Gelcoat restoration - product recommendations

I picked up a Clipper Ranger that’s about 10-15 years old and was stored outside.
When it’s wet, the color looks fantastic, but when dry, it’s quite faded.

Would this be considered light, medium, or heavy oxidation?

If I could get my hands on the “Meguiar’s M4965 Marine/RV Fiberglass Restoration System” at a discount, I would probably go that route, since it includes a compound, polish, and wax, but I’m a cheapskate, and wondering if a 2-in-1 product such as the 3M 09005 (Restorer and wax) or 09009 (Cleaner and wax) would work equally well.

From the videos I’ve watched (on larger boats), most recommend using a wool buffing pad.
I’ve read that the 09005 does NOT work well with a buffer, whereas the 09009 does.

If I’m looking at heavy or medium oxidation, how about using Meguiar’s Heavy Duty Oxidation Remover followed by the 3M 09009 Cleaner And Wax?

I’ve read folks here swearing by 303 Protectant for UV protection, however the 3M products both claim UV protection as well. Once waxed, I’ll be tarping it to keep it out of direct sunlight.

Try wet sanding it first.

Thanks for the suggestion @PaddleDog58
I just picked up some old 3M 09005 Restorer and wax from Marketplace.
What would you suggest as an applicator? I’m thinking I might apply this by hand instead of with the buffer.

EDIT: Also, the craft may be much older than I thought. If the last two digits of the serial number are indeed the production year, then this is actually from '95

It’s hard to tell the extent of the oxidation without knowing what the original color was. If the gelcoat is thick enough, you can restore it to like new condition…with a lot of work. If it’s thin, you can’t get too aggressive and you may have to settle for less than what you want.

Here’s a link to a tutorial I made of a kayak I restored: Gelcoat Restoration |

Lambs wool pad and Porter Cable random orbital sander polisher. Less chance of damaging gelcoat. Wet sand by hand 3M Wetordry 800 or 1000. Plenty of water. Foam sanding block even a piece of minicell.

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This is not restoration but a lot less work. I clean my canoe with soap and water after using and during the season wipe it down about once a month with a product called FluidFilm that is a lanolin based product or wool wax from sheep. There are other boat related wool wax products on the market also. I store my poly canoe outside year round uncovered and before I load it on the rack in the fall I give it a good coating and don’t bother wiping it off till spring.

I really don’t think it provides any benefit in my case when paddling and may help some with outside storage and UV and such but its main purpose for me is it makes the boat look much nicer. Here is a before and after. The first time I used it.

Good if you’re selling but I found the longevity very short maybe three trips.

Just paint it.

Cost money

Thanks so much for all the great advice folks!

I reached out to Western Canoe and Kayak with regards to the gelcoat thickness and they pointed me towards their writeup on the Clipper website: Refinishing Gel Coat – Clipper Canoes

I was able to borrow my neighbours 7" hook and loop polisher, so went ahead and ordered an inexpensive 3-pack of wool compounding pads:

I think I’m going to save some time and elbow grease and shy away from the wet-sanding.

Just wondering if I need a polishing or finishing pad in addition to the pads above?
I assume the lambs wool pads are meant to be finer, something like this:

Kind of my point. If you plan on washing the boat after each use a good idea if not for the boat to stop cross contamination of the waterways. That’s a 5-10 minute job, then every third or forth time a wipe down with wool wax takes another 5 minutes.

Once you get the boat buffed out you will want to keep it looking nice so you are back to the same place of giving it a coat of something once a month.

Last pad you show will cut a lot it depends on the compound you apply.

It certainly makes sense to try buffing it first, but if the finish is seriously oxidized, wet sanding is actually easier and faster. Another thing to consider is that using a buffer to remove a lot of material is likely to produce a wavy surface. Wet sanding won’t as long as you sand the surface evenly using a rubber or firm foam block. Once the major material removal is done, you can use the buffer to bring back the shine without worrying about screwing up the surface.

Another thing you may want to consider is limiting your polishing to the area above the waterline, where the damage is minimal, as is the work required. You may even want to paint the submerged area with something abrasion resistant, like truck bed liner. It also hides scratches pretty well.

Polishing compound, a few old tee shirts, a chair, and a six pack.

I have had really good luck with 3M perfect it, but it is hard to find, so any brand will do.

This is what I’m working with. Two and half bottles of old, but still liquid 2-in-1.
I know the amount is overkill, but it was only $10 CAD for the lot.

Thanks for the beer reminder. I might be taking this a bit too seriously, it’s something I would probably forget otherwise :smile:

The only problem with the 2 in 1 is getting the wax out before painting. The girlfriend might decide it clashes with her eyes or something and want you to paint it.

If you don’t like the color, wait a year or so and most of the wax will have dissipated.

Or just start with a small spot, rub it out, then sit back, have a beer and see if you like it.

Remove wax with Dawn dish soap.

That will not be very aggressive on badly faded gelcoat.

I had my first experience with the 3M 09009 today. Works great on lightly oxidized hulls. It recommends 3M 09005 Restorer and Wax for more heavily oxidized hulls.

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