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post #1 of 11 Old 02-23-2011 Thread Starter
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cleaning the main sail

not sure were to post, but i need to clean my main sail,,, very stuborn stains,,, any ideas of what to use,,, can i use bleach, or will that ruin the sail,,any thoughts,,, migth need to soak it... thought about a small kiddie pool and some bleach mixed at maybe 4 parts water, one part bleach,,, any thoughts,,, thanks
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post #2 of 11 Old 02-23-2011
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What material is your sail made out of?
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post #3 of 11 Old 02-24-2011
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the best question beside what is the sail made out of is, what are the stains?

if its rust dont use oxyclean or bleach, there is an acid just for this, dont remember what it is thou. if its dirt good old fashioned dish soap and a brush. if its grease or oil first soap then lighter fluid.

now we need to know what the sail is, if its dacron the above things will work.

and yes a kiddy pool with warm but not hot water and soap and let it soak over night. then rinse and rinse some more. spead the sail out on grass, not cement when its time for a soft brush.
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post #4 of 11 Old 02-24-2011 Thread Starter
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new to sailing not sure what the material is ,,, the sail was made in 96 if that tells you anything, white and very heavy weight,,,
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post #5 of 11 Old 02-24-2011
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Sounds like dacron. IIRC there is a sail cleaning company that is nationwide. If a W is near you, or other sail manufacture rep, that can be your drop off. IIRC cost is .10-.20 per sq ft.

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post #6 of 11 Old 02-24-2011
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Sail care is a good choice, but most sail lofts offer cleaning and repair services for a reasonable price.

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post #7 of 11 Old 02-24-2011
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Oxalic Acid

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Originally Posted by scottyt View Post
...there is an acid just for this...now we need to know what the sail is, if its dacron the above things will work.

and yes a kiddy pool with warm but not hot water and soap and let it soak over night. then rinse and rinse some more. spead the sail out on grass, not cement when its time for a soft brush.
To remove rust stains use oxalic acid. It is a poison so keep it out of your mouth. Oxalic acid can be purchased as wood bleach at a paint store, but check label to make sure.
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post #8 of 11 Old 02-24-2011
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If the sail is mace from white woven dacron ......

Clean the sail on the boat, as woven dacron is a 'dirt magnet' if you clean it on any non-clean surface. Cleaning it on the boat will prevent dirt-pick up 'during' cleaning. (If you have bare teak or bare teak decks dont do this as the followiing method will extract the tannins from the teak and this will transfer to the sail.)

Chemicals:
A SodiumSilicate based detergent - I use a product named "Tuff-eNuff" made by Wallace & Sons (FL) ... found in many East Coast boat chandleries. WM can 'special order' - expensive.
Oxalic Acid crystals - from a hardware or paint store ('wood bleach').
Large plastic tarp.
SOFT scrubbing brush on long pole.

Step #1 .
On a windless cloudy, high humidity day, slowly raise the sail as you spray on the detergent, spreading it as you go. Quickly continue until the sail has an even coating of detergent until the sail is fully raised, then immediately drop it onto the plastic tarp, cover the remainder with the tarp - this will prevent the detergent from drying .... let soak covered for an hour.
After an hour or so, slowly raise while scrubbing with the soft brush and respraying any area that has 'dried', until the sail is 'full-up', then drop back and cover with the tarp. Repeat raising while scrubbing concentrating on the areas that are especially cruddy and let soak under the tarp.

With dock hose in hand slow raise as you rinse ALL the detergent out of the fabric. Repeat until NO evidence of detergent is left in the fabric. The detergent MUST be totally removed before the next 'treatment'.

This first step will release 99% --- dirt, dissolve any 'artillery fungus' growing (those pesky teeny black spots), 'air pollution', etc. but there will be 'yellowish' or iron staining remaining - extracted in the next step. Expect the rinse water to be 'quite filthy', keep rinsing until the rinse water is 'clear'.

Step 2 -
Mix the oxalic crystal into WARM water. Start with a few quarts of warm water and add the oxalic to the water so that most, but not all, oxalic dissolves in the water (saturated solution) keep adding oxalic so there are a few undissolved crystals in the bottom of the bucket.

Slowly raise the sail as you apply the oxalic mixture, this will bleach out the tannin, mud, shadows of previously removed artillery fungus, rust, etc. staining not extracted by step #1. The 'bleaching' will be almost instantaneous. Then rinse SEVERAL times to make sure that 100% of the oxalic is removed.

Then leave the sail 'up' until fully dry .... or go sailing until dry.


Caution - Sodium Silicate detergents will slowly dissolve skin, eyeballs and other 'organics'; Oxalic will rapidly absorb through your skin and cause harm to your kidneys
... so wear rain gear, gloves, goggles, etc.
This process will also remove the wax from your gelcoat, etc., especially the old dead wax ... so you will need to rewax the boat (in all probability the old dead wax 'should' be stripped out yearly anyway to retard oxidation of the gel). BE sure to rinse thoroughly, especially between steps #1 & #2 as sodium silicate detergent and oxalic acid are not 'compatible'.

The result will be a sail that looks almost brand new. These 'chemicals' will not harm, etc. polyester dacron nor the dacron polyester stitching, etc.
** Do NOT use these on dacron 'laminates', dacron cruising laminates, nor any other 'laminate' sail, nor any sail that is other than WHITE.

:-)
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post #9 of 11 Old 02-24-2011
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A. 4:1 bleach is a lot; try 12:1. Time also matters; no more than 20 minutes. But really, if bleach will remove it, so will sunlight, just more slowly, and you get to go sailing! Realy, bleach is a bad idea if taken beyond normal laundry instructions. Common sense.

B. Weak acids on polyester are not too bad. Nothing strong or for too long. But NEVER use acid on a nylon spinaker. Nylon is disolved by acids and even weak acids are very damaging. If you have a rust stain on your chute, live with it.

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post #10 of 11 Old 02-24-2011
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Polyester is NOT compatible with 'bleach' (Sodium Hypochlorite) at above ambient temperatures. The residual 'bleach' that gets into especially the polyester 'stiitching' and which if not totally removed by 'rinsing' is going to matter. So if you do use 'bleach' be sure that you 'thoroughly' rinse it out to prevent 'premature' stitching failure. The best way to 'know' if all the bleach is rinsed out is to use your 'nose'; just smell the fabric, etc. and if you smell 'any hint' of 'clorox, etc'. you really HAVE to rinse and rinse until you dont even have a 'residual hint' of clorox 'smell' remaining.

Polyester is compatible with oxalic acid (and in all %concentration of oxalic) above ambient temperature ... and is FASTER to remove tannins, iron, etc. staining.

Last edited by RichH; 02-24-2011 at 02:14 PM.
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