Sailboat sails are expensive and sail repairs cost big bucks. Sailing skippers need to give their boat sails an annual bath, a careful inspection, and remove any stains. This will keep the harmful, abrasive effects of soil away from your sails. Use these five sail cleaning tips to protect your investment.
1. Annual Bath
Wash racing or cruising sails in mild soapy water once a year. Use a medium firm hand brush. Follow the seams with your brush strokes to prevent unnecessary stitch wear.
As you clean, inspect sail seams for broken zigzag or straight sewing stitches. Keep a record of these in a small notebook. Make the repairs yourself or drop the sail by a local sailmaking shop.
2. Mildew Stain Removal
Dry brush the sail on both sides to loosen the mold spores. Soak the effected area in a mild bleach solution for 2-3 hours. Do not use bleach on nylon spinnaker sails! Use only mild soapy water on nylon sails.
After soaking, scrub both sides of the sail. Rinse several times to remove the bleach solution. Drape over chairs or hang on a line to dry. Drying your sails helps prevent mildew growth.
3. Blood Stain Removal
Dry brush the sail on both sides to remove dried blood. Use a mild solution of bleach and soak the affected area in a tub for 20-30 minutes. Scrub both sides of the sail. Rinse all traces of bleach from the sail. Drape over chairs or hang on a line to dry.
4. Rust or Ink Stain Removal
Use a 5% solution of oxalic acid. Purchase this product over-the-counter at your local drugstore. In the days of the square riggers, sailors scrubbed the wooden decks with this mild abrasive. Rinse all traces of oxalic acid from the sail. Dry the sail before storing.
5. Number and Decal Removal
Remove old racing sail numbers or decals with a small amount of WD-40. Spay around the edges of the adhesive, wait a few minutes and peel. As you peel, spray more lubricant to keep the adhesive soft. Wash all traces of WD-40 from the sail with a mild soapy solution; then rinse. Drape the sail over chairs or hang on a line to dry.
As a sailing skipper, you want to do whatever it takes to increase the life of your costly boat sails. These sail cleaning tips will save you money and reward you with a suite of sails that give you great performance for many years to come.
Captain John Jamieson shows small boat cruising skippers how to reach their sailing dreams today! Get his popular free report "Ten Top Safety Checks for Cruising Boat Skippers" at