cleaning old Royalex canoe

Just picked up a old 17’ Mad River Royalex beater canoe. It appears to have been stored under a tarp for a long while and has stains and discoloration. Fortunately, while the wood is very dry it’s not rotted as I have seen in many old wood trimmed canoes. There are no screw hole cracks in the hull that I can see.

So, Mike and others who specialize in the restoration of beaters, what product is best to wash the hull with to remove the grime and stains that are not permanent? I know 303 is used after but want to get it as clean as possible first.

After cleaning the hull the wood trim will need sanding followed by oil a few times and I’m fine with that part.


You’ll get better answers than mine,
but I would try some strong cleaners designed for vinyl. That’s what the surface layer of Royalex/“ABS” is made of. Usually one has a combo of chalking (due to age and UV damage) and adhering dirt. To get rid of the chalky surface, either mechanical (scrape or sand) or chemical ablation is necessary. That’s where Mike may know the best approach.

Us WW paddlers just figure that the surface dirt and chalk protect what’s underneath.

How I met Mike
Wood gunwales, that were very dry but looked solid, on a friend’s boat. I offered to help this friend renew the oil finish, and we removed the gunwales so we could oil them on the flat side where they contact the hull. We sanded them lightly, three of them anyways. My friend was sanding the fourth one when, “woopsie” it fell in half in her hands. This one gunwale had several spots where the screw had opened a little crack on either side of the screw hole, and the gunwale had turned to dust on the inside. This discovery set us on a path which, about a year later, resulted in a day at McCraes, during which I assisted Mike as he performed his most favorite gunwale replacement, ever. Yessiree, Mike was smiling ear-to-ear all the day long.

Beware of wood gunwales that look very dry but solid. I definately recommend just light sanding and oil them ON THE BOAT. Taking them off can lead to gunwale replacement. I always wondered, if we had just oiled them in place and then gone boating, when, if ever, would we have realized that one gunwale was just a make-believe gunwale.

Recently sold an older Bell royalex hull
which had sat outside ‘for too long’ and had seriously discolored and stained beyond what my cleaning/scrubbing could restore. The guy who bought it came by the shop recently and I’d never have known it was the same hull. It looked new! He told me he took 303 and an electric car buffer and buffed for around 2 hours. I wouldn’t have believed anyone could have restored that hull, but believe me, it looked new. I could no longer see any sign of stains or fading. Worth a try?

Buffing with 303
Thanks, Stickman.

I like your suggestion better than using Penetrol, since 303 is what I intend to use last anyway.