How to: clean your kayak or SUP and stop the spread!

How to: clean your kayak or SUP and stop the spread!

It’s really easy and really simple to clean your kayak or SUP. More on that within the article… but do you know WHY it’s so important to keep your kit clean? And no, it’s not just for aesthetic reasons!

For the last few hundred years since the first explorers sailed the seven seas, people have brought unusual plants and animals into Britain. Many were brought in to enhance land or out of idle curiosity. But today, we live with the consequences of those actions. The grey squirrel was introduced and now our native red squirrel has all but disappeared. Japanese Knotweed brought in to add a different dimension to the gardens of the wealthy has become a notifiable species and infests large parts of the country… and it’s almost impossible to destroy. And that’s just two examples you’ll have heard of!

So What!?

You may well think – so what, what has this got to do with me?

Well not only do a number of these alien species severely (and negatively) impact our native species, but they also have a massive impact on our canals, rivers, lakes and other waterways where you want to go paddling.

Several plant species cause a major headache to navigation authorities who have to spend around £25 million per year clearing these plants out of our waterways. They not only destroy the natural ecosystem, but can totally block any waterways they appear in. The local river you love paddling down could be completely taken over by floating pennywort for example, in a matter of days. This ‘clogging up’ prevents us from paddling, and also suffocates the other animals and plants living there too.

It’s not all about ‘bringing in invasive species’ into the country though… unfortunately, us paddlers have the potential of spreading them if precautions aren’t taken…

These plants and animals are hardy things. The spores of these plants can live on your paddling kit, whether that’s boats, SUP’s, paddles, cags, whatever you’re paddling in for days, sometimes even weeks in the right conditions. So if you have some on your boat from one waterway, and you unwittingly put in on your next paddle in a different waterway, or different spot, you’ve potentially transferred the problem. See how simple it is?

So what can I do to help?

Coming back to how to clean your kayak or other kit…

It’s REALLY simple to help stop the spread of these ‘invasive non native species’ (or aliens as we like to call them!) Just remember these three really simple things every time you go paddling. Learning how to clean your kayak, SUP or canoe is one part of helping out, so remember to:



  1. Check your equipment including your boat and paddle and clothing for living organisms, leaves, parts of the plant… anything it’s picked up whilst in the water.
  2. Pay particular attention to areas that are damp and hard to inspect such as the bow and stern of the boat, under the seats and rims and behind buoyancy bags and foot rests.
  3. Check folds of cag, buoyancy aid, wetsuit, spray-deck, throw-line, and the clothes you wear under your cag too.


  1. Clean your kayak, SUP or canoe and wash all equipment, footwear and clothes thoroughly. If you can use normal soap and water, great, if not, a thorough clean down and importantly dry is all that’s needed.
  2. On some waterways there are specifically installed ‘check clean dry’ stations, with more being installed every year. Keep an eye out as you paddle for a jetwash station with instructions on how and when to use the kit.
  3. The important thing here is to be thorough when your clean your kayak or other equipment. Get into the nooks and crannies. Give everything a thorough clean (we should be good at that by now with the COVID secure message drummed into us).
  4. If you do come across any organisms, leave them at the water body where you found them do not take them home and if they are notifiable – report it!
  5. Use tap water to clean you boat. In times of drought you will have to do this by watering cans and buckets. Take water with you so plan ahead!


  1. Dry all equipment and clothing – some species can live for many days in moist conditions. If it’s a warm sunny day, leave your boat out in the sun to dry – along with your extra kit.
  2. If the sun won’t help then do dry your kit with towels etc … they will need to be washed after use (unless you can dry them out properly between uses). You might need to think of innovative ways of reaching inside the end of your boat but it’s important to do so.
  3. Make sure you don’t transfer water elsewhere.

Just to add to this list… there’s a new innovative way of stop the spread, and that too is really simple! You can soak some of the smaller items of kit in water at 45 oC for 15 minutes. This has proved to result in a 99% mortality rate across all non-native species. So if you can do this with your clothing, it’s worth that extra peace of mind!

So there you have it. REALLY easy way to keep your kit clean AND give the natural environment a helping hand when you paddle!

Did you know? By becoming a member of British Canoeing, you are helping support the work in removing invasive non-native species from our waterways. Find out more here.