Shade Sail Cleaning & Sails Maintenance in 5 steps
Updated: Apr 16
It always amazes me that people let their shade sails get so dirty. Often these household elements are a significant investment, but they are not treated as such. I would suggest you treat your shade cloth like you would your car- if it looks dirty, then clean it. Do not let it go so long between cleans that you let things grow on it. Regular Maintenance equals long life.
1. Remove the shade sail from posts/supports*.
2. Wash with ph neutral soap and a soft brush broom on a solid non-abrasive surface (a smooth cement area), use lots of water and rinse well.
Pro Tip- Take a photo of what it looked like before the clean and after the clean so you know you have achieved something!
3. If you cannot remove the sail to the ground, then wash using a standard garden hose or a high-pressure cleaner with washing liquid added. Then rinse thoroughly with fresh water. Do not put the pressure head too close to the cloth as you may damage the yarns of the cloth.
4. Ensure the sail is free from any detergents and is dry
5. Re-hang your sail
DO & DO NOT's
DO- Visually inspect for marks (from birds, bats, possums, other animals, tree sap and debris)
DO- Wash away marks with low pressure hose/cleaner
DO- Use diluted dish washing liquid for persistent marks
DO- Use soft brush or cloth to wipe away
If the sail is to be taken down for a period, ensure it is kept away from rodent infestation in a dry location free from direct sunlight. Sail must be dry before being folded neatly into protective storage bag.
DO NOT-Use harsh chemicals that may contain bleach or other agricultural or industrial chemicals. These chemicals attack the UV stabilizers within shade cloth, thus reducing the life of the product and negating the warranty.
DO NOT- Use abrasive chemicals, metals or salts
AVOID petrol or oils. Wash off immediately as described above.
AVOID flames. Keep heaters at least 1.5m from your sail
DO NOT- Re-tension or re-install your sail. There is a high risk of personal injury to unqualified installers, damage to the sail or the attachment points if installed incorrectly. Your warranty will be void if your sail is not re-installed by ACTshade.
Cleaning Shade Sail cloth
Using chemicals for cleaning should be avoided.
Dirt or mildew is usually the result of contaminants being caught in the interstices of the cloth, and should be easily removed using a standard garden hose or high pressure hose used at a distance (I would suggest at least half a metre)
For stubborn stains, scrub with a soft bristle brush and a weak solution of household detergent. The key is to get onto stains and organic growth quickly.
Most shade sails are made using a knitted shade cloth– comprising of a monofilament and a tape or just a monofilament yarn. These cloths are made using High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). HDPE is resistant to most acids and alkalis, and fungal attack. It does not absorb water, which is a significant factor in resisting staining and inhibiting mildew growth. These characteristics make HDPE ideal as a base yarn for a lightweight, strong shade cloth. It is generally accepted that colour pigment may be affected by a particular chemical, even though HDPE itself may not. HDPE has only a weak resistance to halogens, such as chlorine; and halogenated hydrocarbons. It is also affected by strong oxidising agents, such as hydrogen peroxide; Clorox (bleach); and some alcohols. Use of harsh chemicals, is not only detrimental to the UV stabilisers added to the cloth during production but can also have a significant negative impact on the physical and mechanical properties of the yarn. The Shade Factor or Shade Co-efficient would also be reduced when harsh chemicals are used.
Careful consideration should be given to the environment in which shade cloth is used. For example, when suspended over a swimming pool, it will be exposed to chlorine emissions, and its effective life may be reduced. There is anecdotal evidence that chemicals released from artificial grass, some glues and treated timbers may discolour and deteriorate HDPE shade sail cloth.
When cleaning or indeed simply removing a shade cloth for the winter, you should look out for certain things and address them where you can*. Your shade sails may show signs of significant stretching from additional load on top side of fabric (hail or leaf debris perhaps) and then the tension maybe below optimum. If in the event your sail has been deformed by applied forces from those outside and above the pre-stress and wind loads expected, the shape and elasticity of the material may not have been retained. You will need a professional to sort this out.
When you re-hang your sail be sure to add additional pre-stress as is required *. Also, make sure you apply lubricant and anti-galling gel to all fittings to improve longevity and help when you next remove or install your sail.
*Ideally you know what you’re doing otherwise this could be dangerous and best left to a trained professional.