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I have a deep bilge, and a traditional cutless bearing, which together mean there's always some standing water in the bilge.

The problem I have is that it gets stinky every now and then. If I am dilligent about putting a bucket of hot water down there now and then, that keeps it fresh smelling.

Is there a product that works that I can add to the bilge?
 

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Thanks to the OP for bringing this up. Has anyone tried white vinegar?
Never tried it in the bilge, but always a good idea to run it thru the head every week or two.
I'm sure it can't hurt...it will just make your bilge smell like a tossed salad.

As far as a brand of bilge cleaner, I'm sure any of the major brands will do fine.
 

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On heads if you are using fresh water flush it may be better to not throw anything down into the head. With fresh water flush you have pretty much the same aerobic bugs as you have in a home septic system. Those are the ones you want to keep down the stink. Just like in a home system anything that kills those bugs or changes the pH too much may result in anaerobic bugs and more stink. May need chemicals time to time if your fresh water has a lot of salts dissolved in it to keep joker/duckbill valves free.
On bilges have had good luck with low sudsing detergent ( dishwasher pellets broken up work good) and some fresh water poured in with the automatic bilge pumps turned off. Then go for a good sail especially to weather and bounce around a bit. Turn on pumps when you get back. Turn them off fill bilge again with fresh water and flush. Rarely need to use bilge cleaner which I think is harder on the pumps and other stuff in your bilge.
Another trick is to put some tea tree down in bilge if the boat is going to be laid up for any time.
 

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A good solution first of all is to flush your bilge with water. I mean FLUSH!! We do this when we are at a dock, and just turn the hose on and let it run. One of the smells you will get is from the stagnant water in the bilge pump discharge. The water that rests in there is anaerobic and that sulfur smells reeks (smells like a head). Periodic flushing, assuming you do not have any oil or chemicals in that water, is environmentally sound, works, and tests your pumps. It is good to run them periodically, incidentally.

I would opt against vinegar personally... but not because it would not work. I cannot stand the smell of it. It does not bother my wife though. I would be cautious about vinegar sitting in my bilge if my keel bolts were exposed as you just created an acidic environment. I know some people poor bleach into their bilge for that and it also attacks stainless.

There are a variety of bilge cleaners at West Marine, Sailnet, Defender, etc. Honestly, I have used a few of them and never found one to be much better than the other. I use them periodically, but honestly, the flushing always seems to be the best.

My experience.

Brian
 

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I flushed my bilge with lots of hose water after first using paper towels and spray Simple Green to remove any oil coating. Works like a charm!

I have also used ordinary liquid hand dish detergent, the kind with a citrus odor - orange or lemon, and a sponge. I am not quite sure what a specialty bilge cleaner could contain that you could not match with some other less expensive household/garage cleaner.

Adding on to Brian's comment - it is a reassuring test of your bilge pump(s), too...to run a garden hose at full volume into your bilge. You might have to disconnect them to fully fill the bilge/hull under the floorboards.
 

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A brief review of what causes 'boat stink' -

1. Probably the greatest cause of boat-stink is allowing shower water to enter the bilge. Shower discharge is loaded with zillions of exfoliated human skin cells, which if allowed to be mixed with water will eventually produce a god-awful smell .... the skin cells will eventually 'putrefy' in this mixture and all the fats, proteins, etc. will become dissolved into a 'foul soup'.
Rx: NEVER EVER allow shower water into a bilge. Consider to pump such directly overboard or into a thick walled 'grey water tank' which then is pumped overboard. See General Bilge clean up (below) to remedy.

2. Holding tank lines where the 'aroma' is now permeating through the rubber hose
Wrap your holding tank hoses first with paper towels then with a clear plastic wrap ... wait a week or so and if the paper towels smell like you know what replace those hoses with 'sanitary' non-permeable hose.

3. Inlet line to head --- do the same as #2.

4. Refrigerator and AC drains .... Spilled food and stagnant AC drains will be filled with bacteria. First flush with an alkaline/caustic soap to dissolve the 'lifeforms living there', then flush well.

5. Mold and Mildew living under the sole ---- use respiratory precautions, use CAUSTIC soaps/detergent (to dissolve the fungi), let dry, and then 'spritz on' but do not wipe or rinse and let the caustic soap/detergent dry --- this will be a modern equivalent of whitewashing and will prevent/retard future fungus infection. Problem is that many boats have 'pan liners' that makes it impossible to 'get behind' and clean the undersurface. NEVER clean mold/mildew or other 'boat fungus' when its dry ... spritz to wet it then scrub it, etc. Clean or disturb it when its dry and you only massively spread the spores.

5. Bilge water from stuffing boxes is aerobic, and shouldnt be and usually are not 'stinky'. Correctly adjust the 'adjusting nuts' on your stuffing box so that you have the minimum water intrusion while the shaft is not rotating - 1 to 2 drops per MINUTE.

General bilge cleaning: forget perfumes, vinegar, etc. as such can become 'food' for microorganisms living there. Use CAUSTICS such as TriSodiumPhosphate - TSP, Sodium Silicate based detergents (Roll-on or Tuff e'Nuff), Old fashioned LYE soap, etc. SOAK time is the most important aspect of such 'cleaning' as it takes time to kill and DISSOLVE the offensive growth. All these caustics will dissolve the cells (and the skin on your fingers, eyeballs etc.) and emulsify oils/greases/and hairballs. Use STRONG alkaline detergents - available from janitorial supply ... wear protection such as goggles and gloves and plastic apron.
After cleaninlg and rinsing and allowing to dry, Spritz on one of the sodium silicate based detergents, and let dry but dont rinse. Same reason that limestone caves dont 'smell' - alkalinity of the surface walls.

hope this helps.
 

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Often bilges have very little ventilation. This, IMHO, is usually part of the cause for such aromas. Figure out how to keep fresh air flowing through the area and you will both: 1, help to dry out the bilge, and; 2, keep any residual water from going anaerobic.

On my boat, I snaked the bilge-blower hose down into the lowest bit of the bilge (where it should be anyway, to pick up stray fuel fumes). Even with the blower off, but with the cowling pointed away from the prevailing winds and the "inlet" cowling facing the wind, enough airflow is induced to keep things nice and fresh.
 

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Definitely the white vinegar. You want to increase the ph in the standing water so it will kill off the bacteria causing the smell in your bilge. Increased heat will only work for a while. I've even heard of orange juice and adding hot sea water.


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Definitely the white vinegar. You want to increase the ph in the standing water so it will kill off the bacteria causing the smell in your bilge. Increased heat will only work for a while. I've even heard of orange juice and adding hot sea water.
Vinegar is an acid and will LOWER the pH.

Caustic/base cleaners like lye will RAISE the pH.

If you alter the pH far enough either way, high or low, it will kill off bacteria and funk, but I would be inclined to go RichH's way and RAISE the pH with a base.

EDIT: I have never dealt with a smelly bilge, so take my advice for what it's worth. Very little.
 

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Just a thought, but if there is concern around stainless steel keel bolts, you might try PWB " powdered brewery wash" or similar products. These Are stainless-safe cold water cleaners available at your local home-brew shop meant to clean stainless steel ( and everything else) equipment. Easy to use and effective.


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