Can Different Types of Sailcloth Become Moldy?

Precision Sails Mainsail

How Susceptible Is Sailcloth To Mildew?

Once you have invested in a new set of sails you are likely going to want to keep them looking clean, crisp and fresh for as long as possible. A common problem that most of us face in dealing with mold and mildew if you live in a damp or humid environment. On Ask Precision Sails we had Bob Hudson ask:

“How susceptible is sailcloth to mildew? I am based in the southwest of the UK and it tends to be a bit damp here.”

With two common sail fabrics Dacron and laminate, mildew and mold will show up differently in both so let’s take a look at each:

Dacron

Typically, a Dacron sail is a single sheet of woven material. When a Dacron sail is used as a furling headsail, wrapped tightly in a moist environment you certainly can experience some mildew due to the limited airflow around the fabric. For this reason, it is advisable if you plan to leave the boat for more than a few months, you should consider taking down your sails, ensure they are well dried and store them in out of the weather to prolong their life. Not only will this stop any mold and mildew but it will also eliminate any unnecessary UV exposure to your sail treads.

Laminate

Laminate sails come in many shapes and forms. Two common types are the ones with clear films on either side and also cruising taffeta. Unfortunately, both forms of laminate are at risk of mildew and mold, particularly if there are cracks in the film. Once mildew penetrates the inner layer it is very difficult to manage and can spread quickly if left to deteriorate.

Again, it is best to dry and store these sails if you plan to take some time off the boat for any great length of time. Just ensure when you are flaking the sails that you take care not to bend and crack the outer layers when folding too tightly. Often furling these sails can be a more effective way to store and protect them.

Simply due to the overall cost of laminate, it is advisable to choose Dacron sails for wet or humid environments as they tend to wear better in these environments if adequate care is upheld.

If you need to clean your sails, we also have a blog which outlines how to clean your sails visit it here.

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