How to clean your canvas

Date posted: 14 September 2015

Taking care of your canvas is important.  Over time you’ll notice that the appearance of your canvas can deteriorate due to algae spores, UV rays, bird droppings and wind-borne pollution.  Regularly remove dirt deposits by wiping clean the (dry) canvas with a brush. Mud skirts and windows are best cleaned using a sponge and a dry cloth specifically reserved for this purpose.  It might be tempting to buy yourself a new tent, awning, cockpit cover or chair fabric but our cleaning guide you will have your canvas looking brand new in no time. All canvas needs maintenance, however strong and weather proof the chair, tent or cockpit canvas cover may seem.

Look over your Canvas and check for any tears or rips, these should be repaired first using a strong waxed thread, it is best to use the correct needle and leather hand brace if you have one. If the tread is becoming bare on the seams of your canvas,  I have gone in and out of the existing holes on the canvas to restrengthen the seam. But for tears you will need to place canvas underneath the rip and use a blanket stitch to secure both seams together again.

Keeping your canvas well maintained will allow water to drain easily from the canvas. This is especially important if the canvas is left out all year round.

Please do not be tempted to get out the pressure washer, quick and easy it may be, but the stretching damage to the canvas threads will not be be repairable, the pressure washer will also serious damage any water proofing on the canvas.

There are no short cuts, unless your article is small enough to go in the washing machine, and then I’m pretty confident you wouldn’t be reading this anyway! Once you have your chosen cleaning products test the products first on a discreet patch of the canvas to make sure there’s no discolouration.

While you might want to get started cleaning right away, it is important that you dry out the canvas first. Let the canvas air dry until there is no moisture left in it.

In an effort to look after our planet, I will suggest that we use products that are eco-friendly such as 50% salt and lemon juice mixed with warm water or diluted white vinegar .

The mixture is 1 cup salt/ I/2 lemon to gallon of water.  This advice is documented on various web sites for cleaning canvas or 1/5 white vinegar and warm water mixture.  Please be aware that the salt and lemon mix is acidic, so wear protective clothing.

Start by brushing or scrapping your canvas to remove bird droppings start at the top and work down. This prevents the loose material from being rubbed into the canvas during the later stages, saving you a great deal of extra work. Use your vacuum cleaner with a hand attachment or alternatively a hand vacuum to remove any dirty materials that may have come loose that are not easily visible.

Place your mixture in a plastic spray bottle, so that you damped the fabric rather than soak it. Spray from the bottom up, use a nail brush or similar to remove stubborn stains, working in additional liquid if required.  Ensure that you really work the mixture into the canvas to help get the best results from the solution. It’s important to pay special attention to the seams on your article as this is where a lot of dirt and grime can build up.

Once you have worked over the whole canvas area, leave the canvas damp for an hour and then rinse, if there are stubborn mildew stains or algea it may be that you need to repeat the process a couple of times.

Over time you may find that your canvas colour fades, thankfully there are a number of canvas restorers available on the market.  The pigment in the product acts as a dye to refresh the colour of your canvas, helping it to appear as good as new. Tips for using a restorer are to make sure the solution is correctly and thoroughly mixed, and that you have enough solution for the whole canvas area.  This means both sides of your canvas as the colour will not soak through. Using a fairly large paint brush, apply the mixture to the whole of the canvas article in one go, to stop ‘tide lines’.

You will now need to reproof your canvas, to prevent staining and waterproof for the winter. There are a number of good re proofers to choose from, such as Scotchgard and Fabsil. Most of these products have been developed for the outdoor camping and caravanning market but they are also fine to use on boat’s canvas. Re proofer is expensive so shop around on the internet use sites such as ebay, you’ll be surprised at how the prices vary for the same article.

Again tips on re proofing canvas would include: working the proofer carefully into the canvas seams, making sure that you do this in the shade, so the proofer does not dry too quickly, when the whole article is covered and then move out to the fresh air to dry thoroughly.

Again I would suggest that you use a paintbrush for the seams but a large sponge brush for the body of the canvas article. You will easily be able to see where you have re proofed, use the liquid liberally, keep the fabric taut so that the liquid you can work the liquid into the fabric.

Only pack away the canvas when it is completely dry and you have lubricated the zips and poppers.

The following winter you will only need to gently clean it with slightly chlorinated

water (ratio 1:10). Then allow it to dry thoroughly before storing.


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