When Should You Flush Outboard Motors with Vinegar?

Outboard motors have a host of benefits including better versatility and a lower initial investment. But, like anything else, they have their drawbacks, most namely that they are prone to getting dirty and clogged. When this happens, you’ve probably been told to flush outboard motors with vinegar, but should you? Is there a specific time when this is warranted? Or is it a best practice for general maintenance?

In this article, we’re diving into each of these questions so that you can gain a better understanding of why and when to do a vinegar flush.

Should You Flush Outboard Motors with Vinegar?

should you flush outboard motors with vinegar

Salt Away is a popular product for cleaning outboard motors that are in need of a bit of TLC. However, this product can be both expensive and hard to get your hands on, depending where you’re located.

Luckily, there’s an alternative you likely already have in your home. If not, you can easily get it at the nearest grocery store — vinegar.

You may have heard of using vinegar for motor cleaning, but the question is, should you? Is it safe?

Well, vinegar is acidic. That’s pretty much what makes it a good cleaning agent, alongside its disinfectant properties. The acidity in the mixture is ideal for eating away grease, dirt, grime, and mineral deposits that could clog your motor and inhibit its function.

Ideally, when you use distilled vinegar for flushing your engine, you’re going to want to then flush the area with water. This is because the acid in the vinegar is simultaneously good for cleaning and bad for promoting and kickstarting the development of rust. Cleansing the area after use is a best practice where vinegar is concerned.

Otherwise, vinegar is perfectly safe to use.

When to Flush Your Motor with Vinegar

Okay. You now know that it’s a perfectly sane idea to flush outboard motors with vinegar. But when is this action warranted?

In a nut shell, you can use vinegar for this purpose whenever you see fit. There are no rulebooks or guidelines that will tell you when to use vinegar and when to use another product instead. It all comes down to personal preference.

If you have a motor that is severely gummed up with salt and hard mineral deposits, you can absolutely use a vinegar flush to cure the problem. Although, you’d also be justified to use vinegar as part of your regular maintenance routine. It can be used to tackle both small and large jobs.

This being said, it’s not uncommon for people to use commercial products primarily and to only use vinegar when they do not have said products available or when they’re trying to save a bit of cash.

Benefits of Vinegar Flushes


While commercial products work well, they can be expensive. Of course, how much you pay depends on the product and how much you need, as well as how often you use it.

In general, though, commercial products do come with a relatively steep price tag when compared to simply using vinegar as your cleaning product.

Vinegar can be purchased at any grocery store and in a variety of container sizes, making them not only affordable but also convenient. They range from $5-$10 in most locations, while commercial products have been known to cost anywhere from $10-$25.

Quick Results

Using vinegar to flush your outboard motor, you benefit from a flush that is almost instantly effective. Vinegar is acidic, which means that it is excellent at breaking down various compounds like dirt, grime, and grease.

This cleaning method works within a matter of seconds, flushing everything undesirable from your motor without the need to wait for it to work.

An All-natural Solution

Vinegar is made of all-natural ingredients. This means that it’s a safer choice for use around pets, children, and other people. Its fumes are non-toxic and it isn’t corrosive or otherwise irritating to the skin.

In addition, it contains no chemicals that could harm the earth or negatively impact wildlife within the area of treatment. In fact, vinegar is commonly used to clean fish aquariums and small pet products, as it is praised for both its harmless makeup and effectiveness.

Easy to Find

Vinegar is a product that can be found just about anywhere that food is sold. It’s in nearly every grocery store and can be found at some discount stores, whereas commercial engine and motor cleaners are less likely to be carried at major grocery chains, making them harder to get your hands on.

To purchase a commercial cleaner, you’d likely have to visit a supercenter, sporting goods stores, or autobody shops.

Read More: How To Lube Steering Cable On Boat the Right Way – Straight From The Pros!


Using vinegar to flush outboard motors is a practice that is both safe but also beneficial. It’s non-toxic and non-corrosive, affordable and convenient to purchase, and works quickly on both small and large jobs, as well as on various types of corrosion. It can be used for routine cleans and/or for emergencies or special occasions.

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