Cleaning stained sails can be frustrating. No stain remover, whatever the claims, will take out every stain. Household bleach will remove mildew stains from heavy, durable Dacron sails, but don’t use it on nylon sails. It is not good enough, in any case, for the chemical bonding that takes place with rust (iron oxide.)
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Things You’ll Need:
- Rubber gloves Plastic tub Oxalic acid powder Water Baking soda
- Rubber gloves
- Plastic tub
- Oxalic acid powder
- Baking soda
Buy oxalic acid powder at a drug store. This colorless, toxic chemical occurs in nature in vegetable matter like rhubarb root and leaves. It can also be found in certain commercial preparations like Zud cleanser and Whink rust remover.
In a pail or plastic tub, mix the oxalic acid with hot water, following the recommendations on the box. One ounce of oxalic acid powder to a pint of hot water is about right. Lemon juice or other mildly acidic juices will take out very light rust stains, but if you want to be sure the job gets done, go for the oxalic acid.
Using rubber gloves, soak the offending part of your sail in the mixture of oxalic acid for 15 to 30 minutes and rinse it thoroughly. Repeat if necessary. After rinsing, dip the treated sail area in a mild mix of baking soda (about a table spoon to a quart) and rinse again to restore pH neutrality to the fabric.
Thoroughly rinse the bucket or tub if you expect to use it for other purposes. Dispose of the rubber gloves.
Dry the sail before storing, to prevent mildew. If there are other organic stains or dirt on the sail, you can hand wash the affected area with common household detergents. Don’t put the sail in your clothes washer because the action will knock out the stiffness wanted in a sail so it will not set properly for best performance. Go the extra mile and hand wash the areas needed as mildly as will remove the dirt or stains.