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Canvas Maintenance


We are often asked, "How do I clean my canvas?" There really isn’t much to it if you keep to a regular maintenance schedule. Most on-deck canvas is made of SUNBRELLA brand woven acrylic fabric, which has a water repellent, mildew and UV resistant finish. The manufacturer recommends regular cleaning by brushing off loose dirt, washing with a mild solution of a non-detergent soap and warm water (no more than 100 degrees F), then rinsing copiously with cool water to remove all soap residues. LUX and IVORY are two mild soaps. Detergent will compromise the water and mildew resistant finish and ultimately destroy it.

Windows (vinyl - polycarbonate)

Clean and protect your clear vinyl or polycarbonate windows regularly with a product made for plastics such as McGuire's Mirror Glaze, Meirmade's Plastic cleaner, or Eastside Boat Manager's New "Professional Plastic Polish / Cleaner". Hose off any salt first, then clean and polish with a chamois or soft cotton cloth. Do not use paper towels; they’re very abrasive. Do not use Windex or other products containing alcohol, which will make vinyl soft and sticky. Products designed for plastic will prolong the life of your windows by replacing the oils that keep the plastic flexible.



Mildew is a tough problem on any canvas. Do not use harsh cleaners like bleach or phosphates. The fibers start to break down after prolonged contact, especially when exposed to the sun. If you feel you must bleach an area of your sail, be very conservative on solution strength and flood the area with water to drive out the remaining bleach. Let it dry before stowing. You should be monitoring the stitching for chafe as a matter of course, but bleach will accelerate thread deterioration, so be especially watchful in bleached areas.

(Inside Tips):
Here’s a good trick that we’ve learned to prevent mildew growth on canvas. Get a pump spray bottle and fill it with 50% white vinegar, 50% water. Whenever you wash down the boat (and after heavy rains), spray the canvas with this solution – especially the under side of dodgers and biminis. The vinegar won’t hurt the canvas, but will prevent mildew growth.


Zippers should be cleaned with a brush, and then a silicone spray should be applied. Be careful not to spray the canvas, it will discolor. TIP: Use a Q-Tip to apply the silicone to the zipper surface.


Fasteners should be lubricated regularly both on the boat and on the canvas. Any type of clear lubrication is fine. Grease should not be used as it will discolor the canvas. Again, use a Q-tip to apply the lubricant.

In Conclusion:

Avoid harsh alkalis and acids if at all possible. Prevention rather than repair will keep your boat looking smart and save you time and money. There are a number of products on the market that are supposed to do wonderful things for keeping your boat and gear clean. I’ve used the ones mentioned in this article, and they do work. As always, common sense is the key. Read labels.


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Copyright Eastside Boat Manager-LLC 2002-2012    Last update January 2019