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
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 water.
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
Always finish any stain treatment by washing and rinsing the sail with
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
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
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 stains.
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.