If you have an ultralight aircraft there is a good chance that it is
covered with dacron sail cloth. This is the same style of cloth used in
the sailing industry.
These boats are generally quite expensive, with
the owners wanting bright colours and CLEAN sails! So to find out how
to clean dacron sail cloth I searched the "sail boat" web and came up
with the following recommendations.
CLEANING - Use a soft scrub brush and a mild detergent or Ivory soap.
Detergents with a neutral ph factor will not tend to set certain types
of soil rather than remove them. Always scrub in line with seams. After
scrubbing, rinse sail with plenty of warm water to remove all soap
before laying flat to dry.
MILDEW - Mildew is caused by storing soiled sails wet. While it does
not affect the strength of Dacron, it is unsightly and should be removed
early to prevent spreading through the dirt and moisture left in the
sail- a good reason for keeping the sail clean.
To remove mildew, brush the area with a stiff brush to remove as much
as possible. Place infected area in a solution of 1% bleach and cold
water for about two hours. Wash thoroughly and rinse with fresh water.
Repeat if necessary.
Dacron® Sailcloth - Mildew/Blood Removal: Remove both
blood and mildew by brushing the stained area with a stiff dry brush.
Soak the remaining stain (stained area only) in a mild fresh water and
bleach solution for 1-2 hours, lightly scrubbing the spot occasionally.
Rinse liberally with fresh cool water. Remember that mildew is a fungus
growth and you should stop the growth and clean the affected area
immediately upon noticing it. Since preventing mildew is much easier
than removing it, please follow proper storage recommendations.
Another method is to wash the stain in hot, sudsy
water (with some bleach added), then rinse and dry. Moisten the stain
with lemon juice and salt and let it dry in the sun. Rinse in warm
MILDEW: Hot soapy water with a little bleach will generally prevail.
After scrubbing, leave the solution on the fabric for a few minutes and
rinse thoroughly. When using bleach a residual chlorine smell may be
present after rinsing. A 1% solution of sodium thiosolphate
(photographer’s hypo) should remove all chlorine traces. Here again
rinse and dry well.
Note: For laminate, nylon, and Dacron® sailcloth, a
disinfectant spray such as Lysol®, should stop and prevent
To remove blood stains soak the stained portion of the sail in a
solution of cold water with a cup of ammonia to one half gallon of
water. If, after treating, the stains are still present, dampen the sail
with a 1% solution of ammonia in water, allow to stand for about 20
minutes and then thoroughly rinse stained area. Another method is to
scrub the stain with a concentrated mixture of dry detergent and warm
water. Make the mixture as thick and pasty as possible and apply it to
the stained area with a brush. Let the mixture stand on the stain for
about 15-30 minutes to let the detergent work, and then rinse with warn
water. If the stain is still there, treat the stained area with a mild
bleach and warn water and then re-rinse.
Always finish any stain treatment by washing and rinsing the sail
with fresh water.
BLOOD: Soak the stained portion for 10-20 minutes in a solution of
bleach (Clorox) and warm water, generally 10 parts water to 1 part
bleach. Scrub and repeat if necessary. Rinse thoroughly, particularly
nylon and dry completely.
STAINS - Oil and grease stains may be removed with trichloroethylene
or naphtha. Heavy staining might be removed by brushing
on a detergent dissolved in two pints of benzene or white spirits. This
should be brushed in the sail and left for 20 minutes and then washed
out with warm water. Be sure when this job is done the area is well
ventilated and precautions taken if the solvents are inflammable.
OIL, GREASE, TAR AND WAX: Warm water, soap and elbow grease seem to
be effective. On hard stains propriety stain removal and dry cleaning
fluids should do the trick. Be careful to remove all fluids, as they can
soften the various resinated coatings on sailcloth.
Dacron® Sailcloth - Grease, Tar, Oil, etc.: Acetone
rubbed on the spot with a clean cloth should remove these stains. After
applying the acetone, clean area with a mild detergent and fresh water
mixture. Be sure to properly rinse out all of the acetone from the
To remove rust stains, soak stained area in a solution
of 2% hydrochloric acid and warm water. Or, soak the stain in oxalic
acid for 15-30 minutes and then rinse thoroughly. You can get oxalic
acid powder at a drug store. Use manufacturers recommendations about the
amount of water to cut it with.
PAINT AND VARNISH: Acetone and M.E.K. should remove most common paint
stains; varnish can be easily removed by alcohol.
RUST AND METALLIC STAINS: These types of stains are very often the
most frustrating and difficult to remove. First scrub with soap and
water and apply acetone, M.E.K. or alcohol. As a last resort, you might
try a diluted mixture (5%) of oxalic acid and soak 15-20 minutes.
Hydrochloric acid 2 parts to 100 in warm water will also work.
Dacron® Sailcloth - Tree Sap: Gently wipe off with
rubbing alcohol on a dry cloth.
Temperkote or Mylar sails are still new and experimental. At this
point in time, avoid most solvents, as time can damage the fabric over a
period of time. Soap and diluted bleaches should take care of most
Use all solvents with care. Always rinse and dry thoroughly. It
should be emphasized that nylon rip stop spinnaker fabrics are less
durable and more sensitive than their polyester counterparts. Bleaches
and solvents can ruin nylon if not used properly.
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