Cleaning sails? - SailNet Community
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 7 Old 03-20-2006 Thread Starter
Junior Member
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 2
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Rep Power: 0
Cleaning sails?

Just got a boat that's been sitting 3 yrs- mold on mailsail. Good ideas for cleaning stain off?
ssballard1990 is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 7 Old 03-20-2006
yachtvalhalla's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: SE Asia
Posts: 46
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Rep Power: 0
Look at this link:


"Does the song of the sea end at the shore or in the hearts of those who listen to it?" Kahlil Gibran
yachtvalhalla is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
post #3 of 7 Old 03-24-2006
Senior Member
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 122
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Rep Power: 14
Might be worth your money to also take it to a sail maker. It may have other problems and with the mold you may want to seek some professional advice. Fix the little things and also take the time to get it measured properly just in case you need to start shopping around. Most sail makers won't charge you much to look it over and tell what you might expect if you want it commercially cleaned. You do ned to kill all the mold but don't just use household products.

You need to treat sail cloth as gently as possible. Some stains you won't get out without destroying the cloth so you do end up with some stains you have to live with. The sailrite link above is a good start.

I had a jib cleaned professionally due to green mold. It came out almost perfect but the cloth was in great shape to start. The PO had use ensign cloth to make a sun strip and it trapped moisture inside the furled sail and made mold. A new Sunbrella strip cured the problem after it was cleaned. Luckily it needed no other repairs. The cleaning bill was about $70.
PaulBl is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
post #4 of 7 Old 03-24-2006
camaraderie's Avatar
Join Date: May 2002
Location: East Coast
Posts: 13,877
Thanks: 0
Thanked 6 Times in 6 Posts
Rep Power: 18
If the sail needs more than just a cleaning...try . We've used them several times over the years and for a reasonable price they make your sails look and perform almost like new as well as making any repairs needed. No conection but highly recomended!
camaraderie is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
post #5 of 7 Old 03-25-2006
Junior Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Virginia
Posts: 3
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Rep Power: 0
You can clean most sails yourself but it can be cumbersome and time consuming ,and some sailcloth materials are sensitive to chlorine bleach and acetone(they can loose up to 80% of their original strength)
For washing sails use mild soap and water and a soft brush ,rinse the sail liberally with fresh water.When you hang your sail to dry ,do so at time when it's not windy,many sailors fail to understand the damage that wind alone does inflict on the fibers of wet sails.
Sailandais is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
post #6 of 7 Old 03-25-2006
Senior Member
RichH's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 4,549
Thanks: 42
Thanked 258 Times in 244 Posts
Rep Power: 18
Simple and effective process for cleaning "DACRON" sails; NOT for mylar or other film laminated sails or colored dacron:

Obtain a strong detergent containing "Sodium Silicate" - typically from a janitorial supply or at chandleries a product called "Tuff-eNuff". Go to a hardware store and get some Oxalic Acid crystals (Wood Bleach). Get a 'soft' long bristle brush with a 6-7 ft. handle.
Do this on a windless/cloudy day with high humidity so that the detergent doesnt 'dry-out' while you are working ..............-
Dont do this on a boat with a bare teak deck, etc. as this process will strip the tannins out of the teak !!!!!!!!!!! This process is for WHITE *woven* dacron fabric .... dont do this if colored fabric, laminated sails, etc.
Wear goggles, rubber gloves and foul weather gear to protect yourself from the 'strong' detergent.

1. Clean the deck of the boat.
2. Drop the sail to the deck, then raise about 4 ft. and spray on the detergent and spread the detergent with the long handled brush so that the fabric is totally wetted, spritz with a mist from a garden hose - not to soak but to just keep the sail 'wetted'. Do the 'reverse side' in the same manner.
3. Continue to raise the sail in 4 ft. increments while applying detergent and mist.
4. When all of sail is wetted and has detergent applied, drop to deck while 'misting' and then cover with a plastic tarp to prevent drying out. Let sit under the cover for 1/2 - 1 hour.
5. Slowly raise the sail while scrubbing with the long handled brush, add water mist as needed to keep it wetted, drop the sail and do the 'other side'. Don let the sail dry-out.
6. cover with plastic tarp for about 1/2 hour, then raise and scrub again if needed.
Note: The sodium silicate will release most of the mold/mildew stains (actually it dissolves the cells of the mold/mildew - but may leave a 'shadow' which will be removed in subsequent steps. Most of the teeny black spots you find on woven dacron sails are colonies of 'artillery fungus' ... readily removed by a sodium silicate based detergent. The 'soak time' is important as these cels are dissolved by the Sodium Silicate.
7. Slowly raise the sail, scrub and flood the sail with a garden hose to release the mold and dirt, etc. Raise in 4ft. sections, do both sides.
7a. You may need to raise and lower several times to remove ALL the detergent ... When there is NO detergent (soap bubbles) left then proceed to step #8. ...... This is important as you dont want to mix the chemicals of the above step with what comes next.
8. Mix up a saturated solution of water and oxalic acid crystals. About 3-4 gallons of hot water into which you add oxalic crystals of sufficient quantity so that no more crystals dissolve .... add enough crystals so that no more dissolve and you can SEE the undissolved crystals on the bottom of the bucket.
Note: Oxalic acid is a potentially dangerous chemical that will absorb quickly through your skin and deposit in your kidneys ... you must wear gloves, goggles and foul weather gear.
9. dip the brush in the oxalic solution and apply to the sail as you raise it in 4ft. incrrements ... one side at a time.
9a. drop the sail and do the other side.
Note: you dont have to scrub hard when using oxalic as its a 'bleach' and will quickly beach out rust and tannin stains (the shadows of the mold/mildew, etc.).
10. Raise and lower the sail several times while flooding/rinsing with the hose to completely remove the oxalic.
11. raise the sail to thoroughly dry, or go sailing

The above process should return the sail 'almost' to new condition, will NOT harm normal woven dacron material or polyester sail thread, wont 'beat the hell out of the fabric, nor destroy the filler in the fabric.

The problem with dacron polyester is its ability to 'hold' dirt and mildew that is hard to release. The soak times above are important so that the detergent has 'time to work'.

Note: The above process will have stripped ALL the wax out of the gelcoat on the deck and where it runs over to the topsides .... which you probably should strip such wax about every two years anyway as old dead wax accelerates the 'ageing' of gelcoat .... simply rewax the gelcoat to 'seal' it to prevent oxidation.
Note: use the leftover oxalic solution on the water-line to remove the accumulated tannin stains in the gelcoat ("moustache") ... then seal the 'pores' of the gelcoat with wax to prevent future 'moustache'.

Ive been making my own sails for the past 30+ years and this process of cleaning is the best/easiest/fastest that Ive found to clean a woven dacron fabric sail. Dont do this on colored or laminated dacron ... or anywhere near bare teak.

Hope this helps.
RichH is online now  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
post #7 of 7 Old 03-25-2006
Senior Member
RichH's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 4,549
Thanks: 42
Thanked 258 Times in 244 Posts
Rep Power: 18
Never EVER use acetone or other 'organic solvents' (kerosene, gasoline, ketones, alcohols, paint removers, etc.) to clean sails as you will destroy them. release the 'filler', soften the fibers, etc. etc. etc.
RichH is online now  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook

Quick Reply

By choosing to post the reply above you agree to the rules you agreed to when joining Sailnet.
Click Here to view those rules.

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the SailNet Community forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.
Please note: After entering 3 characters a list of Usernames already in use will appear and the list will disappear once a valid Username is entered.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Windward performance deseely General Discussion (sailing related) 21 04-01-2012 02:42 PM
Sloop, Cutter or Ketch jsgsail Boat Review and Purchase Forum 17 12-26-2008 02:47 PM
Ketch/Yawl Handling svsymphony Seamanship & Navigation 19 07-05-2008 01:19 AM
Yawl Info Needed sailortonyb1 Boat Review and Purchase Forum 5 01-18-2006 04:51 AM
Cleaning sails scrumhalf Gear & Maintenance 6 03-26-2002 06:53 AM

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome