How to safely disinfect boats

Published on May 26th, 2020

After discussing boat cleaning at length with people around the USA as they formulate their summer plans, Zim Sailing’s Bob Adam offers ideas on how to facilitate these plans:

It is becoming increasingly optimistic that junior programing will take place this summer. Albeit, the new normal will require significant changes and I admire all the insight and dedication that program directors and chairs have put into a safe return to play for our athletes.

Countless hours have been put in by everyone to ensure the safety of students, competitors, staff, and volunteers. COVID-19 has affected each region and community differently. New guidelines are issued on a daily or weekly basis and it is incredibly challenging to keep it all straight.

The one remaining constant is to wash your hands, do not touch your face and when possible, wear a face covering. However, one of the hottest topics is how to safely disinfect your boat and equipment.

There has been significant discussing on the use of bleach to disinfect boats. The following was taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hard (Non-porous) Surfaces:
• Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Gloves should be discarded after each cleaning. If reusable gloves are used, those gloves should be dedicated for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces for COVID-19 and should not be used for other purposes. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disinfection products used. Clean hands immediately after gloves are removed.

• If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

• For disinfection, most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective:
— A list of products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 is available. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products for (concentration, application method and contact time, etc.).
— Additionally, diluted household bleach solutions (at least 1000ppm sodium hypochlorite) can be used if appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application, ensuring a contact time of at least 1 minute, and allowing proper ventilation during and after application. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.

• Prepare a bleach solution by mixing:
— 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water or
— 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water

• Bleach solutions will be effective for disinfection up to 24 hours.

Many guidelines recommend cleaning the surface with soap and water prior to disinfecting. This may not need to be done if your boats are already in clean condition. I would recommend spraying boats down with a bleach solution in a standard garden sprayer. Let it sit for a minute and then rinse with fresh or saltwater. If you do not have a hose, then a bucket or bailer will work just as well.

Many folks have expressed concerns about using bleach and the environment and potential damage to the boat or equipment. There is significant information online that shows diluted bleach may not be an issue to the environment. Secondly, this low solution will not damage the boat or equipment.

I have spoken with many programs around the country and it looks like most will be reopening between now and July 6th. With that, clubs are being creative to get some local and regional regattas going. I am thrilled to see so much creativity taking place and I look forward to being onsite supporting these events.

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