HOW do I clean a sail?


New Member
Yes, Yes! I looked in the SF FAQ’s and saw the one on “How do I clean my sail?” The problem is it doesn’t say HOW to clean the sail. It only tells you WHAT to clean it with. I even paged through the SF Bible and searched the internet with Google. I couldn’t find anything. :confused:

So here is my question... How do I clean my Sail? Must it be hand washed or can it be machine washed on the gentle cycle. This may sound crazy but I was thinking of taking it to the laundromat and putting it in one of those big front load machines on gentle.

So if some of you experienced Sunfish owners, or sailors could help me I’d appreciate it. I’d rather not send it to Sail Care in Pa. ...It’s an old sail in good shape, but not worth the expense of sending it out to be cleaned.

Thanks for the help!
NO! NEVER PUT A SAIL IN A WASHING MACHINE OR DRYER! The action of the agitator will breakdown the resin impregnation in the cloth and you'll have the breeze blowing through the sail. Same with the heat from a dryer and the action of the sail tumbling around in the drum.
So do you just put it in a tube and hand wash it?

You mentioned the heat from the dryer can breakdown the resin impregnation...what about a hair dryer. The sail I bought was used and had racing numbers on it. To remove the glue left over from the numbers I warmed it with a hair dryer and rubbed the warm glue off. So did I just ruin the sail?
NO, it's the tumbling and heat that ruin the resin impregnation.
We just lay them out and use very mild soap and a soft bristle brush and let them air dry.
Fish sails are nice because you can leave them on the spars and hang them to dry very easily.
Thanks for the information Mike. At the risk of sounding ignorant, which I am on this subject, I have last question.

Do you recommend placing anything under the sail when I lay it out to wash it? The only place I have big enough to lay out the sail, suitable for cleaning it, would be the concrete pad in front of my garage or the front lawn. I think if I used the front lawn I would be working against myself. If I washed it on the concrete I’m worried the concrete would be hard on the sail surface when I scrub it with the brush.
Hmmm..., most sailmaker web sites have guides for cleaning sails. But, they all say about the same thing. . .


Washing sails:
It is important to wash sails very carefully. Warm water and [mild] detergent will get off the majority of dirt marks (apart from rust and blood) and a good final rinse down with cold, fresh water is vital. Never use any strong chemicals or bleach.

[ Bar Keeper's Friend will safely remove rust stains - DO NOT rub it - just wet the spot, sprinkle on, let sit 20 min, and rinse off ] Works great for cleaning stains from gelcoat too.

I draped my sail over a patio table and washed a section at a time with a very soft brush. When I was done I loosely draped the sail over a clothes line to dry. Nothing to it.

You could reinstall the sail on the spars to dry, but it would probably be dry before you could get all the shower curtain rings back on.
Brian, I use one of the cheapo blue tarps under the sail when I clean it. It also double as a wrap cover for the mat/sails and spars when I travel with the boat and you're right doing it on the lawn does defeat the purpose. I learned that the hard way. Since I don't remove it from the spars to clean it it's easy to "hang it up to dry". Mines got a lot of places where the sail is tied on rather than using the sail clips so it's a real pain taking it off the spars.
I agree with the poly tarp answer. Around the boat yards in Annapolis MD you'll find companies washing sails off 50 or 60 foot boats on them. If it's good enough for sails cost more than $10,000 it must be OK for a Fish sail.