Maintaining Your Sails
Whether you own racing or cruising sails, proper maintenance and a little extra effort on your part will ensure increased longevity and added sail performance. From rinsing off saltwater to proper storage your sails for the winter, there are a number of steps that can be taken to keep your sails in top form. Below, we have compiled a list of cleaning and care tips to help you get the most out of your sails.
There are several methods of keeping your sails clean, which are dependent upon the nature of the stain. These methods include:
- For dirt or caked-on salt - Remove with a mild detergent and a soft-bristled brush. Avoid harsh detergents and stiff brushes.
- For oil, grease, tar and wax - Remove with warm water and soap. For hard stains, a household bleach or M.E.K. can be used on Dacron sails. Do not use bleach on nylon or kevlar sails.
- For blood stains - Soak stained portion in a solution of 10 parts water to one part bleach. Scrub and rinse with fresh water.
- For rust and metallic stains - Scrub with soap and water, and then apply acetone. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water.
- For mildew - Scrub sail with hot, soapy water. For hard mildew stains, use X-14 or a solution of three parts water to one part bleach. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water.
- For paint and varnish - Remove with acetone or alcohol.
Important: Solvents can break down the adhesives and finish of sails if used incorretly. It is important to rinse and dry sails thoroughly after using them.
Once you have cleaned your sails, it is essential to properly stow them away.
- Store sails dry - Thoroughly drying your sails before stowing them will help to deter mildew. Dampness can also make heavily resinated sails softer over time and can make nylon sails bleed. To dry roller furling sails, roll them up loosely.
- Fold or roll sails - Especially important for racing sails, it is best to roll or fold your sails: never stuff them into the bag. You want to avoid creasing, which can break down the resin finish and greatly decrease the life of the sail.
- Avoid sunlight - Continuous exposure to ultra-violet radiation can decrease the strength of your sails. Always store sails in bags or under covers.
- Avoid heat - When storing your sails, keep them away from heat sources, such as engines, heaters, lights, etc. Also, never store sails in the trunk of your car.
- Avoid petroleum-based products - These products can break down the adhesives on laminated sails.
- Avoid storing near boat batteries - Battery acid can degrade the strength of the sails.