Bilge Maintenance - Sailors for the Sea

Bilge Maintenance

Prevent oils and other toxic chemicals from sneaking into the ocean by inspecting and maintaining your bilge. 

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The bilge is the lowest internal part of your boat’s hull, where water collects, along with spilled and leaked fuel, oil, antifreeze and other toxic liquids. Any accidental discharge of oil is both illegal and detrimental to the ocean as it is toxic to marine plants and animals.

bilge, bilge maintenance

Conducting regular bilge inspections and quickly addressing any required maintenance will prevent oils from sneaking into the ocean. 

How to prevent bilge pollution? 

  • Check for unusual growth, unpleasant odor and mildew.
  • Check limber holes (drain holes through the frame of a boat) are clear to ensure water and other liquids can pass freely.
  • Keep your engine tuned. Change oil filters often. Check seals, clamps, gaskets and filter connections for leaks and drips. Inspect hoses for peeling or cracking. If you see any fuel, oil or other liquid spills, wipe up immediately. 
  • Secure an oil-absorbent pad under your engine and an absorbent bilge sock next to (but not interfering with) your bilge pump.
  • Discard used oil pads and bilge socks according to state and local regulations.
  • Consider installing an oil/water separator.
  • If there is too much oil for a bilge sock to absorb, remove oily water at a bilge pumpout station.
  • Do not use dish soaps to make a spill disappear. It causes the oil to break down into tiny particles, which if pumped out, make the spill much harder to contain and clean up. Dish soap is also highly toxic to marine life.

Which oil absorbing bilge pads work best?

Duke Marine Lab in North Carolina and BoatU.S. Foundation conducted independent testing of 21 bilge pads. They found that many of the products sold were not effective and some were highly toxic. The 3 products below were the most efficient and had low toxicity levels:

1. West Marine Bilge Absorber Boom 

2. CI Agent Marine Pillow

3. Enviro-Bond 403 Bilge Sock

In addition, Centek Industries has developed a system, BilgeKleen, to filter hydrocarbon pollution from bilge and generator water discharge. 

Did you know? 

  • Bioremediation is a treatment that uses naturally occurring organisms to break down hazardous substances (e.g. oil) into less toxic substances. Oil-eating bacteria ingest the oil, turning it into a harmless substance. It’s a good long-term treatment for oil, but ineffective for spills. Check out NavalKleen Small Craft Formula – it’s designed for use by recreational boaters.