GREEN Marine Cleaning

by Benny LeCompte

Preparing a hull for painting can be one of a boater’s toughest jobs, which is why many marinas or boatyards usually end up doing the work. But traditional powerwashing is not effective against removing bilge-oil film, old paint and blisters—and rougher methods like sanding and chemical treatments can destroy the boat’s thin gelcoat. Blasting the surface with a high-power stream of bicarbonate of soda, the same material that soothes an upset stomach, removes multiple layers of old paint and opens up blisters for repair—in 1/10th of the time.

Employing the same technology used to restore old cars and remove graffiti, SodaBlasting directs a high pressure (75 to 150 psi) stream of soda and air at the hull. The machines are supplied by SodaBlast Systems™ to trained operators and private contractors, who easily trailer the units to the job site and move the machine among individual boats. Simple plastic tenting around the boat contains the removed paint and dust, which is then easily collected and discarded.

An added benefit of SodaBlasting is its ability to expose hidden problems, especially blisters that have been covered by multiple layers of paint. Boat surveyors, working on behalf of prospective boat buyers, rely on SodaBlasting to pinpoint problems that could otherwise be overlooked.

For sailors and high-performance boat owners who dislike speed-robbing bottom paint, SodaBlasting will completely remove all existing paint from the gelcoat in preparation for a final surface buffing. And for new boats, SodaBlasting removes the shine from the gelcoat before the bottom is painted for the first time.

Antifouling paint suppliers appreciate SodaBlasting’s ability to properly prepare the hull for a blister-protecting barrier coat. Often overlooked or improperly done, preparing the surface for a barrier coat is an extremely important step that ensures proper adhesion of subsequent antifoul coatings. In this procedure, the SodaBlasting machine’s pressure is decreased, which allows the gelcoat to be gently etched without damaging the hull. This allows the barrier coat to firmly bond to the surface of the gelcoat.
SodaBlasting can safely and effectively remove multiple layers of bottom paint and prepare blisters for repair at lower costs than any conventional method.

To remove existing blisters by conventional methods, hundreds of man-hours are often necessary. SodaBlasting can safely and effectively remove 500 blisters and feather the edges for repair in only a few hours. In severe cases of blistering, the entire hull of a 36-foot boat can be simply and safely Sodablasted in half a day or less.

Spotting blisters on an unpainted hull is usually obvious. But when the bottom is camouflaged with multiple layers of paint and marine growth, a less labor-intensive approach is needed. Unlike sanding or corrosive chemicals, SodaBlasting removes old coats of antifoulant and blisters quickly, without damaging non-blistered, bare gelcoat, and then properly prepares the surface for repair—all in one operation.

Blisters are most often caused by osmotic intrusion of water into the hull. As water molecules enter the hull, they pick up acids and other chemicals that alter their composition and size, making the molecules larger and trapping them inside. Since these molecules are unable to find their way out, pressure builds up and forces the gelcoat to separate from the fiberglass, forming a blister. If the blister breaks while immersed, it allows for greater water intrusion into the fiberglass laminate, and perpetrates the blistering process to deeper levels.

Traditional blister repair involves grinding, sanding or sandblasting the hull. This process is time-consuming, labor intensive and, unless extreme care is taken, can result in severe or permanent damage to the gelcoat and fiberglass laminate. SodaBlast Systems™ of Houston, Texas, provides a fast, effective and controlled alternative to these conventional methods.
In the SodaBlasting process, a non-destructive stream of air-driven, formulated baking soda under high pressure is first used to strip the antifoulant paint and open the blister. Then, to prepare the surface for repair and repainting, the affected area around the blister is feathered by split-second, swirled “micro-blasting.” This finishes the surface in preparation for repair. The entire process can be accomplished in 1/10 the time as traditional techniques, resulting in a properly prepared surface that is ready for blister repair and painting.
The actual SodaBlasting step only takes a few hours and, depending on the size of the boat, the entire process can be completed in a day or less.
To locate a Certified SodaBlast Systems™ Preferred Contractor or find out more about this GREEN Cleaning equipment, contact SodaBlast Systems™:
Toll Free: 800-727-5707 Ext. 24
Fax: 713-868-8041
Benny LeCompte is President of SodaBlast Systems™ -for more information, visit or contact LeCompte at

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