Dirty sails on your sailboat are embarrassing but you have ever tried cleaning them? Sometimes cleaning them can cause more damage than good and sail cleaning has never been an easy task, until now.
Online; there are a lot of suggestions, even some companies where you can send your sail to be cleaned but there really never has been a proven “do it yourself” technique, maybe that’s why people just buy a new one or live with the dirty sail they have.
Chlorine bleach seems to be the recommended chemical of choice but be very cautious with its use, to strong of a mix or if the sail soaks in the mix for too long, damage can occur. This damage you may not notice until the sail is back in use, things like loose threads, bleach stains or worse, small holes. Bleach is a strong chemical, if the sail does not get properly rinsed after cleaning, the bleach will continue to eat away at the fabric.
Hydrogen Peroxide is a much safer option. Not the strength mom used to put on your cuts to stop infection; you’ll need a mix about 80% stronger, in “powdered” form it is called sodium percarbonate. When mixed with the right mild detergents and wetting agents this formulation will clean most any sail easily and safely. It does not stain and does not have the toxic chemicals that bleach has that can eat through sail fabric or threading.
Cleaning is easy, just fill a bath tub, trash can, kids pool or a large storage bin with about 20 gallon of warm water, mix in a bottle of sail wash, stir the solution around for 15 minutes then drop the sail in the mixture, let it soak for an hour or so and remove. The sail will look clean at that point but to complete the process, lay the sail out on a smooth surface, with the left over mix from the tub, brush the sail with a soft brush, one like you would wash a car with. After brushing, rinse thoroughly with water, hose pressure is fine although a pressure washer may be used to speed up the process and to clean tougher stains but no more than 1000 psi should ever be used.
A sail should be cleaned yearly to improve performance and to extend the sails life and looks. I recommend cleaning right before storage, if you are cleaning your own sail before storing it for the winter make sure that the sail is fully dry or mold spots can occur.