Six steps to super interior yacht detailing
Last updated: 06/03/2018
To the untrained eye, a superyacht will always appear to be spotlessly clean, due to the tireless hours the yacht’s crew put in to buffing and polishing each and every surface and working part on board.
Regardless of its perfect and permanent gleam, as such an expensive asset, yacht crew will also be expected to detail clean a superyacht from time-to-time, on top of the regular cleaning schedule to keep everything in tip-top condition.
With such an intensive task ahead of them, Yachting Pages spoke to chief stewardesses to create an outline of the six steps to super interior yacht detailing, ensuring no stone surface is left untouched.
What is yacht detailing?
Also known as yacht valeting, yacht detailing involves the thorough wash-down, disinfection and steam clean of every single surface on board, from the bulkheads and ceilings right down to the smallest of air conditioning vents.
A detail clean will often involve the thorough cleaning and storage/rearrangement of items on board to optimise the minimal on-board storage space. During detailing, all items are typically inventoried, so any new stew would know what to find on board, and where to find it.
How to detail clean the superyacht interior
Like all cleaning tasks, there is usually a logical order in which to detail a yacht: Some stews may work in teams, moving from room to room to tick tasks off the list. Others may prefer to delegate one task to each stew, instructing them to move throughout all rooms on board before the next stew starts the next job. Depending on the size and purpose of the boat, detailing can take days or weeks to complete.
Kylie O’Brien, an ex-chief stewardess and founder of The Stewardess Bible explained, “It [yacht detailing] is not done every day, however it is done weekly, monthly and/or seasonally, depending on the workload of the yacht, the specific travel plans and the maintenance schedule.”
Six steps to super interior yacht detailing
Before undertaking the interior detail clean of a yacht, you will want to ensure all equipment is prepared and ready to go.
Kylie explained, “Before you begin to detail clean anywhere in the interior of a yacht, make sure that your cleaning caddy is fully stocked with items that you will need: Items such as tooth picks, cleaning buds, lint-free cleaning cloths, garbage bags, an empty vacuum cleaner, extra buckets, a squeegee or chamois, and enough drop cloths to protect the expensive interior fabrics and surfaces.
“When detailing a cabin, you should realise that you are not simply just cleaning the cabin. You need to approach the task with a different mind-set: Imagine the cabin in an ‘undressed state’ and clean from the core structure up. Pay attention to the various materials in the cabin along the way, and adjust your cleaning products and methods accordingly.”
Step one: Eliminate all dust
Before detail cleaning any of the interior spaces aboard, it makes sense to first start with a thorough dusting. Talullah Rodger, an ex-chief stewardess now working at Yachting Pages, recommends the use of a vacuum cleaner or dust vac to remove any and all dust from the ceilings, bulkheads, partitions, windows, floors, furniture and beyond. A soft lint brush or ‘magic brush’ may also be used to remove dust particles. Don’t forget the tops of the doors!
Talullah said, “If it can be reached, it must be detailed! It’s a good idea to first start with a vacuum with a soft dust brush or sock attachment, working carefully from the top of the cabin down, so you are not simply just moving the dust around. If furniture and other items can be removed, dismantled or gotten behind, it’s important to do so, otherwise you're simply just cleaning! Some furniture may need to be covered, or passed out of the cabin to a secondary cleaning crew that have set up on the dock to allow further access.
“Any items that are being stored away for the winter or changed over for the seasons, such as, bedding, linens and upholstery, should be sent away for professional cleaning and repair if necessary. Upon their return to the boat, they are either put back in place, or are inventoried, labelled and stowed in dust bags to be hidden away for the down season.
“It’s important that the responsible stewardess records where each and every one of these items is stored so they can easily be found again in the spring/summer - especially if there is a crew change. This is usually done on various spread sheets or an intranet system.”
Step two: Wipe down all surfaces
Once all the vacuuming has been done, the process is typically repeated with a damp microfibre cloth and vinegar solution, depending on the type of décor or surface, collecting up any remaining dust and refreshing the surfaces.
Kylie explained, “Wipe down the cabins, starting at the top and working your way down. Begin with the deck heads, light fittings, bulkheads and any materials on the wall, then clean down the glass and window coverings. Drop down the blinds and pull the curtains closed. This way you will be able to clean the material well, and at the same time, you can check it is all in working order.
“Next move to the cupboards and drawers, working down to the flooring. As you go, make sure all lights and fittings around the cabin are working properly and that any bulbs that need replacing are done so. All electrical items should also be checked, cleaned and in working order.”
Step three: Get to the finer detail(ing)
It's when you get down to this third clean that you really start to notice that you are aboard such an expensive asset. You will be expected to clean even the smallest of interior details, such as the grooves in the joinery, handles, screws, switches and fastenings. You will also bend, stretch and fit into spaces you never expected to fit. Step three is where you will need tooth picks and cotton buds!
Talullah explained, “This third clean, as it were, is when only a tooth pick or cotton bud will reach. You will be expected to clean between the air conditioning and extractor vents, around the edges of the ceilings and skirting’s, down where the bed meets the wall, underneath the shower tray and between any screws or fittings. This is when you will see stew’s detailing the plugs and pipes with cotton buds to remove all hair and soap scum. A toothpick or cotton bud in alcohol is also usually used to disinfect the buttons on the telephones and remote controls.
“Once you have cleaned it, you should check all is secured in place properly, before giving it one last clean to ensure there are no lingering fingerprints!”
Step four: Getting under the floorboards
Given the glamour of the superyacht industry, many don't realise that a stew will even be expected to get underneath the floorboards when detailing a yacht’s interior.
Stews must generally clean out the bilges under the yacht’s flooring, not only for good housekeeping, but for additional storage space. Stagnant water and grime can collect in the bilges, and a stew must therefore give these oddly shaped spaces a good clean before storing bedding, tableware, stationary and more in well-sealed vacuum-pack bags.
Talullah explained, “Be sure not to overfill the bilges with vacuum bags, as this makes for uneven and dangerous flooring! It’s an art getting everything to fit and can certainly take several frustrating attempts!”
Step five: Restocking the yacht
Part of detailing the yacht involves restocking the yacht for guests and crew. Stews will refill guest compendiums and bathrooms, as well as the laundry, bar, condiments, etc. so that everything is in the rightful place when normal business resumes. The galley, crew mess and crew cabins will also have to be tackled as part of the detail clean.
Step six: Final checks
No detailing task is complete until the chief stew has taken a look over every cabin on board, with each responsible stew expected to have done a thorough job.
Kylie said, “When checking the cabins for cleanliness, I always like to sit on the floor, at the desk or on the bed. This way you will get a clear perspective of what the guest will see.
“Glass and mirrors are probably the least favourite and most troublesome items for the interior crew to clean. These steaks are simply annoying, and just when you think you have them all, the sun changes direction and you see more from the different angle. My advice here is to do a good clean with a soft soap. Dry the glass surface well with a soft, lint-free cloth, then do any polishing after that.
“Don't forget to check the guest compendiums for missing pens and notepads, small cracks by the bed and hard-to-get places in the cabin for nasty ‘dust bunnies’. These areas are notorious for being overlooked. And remember, you should never have to use harsh cleaning solutions or chemicals on the fine and very expensive interior materials. Wherever possible, do use minimal cleaning products, or adopt a green-only policy on board.”