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Vacuwash – Award Winning Yacht Sail & Canvas Cleaning Technology

Vacuwash – Award Winning Yacht Sail & Canvas Cleaning Technology

by November 14, 2015

Every now and then you come across a new business that screams to you, “Why hasn’t anyone done this before?” This new product from Vacuwash Australia is just that. There now exists a way to effectively and safely remove mildew from your yacht sails and canvas. You do not have to be embarrassed by the way your sails and canvas look anymore.

Every sailmaker, both in Australia and worldwide, recommends that you wash your sails annually. Sail cleaning in the Northern Hemisphere is commonplace, yet in Australia and New Zealand there has been no professional way to do this. The expectation was that you would hose and scrub them yourself—a very ineffective process, even if you could find an area large and clean enough to do so.

After purchasing a yacht with mouldy sails, Mark and Kirsty Hunter opened Vacuwash Australia. A fruitless search locally for a way to get the sails clean only led to more determination to find a solution. Sailmakers would say that they were asked all the time by boat owners, and apart from the odd brushing technique, nothing was available. They finally found the process in the USA, and licensed its use for Australia, Asia and New Zealand.

The process involves placing the sails in a vacuum chamber, removing the air and water from the voids between the sail layers and fibres, slowly introducing a cleaning agent that penetrates every layer and subsequently thoroughly rinsing the sail. The sails are cleaned in 3 to 4 days.

The Vacuwash process has since been awarded by the Industrial Fabrics Association International, and is now recommended by Glen Raven, the manufacturer of Sunbrella products.

There is nothing else like Vacuwash on the market. The process removes mildew in sails and does so without damaging the sails or adhesives in any way. There is no agitation, scrubbing or high-pressure water-washing at all. Cleaning your sails and canvas will increase the replacement cycle, thereby reducing your boating costs and that is a great outcome for any boat owner.

Salt, mildew, dirt, bird droppings and pollution are all working at the fibres and stitching. An annual professional clean will remove all these and help keep the fabrics in tip-top condition. When you consider how often the rest of your boat is cleaned, then it is a wonder why sails and canvas have been left off the list for so long.

Over the years, boat sizes have increased so that now many sails are left furled on the forestay or flaked on the boom due to their size. Removing them at least annually to clean will not only increase their lifespan, but you will also be able to do other regular maintenance at the same time. Your boating enjoyment and confidence will increase if you know that your sails are in tiptop condition.

Prevention is always the best option. Vacuwash will apply McLube SailkotePlus to the sail when new or just after cleaning, which goes a long way to keeping the sail clean. SailkotePlus will give the sail a friction-free surface, reduce water absorption by half, and will enable your sails to furl up to 30% tighter, meaning less windage on the forestay. SailkotePlus is compulsory for in-mast and in-boom mainsails where space is restricted, and perfect on spinnakers, from the smallest of sail training boats, right up to grand prix racing yachts. For more information on this product, see the link on the Vacuwash website.

The cleaning process for sails costs $10 per sqm + GST (which equates to approximately 10% of the cost of replacing the sail with a new one). Canvas cleaning is $15.00 per sqm + GST.

Transporting sails and canvas down to Sydney costs approximately $100 and the return shipping cost is included in your cleaning.


SB tuckey canvas before (4)

Canvas photo: Before and After

SB tuckey after (2)

Vacuwash cleaned and coated this boat cover for $330. The replacement cost for this would be around $2500.



peter muller before (14)

Sail Photo: Before and After


peter muller NS RFG after 009

The genoa from a 30-ft boat costs $250 to clean. The replacement cost for a new sail would have been around $3000.