hose.

Maintaining Your Boat
Be Careful and Wise every time you use your boat, especially when commissioning for the season. Most anti-fouling paints contain toxic materials such as copper, mercury, arsenic or tributyltin. The volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) in commonly used topside paints are also a concern. Ask about the newer, environmentally safer paints. Dispose of all paint chips, dust and residue in the trash. Share leftover paint and varnish.

All solvents are toxic. Use carefully and save. Take used solvents, waste gas, used oil filters (bagged in plastic) to local hazardous waste collection sites. Call 410-222-7951 for further information.

Control Oil in the Bilge
Keep engine tuned up, repair all leaks, and have oil absorbent material in the bilge.  Replace it once a year.  Dispose of oil absorbent materials by double bagging in heavy plastic bags. Put them in the trash.  Use enzyme-based bilge cleaners.  Never discharge bilge water with sheen.  It is illegal!

Disposing of Oil Absorbent Materials
•    If absorbent cloth is saturated with gas, allow it to air dry.  Reuse
•    If absorbent pad is saturated with oil or diesel fuel, double bag it in plastic, one bag sealed inside another and put it in regular trash.
•    Bio-remediating bilge booms should not be put in plastic bags.  Discard in regular trash.

Changing Oil
Clean up all drips and recycle used oil at a public collection area.  See for recycling locations.

Battery acid is as lethal to the environment as it is to your skin.  Store batteries under cover and recycle when no longer needed.  Most battery vendors will accept old batteries for proper disposal.

Propane Tanks

Handle carefully to prevent gas from escaping.  Highly volatile and flammable, propane is heavier than air and will drop to the lowest part of the boat (the bilge) and explode with a flash fire when the engine is started.  Recycle unwanted tanks.

Onboard Heads (Toilets)
Never discharge raw sewage – it is illegal! Use the restroom ashore if possible.  Use approved Marine Sanitation Devices (MSDs) on boats, and maintain regularly.  Pump out holding tanks at approved facilities, rinse using enzyme-based products.  Avoid products containing (QAC) and formaldehyde.  Visit or call 1-877-620-8DNR (8367)

•    Do not put anything in the water; (no cigarette butts, orange peels, banana peels, wrappers)
•    Plastic and aluminum drink can top are deadly to fish
•    Wash your boat with sponge and plain water.  Do Not use chlorine!
•    Keep oils and battery acid, solvents and paint out of the water.

References and Resources
MD Dept. Natural Resources, 877-620-8DNR (8367)