By Andrew Spaulding, Crowley's Yacht Yard
|Sunbrella in action|
As any boater can tell you having a set of good canvas onboard can extend your season and allow boating on even the hottest summer days by protecting those onboard from the elements. Of course since it goes on boats, marine canvas is expensive. Given this situation, the proper care and maintenance of canvas will give your canvas the longest life possible.
There are many sources of this information online and the best source is the manufacturer of the material that was used to construct your canvas. Most of the manufacturers have web sites with care and cleaning sections. The basic premise to canvas care is that you should keep the canvas clean, store it properly and keep the zippers, Velcro, and windows out of the sun.
To clean your canvas use a mild soap such as liquid dish detergent. Make a soap solution using warm but not hot water (less than 100F). Apply the soap solution with a soft brush or sponge. If you use a brush be careful not to use the brush on the vinyl windows as they will scratch. Rinse the canvas thoroughly to remove the soap and allow the canvas to dry completely without artificial heat. Be mindful to not use any soap that has detergents. Detergent additives to soap often have abrasive components or solvent additives both of which will damage your canvas.
Many marine canvas applications for tops, enclosures and even cushions below use Sunbrella fabrics. The Sunbrealla website has detailed instructions on how to care for Sunbrella products. Click here for their website.
Once your canvas is clean and dry, you will want to treat it to restore its water and stain repellency. Many manufacturers recommend using 303 High Tech Fabric Guard. Click here for their website and more information about this product. We carry 303 Fabric Guard in the
’s Ship’s Store
and it is available from other marine retailers. Crowley
Now that the material portion of your marine canvas is cleaned and protected, it is time to address the other important components of your canvas. Typically the zippers and Velcro are made from nylon which is easily damaged in the sun’s UV rays, so make sure the protective canvas flaps are properly covering the zippers and Velcro. It is important to clean and lubricate your zippers and snaps. Keeping them lubricated will extend their life significantly and help prevent damage to them. Use a clear silicone spray, but be careful to keep the silicone off of the canvas. You can spray the silicone on a rag and then apply it to the zipper and snaps if necessary. Also, do not use a petroleum based product as both silicone and petroleum products are not compatible with most marine canvas coatings and materials.
There are various manufacturers and processes used to make the vinyl for marine canvas windows. Start the cleaning process by rinsing any loose debris and dirt from the windows. You should use a mild soap solution to clean the windows with a soft sponge or cloth. Be wary of using an old sponge or cloth as they can accumulate dirt and debris over time which will scratch the vinyl. If the vinyl does get scratched, it is possible in some cases to buff the scratches out. Check with your manufacturer for their particular recommendation.
Since the windows are made of vinyl the sun’s UV rays will damage the windows over time. When is comes time to order a new set of canvas, have the canvas shop include covers for the windows. If you have canvas that is relatively new and in good shape consider having the local canvas shop make zip or snap on covers for the windows. Covers will extend the life of the canvas and also make the enclosure cooler by keeping out the sun.
In the off season, be sure to remove your canvas from the boat and store it carefully. The best case is to lay the canvas flat or fold it carefully. If you do need to fold it, fold it on the canvas portion and let the windows lie flat. The better option is to roll the canvas in a loose roll. Be sure to separate the window from itself or other pieces by placing a soft towel or sheet between the windows.
Most of the information in this article came from Great Lakes Boat Top Co. To visit their web site click here. They provide the OEM canvas for over 25 boat manufacturers.