View Full Version : Cleaning old tired Sails
11-02-2011, 08:04 PM
I got a small keelboat last year. The sails need replacing but the toy budget is pretty much empty, sigh! I would like to at least clean them. Over the years they have acquired quite a patina. Looks like a bit of mould, a bit of aluminium staining. Lots of just dirt. A couple of spots look like oil. At least one squished spider (what a season for spiders). I think probably one stain of everything. They are old Dacron sails.
Its not very crisp anymore and is quite stretched out, but there is no real damage or tears.
I was going to put them in the bathtub and soak them in ???, dishwashing detergent? tide? some bleach? What do youse guys use?
11-02-2011, 09:14 PM
I've used Ivory Snow because it has few additives. I think you'd be ok with Woolite too. I have washed mine in the tub, I think I soaked them for a few hours, swishing them around a bit.
11-02-2011, 09:50 PM
Do not use bleach. But the non-chlorine bleach substitutes are OK. I've tried everything and while the sail will get cleaner, I don't believe you'll be able to remove all of those stains.You can buy official sail cleaner, but if you read the label, you'll find it's just detergent and the non-chlorine bleach that you probably have in your house now.
Michael D. Storey
11-02-2011, 10:10 PM
dacron? rather tough stuff. Suggest a hose and laundry detergent. Spread them out on the lawn and go at the bad spots with a nylon brush. Rinse. If they can't stand that, they are too weak to use. I have used this technique since the 70's.
11-02-2011, 10:10 PM
Go get ERA detergent.Original! It has enzymes that will remove the problem. Put it on full strength. Soak-re-wet, if it drys. Scub it gently. This work's for teak too-un varnished. You will be shocked. When they are beautiful, put a UV protector on them. We like Mary Kate, but we have Sunbrells-18 years old-in water always in NE. If you get mildew, wipe it down with a white cotton cloth, filled with Listerine. If when you wash, rinse with the Listerine also dry, then cover with waterproofing ..... I know stuff :D Let me know how much you love this hard work- save $$$$
11-02-2011, 10:19 PM
Here is a pdf from Sailrite that may be useful:
11-02-2011, 10:25 PM
Soak the sails overnight in hot water and liquid household detergent. Then spread a sheet of plastic or polytarp on a concrete driveway and with a fairly soft brush, more detergent and water, you can scrub them (the plastic or tarp keeps the concrete from abrading the Dacron from underneath as you scrub). Most commercial spot removers are safe on Dacron and may help on small stains. Metallic stains are removed using a 5% solution of oxalic acid in hot water on the stained area. Scrubbing, then soaking for a couple hours in bleach (one part bleach to ten parts of cold water) is the best way to remove mildew. It won't hurt the Dacron.
Once done with any and all treatments, it is critical to rinse the sails very well with clean fresh water and then be sure to give them plenty of time to dry (including areas between the cloth layers in corners) before folding and bagging them.
11-02-2011, 10:29 PM
Clean your sails:Go get ERA detergent.Original! It has enzymes that will remove the problem. Put it on full strength. Soak-re-wet, if it drys. Scub it gently. This work's for teak too-un varnished. You will be shocked. When they are beautiful, put a UV protector on them. We like Mary Kate, but we have Sunbrells-18 years old-in water always in NE. If you get mildew, wipe it down with a white cotton cloth, filled with Listerine. If when you wash, rinse with the Listerine also dry, then cover with waterproofing ..... I know stuff :D Let me know how much you love this hard work- save $$$$ P.S. Any window-dont' put on any!! sitting on wood. Put a sheet or a covering between the vinyl glass. Wash it with Ivory dish detergent, soft rubbing. Replace the moisture, If it is still foggy-DON"T smoke, but rub the real lighter fluid on it...(glass plastic) NICE!
11-03-2011, 01:08 AM
I have trouble understanding how any human being can write sentences like that, but I'd suggest that you stick with the proven methods to avoid damaging the sails.
11-05-2011, 06:47 PM
Here is my report.
I have some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that the sail is MUCH cleaner and does not seem to be worse for wear.
The bad news is that it has yellowed quite a lot.
So I guess I'm the winner. People pay good money for cream coloured sails!
I used detergent then diluted bleach.
Here are photos of the process.
I will do the jibs as soon as I have drying space.
11-07-2011, 11:41 AM
I believe the bleach caused the yellowing,
I ruined my favorite white shirt by bleaching it, and it turned splotchy creamy yellow, then I looked at the label and it said do not bleach.
Its an odd thing, If I bleach it again it will be white once, and turn yellow the next time I wash it without bleach.
Nothing more to add other than I really liked that shirt.
Hopefully your sails will match and hold up.
11-07-2011, 01:22 PM
I wonder why they turned yellow? I bleached the living **** out of a set of sails once, in desperation and it worked really well--obviously I rinsed them off for half an hour or more with a hose.
Bleach is some funny stuff. I'm very careful with it because, to me, anyway, it's so unpredictable. And obviously magical.
11-07-2011, 01:35 PM
One thing I found out when looking for ways to make my white shirt white again, was that some whites aren't really white, they are dyed white. And bleach removes the White "Dye" and they return to their original color. Not sure if this is true.
And not sure if it applies to sails, but it made sense with my shirt.
11-07-2011, 02:38 PM
White sailcloth is actually called "natural" because there is no coloring added to the fibers. Tanbark, Egyptian Cream and other colored Dacrons are dyed, which is no small task because the polyester fibers used for sailcloth tend to resist it. The resins and other stuff added as coatings are clear, but exposure to UV, heat, various substances and just age could eventually have an effect on the overall color.
11-07-2011, 07:30 PM
I've set the mainsail to dry and the yellow is less obvious than when wet.
I've also done the jib and it cleaned very well. The terrible mildew is gone and the colour is just about the same as the mainsail, a yellowish white. I've posted some photos. The jib was really dirty!
I've never thought that dacron feels particularly nice but now its almost pleasant to handle the sails.
I'm not too worried about the yellow, they are likely original sails circa 1975!!
As I was scrubbing (gently of course) I noticed some stitching undone so now I'll do a bit of maintenance. Its not unpleasant work if I can't go sailing.
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