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Cleaning the Sails on
my Tanzer 22

The boat is tucked in for the season. its time do do all the chores I had put off during the sailing season

It is likely that these are the original sails. That would make them 37 years old. I know that they sat for at least 5 years in a dry spot.

A very dirty mainsail from my tanzer22 boat

My sails are very dirty. There is a coat of dirt on everything and stains of every kind including some mildew and oil. Not to mention the old numbers that have long been taken off.

The sails feel almost gritty and are unpleasant to handle.

Here is the mainsail getting wet in the bathtub with clothe detergent. The water soon turned grey. I let it soak overnight, swishing every time I went by. I scrubbed it with a soft bristle brush, and rinsed it. I did not scrub very hard because I was afraid to damage the stitching or damage the coating on the sailcloth. Better a stain than damage.

After rinsing I soaked it in 1 to 10 bleach solution for 3 hours, again swishing it around every-time I went by.

Bleach will damage the fabric. It should be used carefully and only for short periods. My sails were desperately dirty and old so I did not worry too much if I slightly weakened the fabric.

A cleaner mainsail from my tanzer22 boat

Here the sail is being rinsed of the bleach.

The good news is that it is much cleaner. Many of the big stains are gone completely, while the really bad spots are much improved. The old number stains are almost gone as is most of the mildew.

The bad news is that the sail has yellowed quite a lot. Some spots are worse than others but the whole area is much more yellow. Not an unpleasant sail colour.

There are a couple of repairs that really stand out now. The old sail is quite yellow and the patch is quite white.

Patch on the sail shows white and yellow spot.

A patch is quite white while the surrounding cloth is quite yellow. The contrast is a bit more pronounced in person.

Still all in all I think cleaning my sail was a success. As soon as the main is dry I will clean the jib I usually use. I don't have enough space to dry more than one sail at at time.

I think the sail will look better once dry, not so patchy and hopefully the jib will also yellow to the same cream colour.

Tanzer mainsail needs to dry

The sail is draped over the furniture drying, to the delight of the cats. It looks loads better and even feels nicer. Having dried it's not quite as yellow.

I'm probably the only sailor in my club that has to think about cat hair on her sails.

Jib gets washed

The Jib is every bit as dirty as the mainsail. I should call it a genoa really. Tanzer 22 get's a lot of its power from the genoa.

Tanzer jib sail is being washed

The jib has now been washed and bleached and it turned the same creamy colour as the mainsail. The severe mildew staining is gone. I am very happy.

Tanzer jib is clean

I followed the same procedure with the jib. Soaking in detergent then rincing. The sail was also soaked in a 1 to 10 bleach solution for 3 hours.

Because the sails were old and very soft I had no trouble washing them in the bathtub. I'm not sure I would scrunch up newer sails this way. I think I might actually make an enclosure out of plastic sheet outside and use the larger temporary pool to clean new sails. The hose would be helpful to rinse them.

If you wash your sails, be very conservative using bleach. It will damage the sails over time.

I try to be accurate and check my information, but mistakes happen.

email me if you find mistakes, I'll fix them and we'll all benefit: Christine