okeesignguy - you're asking a very good question. I felt like I was listening to an old man yelling at an empty chair with some of the responses.
1) Get better friends? Really? How kind.
2) Gel coat over fiberglass is EXACTLY what a lot of sinks, tubs and toilets are made of these days! haha
3) "Do not use ABRASIVE cleaners.." What do you think rubbing compounds and sandpaper are?
4) "..protect the boat from UV light and salt, conditions that floor wax is not designed for" Actually, high grade floor finishes are designed for much worse (grinding dirt, foods, salts, chemicals into a surface with shoes?, etc.), and they DO include UV absorbers (that's why they don't yellow!)
5) "Chemicals are better than abrasives..use acetone" WHAT!? Do you even know what gel coat is made of and what acetone can do to it??!!
"BillatStarBrite" gives the more reasoned answer, and I agree that I would not use a floor finish on a newer boat that had no significant gel coat wear, but I don't agree that an acrylic finish is identical to a clear coat. I think he knows this to, but was just making a point. There is a big difference in the two between application ease and removal ease. The floor finish is much more desirable than a clear coat. It's single component, much less volatile, you wipe it on (not spray), it self levels so the way you wipe it on is less important, the viscosity is low so it seeps into cracks and pores, the gloss is incredible, and it can be removed very easily using a floor finish stripper (wipe on, rinse off). But let me share my experience, instead of yelling at an empty chair.
I've re-built boats, built fiberglass parts for airplanes (including my own), used rubbing compounds, sandpapers, clear coats, sealants, and floor finishes for all of the above. Think about what a gel coat is - just polyester resin with filler. It has a thickness that you really want to protect, not reduce. Going at it with sandpapers and rubbing compounds will DEFINITELY reduce your gel coat thickness. When you have an oxidized gel coat, the damage is already there, and you have three choices today (before, you only had one).
1) Abrade it down using whatever, compounds, sandpapers, scotchpads, it all does the same thing, and then slowly reduce the grit size to create a smooth finish and then for all that's holy, keep that protected because if it goes bad again, you may not have any gel coat left to restore it.
2) Seal it and live with it. Wax, JetSeal, etc., just keep it from getting worse. May or may not improve the oxidized appearance, depending on how viscous the sealant it. Wax is not very viscous, JetSeal is better, but still too thick. Not a great esthetic solution, but you keep it from getting worse and you don't reduce the gel coat.
3) Seal it, thicken the gel coat, and restore the surface gloss and color using a thin sealer that is tough and durable. This is where all the "lazy" man products come into play. Trust me, there are good ones and less than good ones. Poliglow is not particularly good in my opinion. It's not as durable as others.
What you want is a high solids, metal interlocked, acrylic-copolymer designed for high durability with UV absorbers. There, does that sound better than "commercial floor wax?" That's what the stuff is. I would not recommend using Future (called Pledge with Future Finish). It is not as high in solids content and will not shine or last as well as others. I would recommend "Zep High Traffic Floor Finish." You can get it at Home Depot for about $18. A GALLON. Most "marine" grade restorers like Poliglow, ShineOn, NewCoat, Vertglass, Vivilon, etc., cost the equivalent of $300 or more per gallon. This has the high solids content (20%), is more durable than Zep's "Wet Look" finish, but with a couple of extra coats gives you the same shine.
Here's how to do it: Clean your surface using BarKeeper's Friend and TSP. This is less abrasive than Comet, cheap, and does the trick. You can get both from Home Depot for about $2-3 each. Barkeepers friend pulls off the chalk (oxidized gel coat) with very little reduction in gel coat thickness, and the TSP gets rid of wax or other silicone's, etc., from the surface. Then use a microfiber towel, wet it with water, wring it out really good, pour a little Zep into it, and wipe the boat hull in a circular, straight, whatever pattern you want to use. Don't worry about it because it self-levels. Just don't go over the same area too much. And yes, certainly don't "splash it on" (why describe it that way except to belittle the process?). Expect to do this for about 4-5 coats, and then sit down and cry for how easy that was and how beautiful your boat looks. Ease of application doesn't always mean its a poor method either - (I imagine wooden shipbuilders would say we're pretty lazy for popping out hulls in a few hours using fiberglass). I would tape up any surfaces before application (there - that made it harder) like rubber, chrome, SS, glass.
I just did this with my latest boat after having spent a week and $$$ using Mequiar's boat restore kit which did not do the trick. Even with a power buffer AND marine rubbing compound the whitish coloration did not go away. No way I was going to dig deeper into my gel coat.
This method works. 6 coats and you won't have to re-apply for at least a year, then only a coat or two. If you want to remove it, use Zep Floor Stripper. Wipe it on, it comes off. Anyone who says the material is hard to remove is maybe dealing with a clear coat or a UV cured product and doesn't know it? Floor finishes are designed to pull off quite easily but only with the right product
.This method is very very different from a clear coat which is incredibly hard to remove.
Your friend is right - it is sometimes the best solution for what seemed an impossible job.
If you want to see years of application experience of floor finishes on fiberglass vehicles in the bright sunlight with great results (and compared to Poliglow), search Google for "fiberglassrv poliglow" Read the tests done there ("Check this out NOT Poliglow") and see the before and after pics. That's valuable information and real-life application, not opinions.
Anyway, after doing exactly this application, I am loving my "new" 1988 boat which looks better than it came from the factory, I bet. I've had it on the water, banged into piers, swimmers
and it just looks and performs beautifully.
PS - you can apply this over decals, striping, etc. Another nice benefit as it seals them and makes them look newer. Also, dirt, grime, and yes, even scuff marks from my trailer's black rubber bow stop come off very easily!