How to Clean Sailboat Sails

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Water is essential to sailing, and also to the persistent enemy of clean, bright sails -- mildew. Keeping your sails aired and dry will help prevent the occurrence of mildew and a little sun now and then is also helpful. If mildew does attack, it is important to take care of it as quickly as possible to keep it from spreading and embedding itself in your sails.

Step 1

Place your sail on a clean, smooth surface in an open area with good ventilation.

Step 2

Use the soft-bristled brush and soap and water to give Dacron sails a general cleaning.

Step 3

Scrub mildew from Dacron sails with the soft-bristled brush and a 3 percent solution of bleach and water -- 7 1/2 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water.

Step 4

Rinse the sails thoroughly with clean, fresh water.

Step 5

Air-dry the sails by hanging them up in a well-ventilated area. When they are completely dry, fold them loosely or roll them up.


  • Never mix bleach an ammonia as this produces deadly gases.
  • Sails made of nylon or aramid should be cleaned with water only. Bleach or other solvents will damage these fabrics.


  • Prolong the life of your sails by always storing them in a dry and well-ventilated area. Remove them from you boat if they are not going to be used for more than a couple of weeks.
  • Port Townsend Sails suggests using a small amount of lighter fluid to remove tar or oil stains.


About the Author

Joe Steel is a Northwest-based editor, writer and novelist, former news editor of an outdoor weekly. He also was an editor at a Seattle-based political weekly and editor of a monthly business magazine. He has been published in the "Seattle Times," the "Washington Post" and the "Foreign Service Journal," among other publications.

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