Storing sails for winter.
Storing sails for winter requires careful consideration if they are to remain clean and free from stains.
With the summer season sailing over for most of us; it is now time to think about storing our sails. At the moment your sails are probably quashed in a sail bag - where you left them the last time you were out sailing! They cannot remain there all winter!
In fact, it is best if you take all your sails off the boat until the Springtime. Set aside a few hours to look at your sails individually. Take each sail out of its bag and inspect it for the following. Stains, Tears, Loose threading and areas of deterioration due to rubbing on shrouds or spars.
Follow the procedure mentioned on my other page - Cleaning Sails - then stow each sail away in a dry area like your loft or garage.
If you do not follow a routine of cleaning your sails then
storing sails with mildew or other stains will allow the stains to eat into the laminate or coating during the winter, causing them to remain permanently on the fabric. Mildews and moulds are the biggest problem and a little stain will multiply during the course of the winter. Moisture and lack of ventilation are exactly the environment mould and mildew thrive on.
Nowadays, there are several different materials and construction techniques used in sails. Laminates use adhesives and should be cared for differently than sewn sails. When cleaning, the specific material used in either a laminate or coating should be known to you. Most sail laminates are either Kevlar, Mylar, Spectra, or Vectran. Coatings used for nylon or polyester woven fabrics are urethane and melamine resins. You may have a Dacron sail; this is DuPontís registered trademark name for polyester.
Remember, laminated sails are very sensitive to solvents and petroleum-based oils. For example, Acetone and other strong solvents will soften the adhesives. As mentioned elsewhere on this website, most sail laminates and coatings can be cleaned with a mild dish detergent. For a good product you can use like - the Essential Clean up kit Stow one away -, and a soft-bristled brush.
Mildew can be treated. Lysol is a fungicide that when sprayed on the sail will kill existing spores and inhibit any additional growth. After the organism is killed, most of the stain can be removed by soaking (not scrubbing) in a fungicide for 12 or more hours. Always rinse thoroughly to ensure there is no bleach residue left on the sail.
If there is Rust on the fabric, this can be removed with a thin paste of baking soda or toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Wash the area well with mild detergent and rinse thoroughly. This will not remove any stain embedded in the coating, but it will remove most of the surface stain.
Remember, that using any abrasive on a sail reduces its life. For removing small areas of rust stain, a mild gel product named Magica is recommended.
If there is grease, oil or tar on the fabric then Petroleum-based stains are best removed by using orange-based cleaning solvents that are now found in grocery stores and in automotive parts stores. Use any solvent sparingly. After "dabbing" the stain with the solvent, scrub the area with a mixture of solvent, mild detergent, and water before rinsing thoroughly. As with abrasives, solvents will reduce the sailís life so use them sparingly.
Some stains are very difficult to remove totally, and they are not worth running the risk of decreasing the sailís life expectancy by using excessive solvents or abrasion. Some stains, like mildew, will fade with use as the sail is flown in the sun.
Before storing sails make sure they are dry. Salt that is not completely rinsed off will continue to draw moisture from the air, and will abrade the fabric and threads. Such a moist environment encourages mildew growth. After cleaning and drying, spray the sail with Lysol to inhibit mildew growth.
Proper cleaning and storage will prolong the life of any sail.
The sail is now ready to be flaked, rolled, and bagged. Donít ever "stuff" sails into a sail bag because the additional creases break down the material and stitching.
Store your sails for winter in a dry place like your loft area or your garage, away from any damp place.