How to clean your kayak, canoe and SUP to stop the spread of invasive species

How to clean your kayak, canoe and SUP to stop the spread of invasive species

About 2,000 plants and animals have been introduced, often accidentally, to the UK from all over the world. Many are harmless, but some species have had a detrimental impact on our native species as well as our own health and the activities we enjoy. These invasive non-native species not only harm 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.

As paddlers, we have the potential of spreading invasive species 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 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?

It’s simple to help stop the spread of these invasive non-native species. 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 check, clean and dry your kit and craft after every paddle.


  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.
  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, 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 Paddle UK, you are helping support the work in removing invasive non-native species from our waterways. Find out more here.