Sails, like everything aboard a boat, get dirty and often grow unsightly mildew stains to boot. Laminated sails, which are layered sails made of materials like Mylar and Spectra, are especially prone to mildew growth because lamination leaves voids between the surfaces and water slowly penetrates these voids by traveling (or wicking) along the fibers between the layers. UV covers and reinforcement in the corners add puncture holes from sewing allowing even more water to enter between the glued surfaces. Mildew grows beautifully when a few things come together – a food source (dirt and glue), lack of light and airflow, and moisture. Think about those furled headsails and mainsails – they’re most susceptible. Add salt, which helps keep surfaces moist for a long time, and you have a mildew smorgasbord.
Traditional washing can help but getting between the layers has been difficult - until now. A cleaning system called VACU-WASH penetrates deep into the sail, virtually eliminating mildew stains and odors. The VACU-WASH process involves placing the sails in a stainless steel vacuum chamber, removing the air and water from the voids between the sail layers, slowly introducing a cleaning agent that penetrates every layer and subsequently rinsing and drying the sail. Using the VACU-WASH system, sails are cleaned in 3-4 days and your sails can be returned to you in 10-14 days.
The VACU-WASH process can handle sails up to 3,000 square feet and costs about 95 cents per square foot. Once clean however, you should add a layer of Sailkote that is rumored to keep your sails looking new and is impervious to mildew for their lifetime – or at least 4-5 years which is how long it’s been available and tested. Sailkote is applied with a high pressure sprayer and makes sails slippery thereby allowing them to shed water more quickly. Gennakers with Sailkote are more easily stored because they dry faster and the socks slide down quickly. VACU-WASHING and adding Sailkote will run about $2.00 per square foot which includes the return shipping charges.
Sailmaking Systems has traditional washing processes available for non-laminated sails too but don’t forget the Sailkote which works on any kind of sail material. You can work with your sail maker to take advantage of VACU-WASH or Sailkote but if you’re not in an area where you have one easily accessible, you can contact Sailmaking Support Systems directly. For more information, visit www.sailkote.com.