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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Stains on Sailboat Sails: Your Questions

By Dr. Laundry September 17, 2008

Q: My sailboat sails are made of Dacron, white in color. I have seen small black specks in certain areas, which I believe to be mildew stains. Could you please tell me how best to remove the black specks and also let me know is Dacron is susceptible to fabric damage from the use of mildew cleaners? Thank you. E.M. Raasch

A: Short answer here is that Dacron™ is a trademark name for polyester. This material is widely used in such things as tires, fire hoses and curtains as well as clothing. It is also widely used in boating for sails, ropes and even combined with fiberglass for the hulls.

One of the reasons this material is used is it can be easily cleaned and bleach is not a problem here.

For the mildew stains I would try:

  • Brush the area with a stiff brush to remove as much as possible.
  • If the sail has been removed, you can place affected area in a solution of 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 gallon of cool water to soak for 5 to 15 minutes. Wash/scrub the area thoroughly and rinse with fresh water. Repeat if necessary. I probably would wear some rubber gloves if prolong contact with the cleaning solution is required.
  • Another approach if the sails are not removed, would be to wash/scrub the stains with hot, sudsy water and some Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 added; then rinse and dry. Repeat if necessary. Again, I probably would wear some rubber gloves if prolong contact with the cleaning solution is required.