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  Topic Review (Newest First)
01-25-2013 04:36 PM
Re: Sail Cleaning

Great post, thanks!
12-08-2012 07:58 AM
Re: Sail Cleaning

The big advantage of the commercial cleaner services that use a machine that washes in a vacuum, is cleaning out any mold/mildew that may start forming in the folded over seems. Its not coincidental that this is usually where a sail starts to fail. If you treat your sails well, I think sending them out every two to three years is well worth it. Once they start to get older, every year really extends their life IMHO.

Our are now 8 years old and in pretty good shape, but this is the first year where they have gone two in a row. By next year, I suspect we will have SailKote applied as well, which is expensive. However, I think it will keep a descent sail in good condition for a bit longer.
12-07-2012 10:44 PM
Re: Sail Cleaning

RichH - I can not imagine ever having the time to follow this procedure. Guess I'm stuck with dirty sails...
12-05-2012 10:16 PM
Re: Sail Cleaning

florida- I think the key was soaking for several hours. Maybe the Woolite and vinegar would have loosened the green stuff and some of the dark stains if it had soaked, but just scrubbing did literally nothing. The sail isn't as "bright white" like the pics on the sail cleaners' websites, but it's pretty good.
12-05-2012 10:00 PM

fantastic post
Literally 4 days ago I was washing my main and thinking of making this exact post
Your research and step by step analysis was really helpful
I had seen several comments about the Woolite, yet I like your idea about the oxy clean~ doubt it causes any major UV damage, especially if well rinsed, but then again I'm not an expert

I'm going to use Oxyclean detergent on my main because it has some stains from being furled but the Genoa is in mint condition so I'll probably just use Woolite
take care
12-05-2012 09:27 PM
Re: Sail Cleaning

Ive been lofting and making my own sails for well over 35 years. I also spent my initial engineering years in textile processing equipment.

If the sail is made from woven dacron polyester - NOT for colored woven dacron, NOT for sails made of 'laminates', etc. :

First extract the 'dirt', do this ON the boat (if and only if the boat doesnt have
BARE teak decks or trim)
On a cloudy windless day .....
Slowly raise the sail as you 'spritz on' detergent (and water) made from either sodium silicate (eg. Tuff e-muff ... mfg. by Wallace and Sons, Ft. Lauderdale Fl .. expensive) or mild trisodiumphosphate (TSP) solution
Use a SOFT scrubbing brush mounted onto a long 'telescoping' painters pole; raise the sail as you go to 'spread' the detergent equally.
When the sail is fully 'up' and full 'spread' with detergent ... drop the sail onto a plastic tarp and then cover with a plastic tarp and wait for at least one hour to 'soak'.
After soaking, slowly raise the sail, scrubbing as you go, and re-spritzing areas that became dry.
Drop the sail and cover and let soak for approx. another hour.
If the sail is 'really' dirty you may need to raise and scrub then soak several times ... usually not needed.
Slowly raise the sail as you rinse both sides (with a garden hose) ... raise and lower several times while rinsing.
The sail will now have most of fungus (usually artillery fungus - the 'black specs'), air pollution, general 'dirt', etc. removed. The next step is bleaching.

Bleaching - removal of tannins and rust:
Thoroughly rinse ALL the sail material, deck, scrubbing brush and YOU of any 'detergent'.
Take the contents of crystals of oxalic acid (paint store stuff) and put into the bottom of CLEAN bucket, then add 'just enough' warm to hot water to cause ALL the crystals to dissolve.
Don rain gear, goggles, gloves (Oxalic acid readily absorbs through the skin and is 'concentrated in your kidneys' ... forming sharp crystals .... kidney stones are accumulations of principally oxalic compounds)
Apply oxalic acid mixture to the whole sail to remove tannin stains, rust stains, etc. ... usually the oxalic acid application will 'instantly' remove the staining.
Raise and lower while rinsing the sail ... you must remove all the oxalic.

When fully rinsed, raise the sail to fully dry before lowering.

Dacron polyester and dacron polyester stitching is a VERY stable and chemical resistant material .... old clothes made of dacron polyester will be in landfills 600 years from now and will probably look the same then as now because of the 'stability' and chemical resistance of the material.

BTW - now re-wax the entire boat as the 'detergent' you just used 'stripped' most of the wax you previously applied to the gelcoat, etc.

DO NOT "IRON" the sails.
DO NOT put the sails into a kiddy pool and stir them with an oar, you'll only break down the heat-calendered 'filler' between the weave, etc.
Do Not attempt to clean sails on any surface that cant be totally cleaned beforehand, certainly keep a new/cleaned sail away from 'ground/dirt'/tree leaves, etc. ... dacron is a 'dirt magnet', and thats why you just cleaned it.
12-05-2012 06:48 PM
Re: Sail Cleaning

Originally Posted by jrd22 View Post
harmony- hope you're wrong about the Oxiclean, I wanted to avoid bleach for that reason and thought the Oxi was a recommended alternative for Dacron.
I just did some online sleuthing and it looks like the majority of people say it's a-okay o use on sails (probably should have done some more homework before I posted). We recently washed our sails with the Woolite and vinegar solution, but I'll probably give Oxiclean a try next time (our sails are looking pretty shabby...but at least they're functional!)
12-05-2012 06:13 PM
Re: Sail Cleaning

Soak in Oxyclean stir with paddle and rinse well for main cleaning...

Oxalic Acid (totally different product) will remove rust and green corrosion stains...

As with any product, rinse well after use...
12-05-2012 06:02 PM
Re: Sail Cleaning

harmony- hope you're wrong about the Oxiclean, I wanted to avoid bleach for that reason and thought the Oxi was a recommended alternative for Dacron.
12-05-2012 03:53 PM
Re: Sail Cleaning

I was told by someone, or read somewhere, that Oxiclean speeds up UV degradation??? This may be fallacious, but something to consider. They say the same thing about bleach. Woolite and vinegar is good for dirty sails, but not stained ones. That's a great idea to use your dinghy as a tub!
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