Cleaning Wood Gunwales

My wood gunwales need oiling (first time) but they’re really dirty and fading. My plan is to apply Deks which I’ve used on another canoe.

Can someone recommend a cleaning method? Dishsoap? Bleach? Ammonia? Sanding?

Thanks for any wisdom.

Is this your relatively new Peregrine?
Just asking so folks who really know this stuff like N.T. and Arkay know that it’s a fairly new boat (a year old, I think??)

Yes, but if you tell Dave Curtis I let it get into this condition, I’ll deny everything!!

Ask Dave
He’ll know what type coating was there originally and can advise how to brighten it and use a compatible oil for the next coat. Since the woodwork is dirty and discoloring that proves you’re using it regularly, so that will please Dave:)

plastic scouring pad
the heavy duty kind they sell at the hardware store along with a bleaching scrubbing agent like comet. rub it down really good , rinse, repeat. let it dry thoroughly, then reapply oil. i like deks too…i never did this before but i did stay at a holiday motel!

Recommended treatment
for a Peregrine is cleaning with soap and water, light sanding, if necessary, followed by Watco Clear Wood Preservative (oil). You can check on the Hemlock web site.

I put some Watco on my Peregrine yesterday after returning from Raystown and the gunwales really glow.

With wood gunwales, do not let the wood get dried out. Reapply as needed. The oil is cheap. New gunwales are expensive.

So what did you
do with your gunwales?

How bad are they?
if they are dried out on the underside and turning grey(weathered) you need to pull everything off and light sand to bring it back to new and reoil everything a couple of times before you put it back together. Do the tops last after you reinstall so the seams match up.

Or if you don’t care about the looks just get some oil on to arrest the damage.

If it’s just wear on the topside you can leave them on and clean them down by light sanding and rubbing in some fresh oil with a scotch pad. I block sand the top so everything matches up nice. Depending on the color of your boat the gunwales my be stained (Butternut or dark Walnut) if so you will need to match up the color and restain before you reoil.

If you keep the boat inside and dry wood trim will last many years with little maintence.

Outdoors (even under a tarp) UV, rain, temp changes, humidity and critters will kill your 250 dollar gunwales in short order.

I’ve noticed that canoests are just like Bikers in that some just like to ride their scooters and never clean them…others want a spit shine all the time. But even a Harley can’t run for long without an oil change.

I used to scrub my gunwales with a stiff brush and Bon Ami cleanser (which is also safe for stained hulls). It really sounds like yours need sanding…start with 150 and if that doesn’t work go to 100 grit and then 150, then 220, then 320 only if you want to.

Then I’d also recommend Watco since it’s the toughest finish and you don’t sound like you want to be oiling your rails very often. Use rubber gloves and let it dry for several weeks and it gets a hard, long lasting finish. Good thing to do over the winter.

And I’d bet that Dave would love to give you advice. One cool thing about his boats (Curtis and Hemlock) is that they all seem to last forever regardless of us! He builds a nice boat.

Gunwale cleaning
Any reason you can’t use products made for cleaning other woods (furniture, floors)? Murphy’s Oil Soap comes to mind, although for all I know there may be a reason not to use it.

What worked
Thanks, everyone, for the advise. I ended up using a green scrub pad and bon ami, rinse, rinse more, wait for dry, and then a few applications of Deks. Wood is now nicely saturated and ready for whatever comes.