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Author Topic:   Use of Acetone on Gelcoat - I'm confused
Rich S posted 04-09-2009 10:24 AM ET (US)   Profile for Rich S   Send Email to Rich S  
I've seen many times where folks recommend using acetone to remove glue from old letters and decals, remove stains, etc.

I've also seen folks say to never use acetone on gelcoat.

BW's statement found here: is to never use Acetone.

So, which is it?
Is it really OK to use acetone to remove glue residue and assist in tough cleaning issues?

As always, any help is greatly appreciated.

Blackduck posted 04-09-2009 10:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for Blackduck  Send Email to Blackduck     
There are much milder solvents that will remove the glue residue that decals leave behind just fine, so you don't need to use it for that purpose. There are cases where you need a solvent like acetone, in restoration work on older hulls. I have never had any problems from using it carefully. My hunch is that BW is taking about new boats, as it will dull the surface of shiny gelcoat, but the gloss can be brought back. So I would go ahead and use it where a milder solvent won't work, and not worry about it.
AtoZ posted 04-09-2009 10:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for AtoZ  Send Email to AtoZ     
Yes, you can use it to clean but do not let it puddle up any place as it will soften up the glass.
SC Joe posted 04-09-2009 10:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for SC Joe  Send Email to SC Joe     
I have found WD-40 excellent for removing old decal and sticker residue. It may take a few seconds to soak to start to work, but it won't stain or cause any problems.

I have used acetone quite a bit to clean gel coat however and never had a problem.

Tom W Clark posted 04-09-2009 11:06 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
I have used acetone extensively as a cleaner/degreaser on each of the ten Whaler hulls I have owned over the course of the last thirty years. All of these hulls were manufactured between 1970 and 1988.

The acetone has done no damage whatsoever. It has not affected the shine of the gel coat in the least bit.

I do not know how acetone will work on Whalers manufactured more recently; I have not tried it.

Jeff posted 04-09-2009 11:54 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jeff  Send Email to Jeff     
I like Tom have had the same experiences with Acetone as well as Lacquer thinner. Nothing brings an old rub rail back to life like a ggod wipe down with either of these solvents. Also, wet a rag with acetone and clean your cushions. Test it first in a small unnoticeable corner to make sure it works and does not effect the vinyl in any way. While every vinyl is different I have never had a problem and have brought 20 year cushion back to like new condition.
Jerry Townsend posted 04-09-2009 02:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jerry Townsend  Send Email to Jerry Townsend     
Acetone is acetone - and epoxy/polyester resin is epoxy/polyester resin. That is, I serously doubt that the formulations of these materials have changed - and therefore, I would not expect any difference in the applications over the last 50 years or so.

As some have also mentioned, I have used acetone to clean fiberglas/gelcoat surfaces - and have not noticed any detrimental effects. Wipe it on, clean and wipe dry.

L H G posted 04-09-2009 03:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for L H G    
There are so many other products that clean better than acetone without risk of damaging the surface. Makes no sense to me to ignore the recomendations of the gelcoat manufacturers and boat companies. They MUST know something you don't.

Jeff, you can clean Whaler Tan Pleat cushions with Starbrite's Non-skid deck cleaner, or the Castrol Degreaser (in the purple bottle) or similar cleaners.

filthypit posted 04-10-2009 10:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for filthypit  Send Email to filthypit     
[Recommended against use of Acetone.]
TransAm posted 04-10-2009 11:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for TransAm  Send Email to TransAm     
I don't find acetone particularly harsh, especially since it is the main ingredient in nail polish remover. My wife's fingers have not fallen off in the 30 years she has been using nail polish remover, and are actually quite attractive. On my can of acetone it states "Acetone in an effective clean-up solvent after the completion of a fiberglass project, for removal of excess resin or foreign material... It also says not to use on plastics or synthetics and in a well ventilated area. If you are sensitive to chemicals, use latex gloves and a mask; rubber gloves will not hold up. I often don't bother to use either and have only had 1 finger tip fall off at the first digit.
Whaler_bob posted 04-10-2009 12:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for Whaler_bob  Send Email to Whaler_bob     
FWIW- I had to remove the reg numbers and sticker from my 2006 JetSki last Sunday. The previous owner used the full block style numbers where each character is simply printed in black on a full 2" x 3" rectangular white bumper sticker type vinyl backing. It was was easy enough to peel the actual plastic off the hull with a heat gun, but it left a real mess behind with old adhesive. I tried removing the old adhesive with alcohol first, but it had very little effect on the old adhesive- even with hard rubbing. So, I then applied a small amount of acetone on a rag- and it removed the old glue quickly and efficiently. It did absolutely no damage to the Jetski's hull.
I think the key is- use a small amount of acetone, don't rub too hard, and don't let it sit/pool anywhere on the fiberglass. Oh yeah- turn the cloth frequently to avoid reapplying the old adhesive to the hull again.
Chuck Tribolet posted 04-11-2009 11:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
I've learned not to let HW store acetone get on my skin much.
It really dries things out. I think nail polish remover has
some other stuff in it (water? lanolin?).

When I use acetone for clean up, I fold up a piece of paper
towel and clamp it in a hemostat. Keeps my fingers dry.


howlingdogsteve posted 04-12-2009 07:49 AM ET (US)     Profile for howlingdogsteve  Send Email to howlingdogsteve     
Product called "Goo Gone" works great and is easy on the finish.

jimh posted 04-12-2009 08:44 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The widely used lubricant or solvent or cleaner WD-40 removes old adhesives from decals or appliques.
motparts posted 04-12-2009 09:50 AM ET (US)     Profile for motparts  Send Email to motparts     
I use acetone on a daily basis in my profession which is prosthetics. I fabricate limbs using carboacrylic resins over fiberglass and carbon cloth. The acetone cleans non-cured resins very quickly but does not effect hardened and cured resins. It is an effective cleaner, however it does not clean all glue residues some types of adhesives just thin out and smear or don't budge. The product we use in a 3M citrus based cleaner in an aerosol not the squirt bottle...
there are many places to get this and it works very well
montaukman posted 04-15-2009 10:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for montaukman  Send Email to montaukman     

When I had my Montauk I stuck plastic cup holders by the rear quarter "seats" and when I sold the boat I had to remove them. I had used really agressive velco and it left alot of glue residue.

Someone told me to use gasoline (nothing else was working). I rubbed gasoline on the glue residue and it came off very easily.

Not sure if it hurts the gelcoat but it sure didn't hurt mine. Can't imagine that it would since gasoline spilles on gelcoat all the time when you gas up.

Just my humble 2 cents.


skred posted 04-16-2009 04:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for skred  Send Email to skred     
Goo-Gone works pretty well, also..
cprofomogo posted 04-22-2009 08:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for cprofomogo  Send Email to cprofomogo     
Naptha (as found in Ronsonol and other zippo-type cigarette lighter fluid) works a charm on removing adhesive, costs a fraction of goo-gone, evaporates fully with no residue unlike WD-40, and doesn't harm gelcoat like acetone can.
Tom W Clark posted 04-22-2009 09:57 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
Acetone doesn't harm gelcoat and costs less than Naptha.

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