Powerboat Review

Reprint from POWERBOAT April 1997...

Fibreglass Hull Restorers: So Far, New Glass & Poli Glow Shine

Of the seven restorers we tested, dealer-applied Microshield produced the highest gloss, but all the products produced a longer-lasting shine than regular boat wax.

The surest way to insure that your vessel keeps its "new boat shine" is to buy a new boat every couple of years. Failing that, you're forced to fall back on the dazzling array of polishes, waxes, and Fibreglass restorers that crowd chandler shelves and catalog pages.

None of these products can perform miracles. Most can keep a glossy Fibreglass surface that is in good shape shinier for longer than if left untreated. Most can distinctly improve the appearance of weathered Fibreglass But all of them are best thought of as temporary fixes. The two real questions are, "How much improvement?" and "How temporary?"

How They Work

New gelcoat starts out with bright, fresh pigments suspended in a very smooth plastic film, similar to a fresh, painted surface. It's glossy because rays of light striking the surface from an angle are virtually all reflected in the same direction. As the gelcoat ages under the influence of sun, water, and weather two things happen: The surface of the gelcoat becomes microscopically pitted, and the pigments tend to change colour due to surface oxidation and UV absorption.

The degraded pigment causes blotchy colour changes. The pitting causes light striking the surface to scatter, or be reflected more or less randomly. Both conditions require separate treatment.

Since the colour change is almost completely restricted to the outer surface of the gelcoat, scraping or grinding off the surface layer of gelcoat should-and does-restore a bright, uniform colour The usual "tool" for this is an abrasive, commonly suspended in a liquid. Products with fine abrasives are called polishes; those with coarser, more aggressive abrasives are called rubbing compounds. Polishes work best on slightly weathered surfaces; rubbing compounds on more severely weathered ones. For most cases of bad weathering, the procedure is to use a compound until the colour becomes uniform, and then polish until the surface is smooth.

Once you have a uniform, smooth surface, the next step is to cover it with a very smooth, transparent film. Almost anything-including plain water- will cover the surface and provide a good shine. The trick is to get something that will keep the surface covered for a reasonable length of time without disappearing and with-out its surface becoming pitted.

The traditional surface film is wax. Waxing a polished Fibreglass surface works fine-for awhile. Back in 1994, we reported on 25 different waxes, all but one of which failed a water beading test after three months of exposure to the elements, and all of which showed noticeable loss of gloss in that time period. The best waxes we found were paste waxes-these contain a higher percentage of high-molecular-weight wax. They're also the most difficult to apply.

So-called "Fibreglass restorers" go a step further. Instead of leaving a wax film, they put a clear acrylic or acrylic-urethane film on the polished fibreglass. Typically a Fibreglass restorer consists of a water-based emulsion of acrylic resin which dries to a continuous clear film. The emulsion is very low viscosity-almost like plain water-so application is much easier than with paste wax, although several coats are required. Based on some tests we've conducted in the past, restorers can be expected to outlast waxes by a considerable margin. One boat we tested has had a yearly application of New Glass-the first restorer we tried-and it's still shining after four years.

What We Tested

We obtained samples of all the non-wax Fibreglass restorers we could find, after canvassing local chandleries, catalog stores, and boat shows. We came up with seven of them. Since most are sold in kits (cleaners, strippers, polishes, plus the final coat, we bought the kit for each product. In addition, we found one product- Microshield- that's only sold as a dealer-applied coating. And, just to keep things in some perspective, we included Boat Armor's Marine Micro Gel Wax System.

How We Tested

A local marina had, hauled up on shore, a storm-damaged 32-foot sailboat that was slated for the wrecker. We dashed out, armed with saws and other implements of destruction and came back with a large supply of badly weathered yellow Fibreglass panels, all with a comparable degree of weathering.

Charitably, we could describe the finish as being comparable to an interior flat wall paint.

We sent one panel to Microshield for treatment, asking them to mask off a section and leave it untreated for comparison. We took each of the other test panels and applied a different restorer to it, following the instructions provided with each system.

We noted claims, cautions, instructions, tools required, and ease of application (and removal). We also measured the gloss of each panel by a simple but effective gadget we've used in the past; We made a "yardstick" (actually 2-feet long) with its numbers printed as mirror images, and placed it at right angles to each panel. We then peered at the reflection of the yardstick in the panel; the higher the number we could read (the reflected numbers were visible as non-reversed numerals) the better the gloss. Lastly, we checked each panel for water beading.

We then mounted all the panels on the roof-facing southward-to brave the Connecticut winter, which turned out to be an exceptionally mild one. After one month, two months, and three months, we examined the panels; we'll continue to examine them.

What We Found

After three months of exposure, all the products except for the Boat Armor Micro Gel Wax appear pretty much unscathed. The wax finish, which had caused water to bead after two months of exposure, no longer did after three months. All the rest caused water to bead, a pretty good indication of lasting protection. Gloss on all the samples, except for the wax was essentially unchanged-our yardstick test is only accurate to within two inches or so, but we couldn't detect any deterioration. There were, however, significant differences in the initial gloss achieved.

As far as application and initial gloss is concerned, we'll talk about the individual products separately.


Since Microshield is dealer-applied, we can't say anything about its ease of application. The sample prepared for us by the manufacturer could have been polished better-the colour wasn't as uniform as we were able to get ourselves, but the gloss was spectacular, measuring over 24 on our yardstick test. Initial expense-$90-$100 per linear foot is high, but the gloss lasts a claimed 8 years, plus there's no labour.

Sea Breeze

Sea Breeze is supplied as a three-component kit: a paste Fibreglass Re-conditioner (compound), liquid Fibreglass Polish and Sealant, and liquid Boat Protectant. The instructions provided are vague and unhelpful; the Boat Protectant label states that pre-cleaning is unnecessary; the Fibreglass Polish and Sealant tells you to wash and dry the boat before applying, and the Fibreglass Reconditioner restore colour and Boat Protectant are claimed to protect up to one year. There's no indication of what to use first, nor in what order to use them.

We wound up using the Reconditioner, then the Polish and Sealant, followed by the Boat Protectant. We also tried the boat Protector alone and the Fibreglass Polish and Sealant alone, but we got the best results using all three. Our best results weren't too good. Initial gloss measured only 2, and we found some signs of streakiness. Our tester commented that the application of the Fibreglass Polish arid Sealant made him feel as if he were auditioning for the wax on/wax off scene in The Karate Kid.


Vertglas is a three-step system consisting of Oxidation Remover, Boat Wash, and Gel Coat Colour Restorer! Sealer. The kit includes a Sealer Remover, in a fourth container. Unlike Sea Breeze, Vertglas comes with lengthy but clear detailed instructions. These describe each step and do an excellent job of alerting the user as to what to expect.

Application was easy, with little effort involved, but we found that the applicator supplied tended to put down an excessive amount of the Gel Coat Colour Restorer/Sealer-we had much better results when we used a soft lint-free cloth as called for in the instructions.

Gloss was somewhat higher than what we obtained with Sea Breeze: we measured a 6 on our yardstick.

New Glass

New Glass, we're told, has been reformulated since the last time we tested it-the manufacturer tells us that it has a greater percent of solids. This should mean a thicker coat with the same number of applications or fewer applications for the same coat. It comes as a two-part system: New Glass Stripper/Prep and New Glass.

Label instructions are clear; we also received a separate instruction sheet, which contained several helpful hints about the products' use. You apply the stripper to a small area, and scrub with a pad (included), then rinse with clean water. We found that the stripper worked well, with little effort. When the rinsed surface had dried, we saw slight streaks in heavily-scrubbed areas. They disappeared when we applied the New Glass.

The instructions refer to an applicator, but we couldn't find one. A soft cloth worked well. The first couple of coats were a bit streaky, but additional coats brought the gloss up to a very respectable 12.

Sea Glass

The Sea Glass System outnumbered all the competition. It consists of Sea Clean Marine Fibreglass Cleaner, Sea Glass Mirror Reflection, Sea Shell and Sea Foam Marine Fibreglass BoatBath, and Marine Fibreglass A(crylic) U(rethane) Remover. Also included is a sponge-type applicator, a nice scrubbing pad with a handle, and a video that tells you how to use all this.

Once we got over the shock of seeing all those containers, we found that the Sea Glass System was quite easy to use. The Sea Clean, used with the scrub pad, cleaned up our panel with little effort, and The Sea Glass Mirror Reflection went on easily with the sponge applicator provided (We wish the sponge applicator had a handle like that on the scrubber).

The next-and final-application step is to apply a coat of Sea Shell Protector. This is a UV-absorbing topcoat. The other two products-Sea Foam Boat Bath and Marine Fibreglass AU Remover are for routine cleaning and stripping respectively. We're holding off on the use of these until later on in our test, when ease of removal becomes a factor.

Sea Glass was, overall, easy to use. It produced a gloss of 8-not the best we found, but certainly not the worst- solidly in the middle, we'd say.


TSRW (short for This Stuff Really Works) makes no bones about its claim: "'Unconditionally Guaranteed 12 Month Protective Coating." Like New Glass, the TSRW system consists of a cleaner/stripper-Quick Strip- and a protective coating-12 Plus. With those two, you get a "Gentie Scrub Duramitt" applicator. The label instructions are simple and clear; there's an additional instruction pamphlet supplied that basically mirrors the label instructions.

To use the cleaner/stripper, you dilute it 1 to 3 with water, and apply with a sponge or spray (not included), allow it to remain wet for 2-3 minutes, and scrub it off with the scrubber. It worked well, leaving only a couple of streaks (which disappeared when we applied the 12 Plus). You must then rinse the surface thoroughly with clear water and allow it to dry completely. Lastly you apply the several coats of the 12 Plus topcoat, using a synthetic chamois (included). Our tester found it hard to keep the chamois flat and smooth during the application.

The finished surface looked fairly good, but the gloss measured only 3.


This system is also a two-step one: There's a FiberPrep Cleaner and a FiberGloss Restorer. The cleaner is diluted 50:50 with water before use and applied with a scrub pad (included). Unlike the other products, Higley FiberPrep Gleaner carries instructions to scrub in a back-and-forth motion, not a circular one. Instructions also tell you to "Rinse! Rinse! Rinse! Rinse thoroughly..." Once the much-rinsed surface is dry, you apply the Fiber-Gloss Restorer with a piece of terry toweling (also supplied).

Cleaning was easy; gloss was moderate (6). Both the cleaner and the restorer claim biodegradability.

Poli Glow

The Poli Glow system came thoughtfully provided with rubber gloves, a scrub pad with a plastic handle, and an applicator mounted on a block to provide a convenient grip.

The system itself consists of Poli Prep Concentrate, a cleaner, and Poli Glow restorer. The Poli Prep is diluted 50:50 with water (50:100 for mild oxidation), applied to a wet surface with a sponge and allowed to stand for 1-3 minutes, and then scrubbed off with a scrub pad. We found it easy, effective, and non-streaking. Oddly enough, while the label on the cleaner doesn't mention abrasives, the one on the restorer calls for pre-cleaning with a mild abrasive cleanser, or a stronger abrasive cleanser for really heavy oxidation. And the Poli Glow instructions never mention Poli Prep. Oh well. We used Poli Prep and it worked fine. You then rinse the surface with water, letting it dry thoroughly.

The sponge-on-block applicator worked very nicely in applying the Poli Glow, once we realized that it's important to keep the applicator flat. Gloss was very good, measuring 15 in our yardstick test. In fact it was, by a slight margin, the highest gloss we obtained from any of the D-I-Y products, and was second only to the dealer-applied Microshield.

Boat Armor Microshine System

The Boat Armor Microshine System is a three-step process consisting of Heavy Duty Universal Marine Gleaner, Fine Marine Micro Gel Polish, and Marine One-Step Micro Gel Wax. It's the only system we tested that uses a wax instead of an acrylic or acrylic-urethane for its final coat. We felt that although this system may be an unfair comparison, we wanted to have a wax to compare the non-wax restorers against.

The Cleaner is supplied in a pump-spray container-you spray it on, wait one minute, and scrub it off with a wet sponge or brush. We found that a scrubbing pad made life easier with our grungy Fibreglass surface.

Step two is to polish the surface with Fine Marine Micro Gel Polish. We found that our panels were too severely oxidized for this polish to deal with so, once again following label instructions, we applied a coat of rubbing compound (DuPont #7) and cleaned most of the discoloration from the panel. The Micro Gel Polish did a good job of smoothing out the surface that remained. We finished with two coats of Marine One-Step Micro Gel Wax. Following instructions, we buffed each coat to the highest shine we could-but we couldn't obtain a gloss reading higher than 1. Using a power buffer on another panel, we got our gloss reading up to 3.


As we said at the beginning of this Report, the two real questions are, "How much improvement?" and "How temporary?" We can answer the first question fairly easily. While all the products we tested improved the appearance of our badly weathered Fibreglass panels, the dealer-applied Microshield, and the Do-It-Yourself Poli Glow and New Glass provided us with the highest initial gloss. We're waiting for time and a dose of summer weather to give us the answer to the second question.

At the time this is being written, the panels have been exposed to the elements for three months. Only the wax-based Boat Armor Microshine System is showing any perceptible ill effects. We'll be examining the panels on a monthly basis, and letting you know how they're progressing.



Product Size Price/Restorer Price/Kit # of Coats Ease of Application Initial Gloss Level
Microshield na c.$100 / linear ft. na na na 24
Sea Breeze 16.9 oz. $15.10 $35.60 2 Fair 2
Vertglas 16 oz. $24.95 $59.95 6 Very Good 6
New Glass 32 oz. c. $40 na 5 Very Good 12
Sea Glass 35.2 oz. $39.95 $107.60 5 Good 1
TSRW 32 oz. $39.95 $52.90 6 Very Good 3
Higley 32 oz. $35 $45 5 Very Good 5
Poli Glow 32 oz. $37.95 $49.95 5 Very Good 15
Boat Armor 32 oz. $12.48 na 2 Fair 1