Top tips for clean sailing

Sailors, the sea is our passion, pastime and in many cases, our profession. We love the sea.

Let's get cleaner and reduce our impact on our waters! Here are some top tips on how to get started on being a Clean Sailor (on land and at sea!)


1. Use ocean-friendly, non-toxic products - for everything 🧽🧺

Unlike on land, whatever goes into our bilges or on our decks, heads directly into the sea with no treatment or filtration.

Keep our seas clean by choosing environmentally safe, eco washing-up liquid, bars and toilet cleaner wherever you are and wherever you go.

It's a great idea to fit a eco-filter to capture the nasties before the are drained out, too!

Being on a boat, all of our wastewater goes into the bilge and then straight out into the sea. 

Instead of using chemical products, try:

  • Use natural, non-toxic shampoos and body bars
  • Use natural and eco-friendly cleaning products, as far as possible
  • Be quick! Freshwater is precious

Better for our bodies AND the ocean


2. Use cleaner anti-foul solutions and remove old paint properly

We all need our bottoms scrubbed once in a while!

Anti-foul paints are full of microplastics (used to bind paint together) and many still have high copper content in them. Whilst effective at keeping barnacles and weed from growing on our boats, anti-foul paint is highly damaging to marine wildlife at their most vital stages of development, and is leaving a trail of plastic particles through our seas.

The best thing we can do is shift away from paint. We've tried and tested Ultrasonic anti-foul and films such as Finsulate.

Read more here: Anti-fouling: Things we should know about treating our bottoms

When removing old antifoul paint, it's best to do in a closed environment and/or wind -free day, using a vacuum sander to ensure all dust is safely collected and can be disposed of in a hazardous waste bin. 


3. Eat less and better seafood 🎣🦀

It is well known that modern commercial-fishing and bottom-trawling are is one of, if not THE most damaging activities taking place in our waters. Not only does this scale of fishing disrupt the entire ocean food chain, leftover ghost nets continue to cause havoc for decade afterwards.

  • Let's eat less fish
  • Buy local small-catch seafood as far as possible 
  • Line-caught fish is better than commercially trawled


4. Plastic isn't always fantastic 🌊🌎

There’s this great durable quality about plastic – it’s hard-wearing, waterproof, strong, flexible and light. But it takes years, decades in fact, to break down.

And some plastics,  we use just ONCE...

Let's stop using single-use plastic. Instead:

  • Get a refillable water bottle
  • Carry a reusable shopping bag
  • Get a stainless steel mug or flask for hot takeaway drinks
  • Buy loose fruit and veg, instead of plastic-bagged ones

For more tips from our Crew on reducing single-plastic use, see here!


5. Mind where we anchor ⚓

There are few things more lovely than dropping the hook in a beautiful spot.

Watch where you drop your anchor and protect what lies beneath the surface:

  • Check your chart and make sure you aren’t on reefs, in seagrass, shellfish or other important marine beds or conservation areas
  • Make sure you have the right amount of chain to avoid anchor-dragging. 

See here for more tips on Dropping Anchor Like a Clean Sailor!


6. Sun protection and SPF's ☀️🧴

Studies show that sunscreen get's absorbed as deep as our bloodstream, so let's make sure we are using the cleanest, most effective stuff.

Let's protect our skin, and our planet, too! Get a reef-friendly sunscreen - much better for our bodies AND the environment

Some great reef-safe sunscreen brands are:

Read more about our investigation into reef-safe sunscreen, here


7. Nothing overboard  ❌🌊

From food waste to plastic waste, cigarette butts to sail ties, here at Clean Sailors we believe nothing should go overboard.

The ocean is filling up with waste at a rate of three rubbish trucks a minute.

Think before you throw, and store, dispose or recycle waste properly back on shore.


8. Look after our engines and top up carefully ⛽

Reports share that only 5% of oil and fuel pollution in the water is from catastrophic spills that make the headlines. The majority comes from everyday our re-fuelling, engine emissions and oil leaks - just topping up our boats...

Topping up on fuel is one of the most common ways sailors unintentionally pollute the environment. Oil doesn’t mix with water and when spilled into the environment can critically affect species living on, near or below the surface, persisting in the environment for months or even years.

Take extreme care when re-fueling and try hard not to spill a drop!

Keep your boat running smoothly and ensure maximum efficiency by regularly checking your engine. 

Make sure there are no leaks, that it is properly oiled and watered and that any wasted or unused fuel is stored and disposed of correctly, and in accordance with the law.


9. Use pump-out facilities for black and grey water 🛢️⛵

From the bilge to the heads, every boat produces wastewater. Often mixed with harmful, toxic or non-biodegradable substances, not discharging of waste properly can contaminate waterways releases harmful bacteria and pathogens into the water.

If your bilge or wastewater system is contaminated or contains any toxic or hazardous matter, do not pump it into the sea. Return it to shore and seek advice on how to dispose of it properly.

Always follow the rules on local discharge or pumping and never empty your waste bilge in a marina, near beaches or within several miles of the shore.

If in doubt, don’t flush it out!


10. Bin cigarette butts 🚬

Butts are a bad contaminant in our oceans - not only are they made of plastic, they contain ~400 chemicals each. One cigarette but per litre of water is enough to kill at least half of all fish within it; they are THAT toxic.

If you smoke, make sure your butts end up in the bin.

For more about cigarette butts and their impact on our oceans, see our feature, here!


11. Upcycle our sails ♻️

Old sails can be made into new things.

There are various teams and creators, including our supporter Sails and Canvas, who recycle and upcycle our old sails, remaking them into new items, such as washbags, sail bags, luggage and even chairs and light shades!

Google 'sail recycling' projects near you and keep old sails out of landfill!


For the ocean, for our seas.

Let's be Clean Sailors!