Tent Fabric

How to Clean Vinyl Fabrics

Understanding how to care for and cleaning vinyl fabric is the first step in ensuring you enjoy your PVC fabric product and also make it last.


Today, we use vinyl textiles for awnings, signs, tents, boats, tent structures, clothes, and more. From boat seat coverings to corporate banner signs, vinyl performance fabrics are a part of our daily lives. Understanding how to care for and clean vinyl fabric is the first step in ensuring you enjoy your PVC fabric product and help make it last.

About Vinyl Fabrics

Here’s a quick rundown:

Flexible PVC Composite (or Vinyl) Textiles are sophisticated synthetic technical fabrics that can be used in making various products, including sports clothing, conductive fabrics used in spaceships, automotive applications, and military and industrial-grade temporary structures and tents. These composite textiles are known for withstanding relatively large distortions while offering good toughness, damage resistance, and high overall load tolerance.

Another positive attribute of vinyl fabrics is that they are built around a fabric core. This comprises the base fabric or substrate and a formulated coating designed to optimize the desired bonding characteristics of this finished composite. With this formulated coating, added performance characteristics can be engineered into the fabric core to address specific needs, such as mildew resistance, antimicrobial performance, flexibility, extreme cold performance, and fire retardancy, to name a few.

Herculite’s PVC composite textiles offer advanced core stabilization. That means our industrial, structural, and marine fabrics are resistant to weather, moisture, and mildew and have enough stretch to remain wrinkle-free. They also offer a PVC-based topcoat that facilitates ease of cleaning.

General Cleaning Tips

The first rule of cleaning vinyl is to remember that preventative maintenance can save many headaches. Occasionally brush any dirt or debris off your vinyl to prevent build-up and accumulation.

When cleaning your vinyl, only use water, a soft sponge, and a light non-detergent soap. Harsh chemicals and abrasive clothes can damage the fabric’s surface and lead to quality degradation. Once you are done cleaning, wipe the fabric surface clean, and dry it with a soft cloth. Vinyl fabrics are naturally water resistant, but ensuring they are dry can extend their lifespan.

If you have a tough stain, try using a blend of 10 percent bleach and 90 percent water. (Remember to test this solution out on your fabric in an area that isn’t readily visible to see if it discolors or damages your fabric. If it does, stop using the blend and look for a cleaning solution specifically made for vinyl).

Cleaning Tent Vinyl

Tent fabrics are made to withstand the outdoor elements, often designed with waterproofing, mold and mildew resistance, and UV ray and tear resistance. However, they are not indestructible. Tents need to be maintained and cared for like any investment-- a spray-down alone won’t suffice.

Do let your tent dry entirely after being washed or wiped down. Ensure that the whole tent - including ratchets, ropes, poles, zippers, and other components is moisture free, as mildew or mold can quickly grow on damp fabrics.

Only leave your tent set up or out in the sunlight for extended periods (i.e., weeks or months) if specifically instructed by your manufacturer. You don’t want your tent subjected to the elements for longer than it must be. If your tent is in the sunlight for too long, you risk degrading the fabric’s UV-resistance properties.

Cleaning Awning Vinyl

Vinyl awning fabrics are exposed to high levels of UV rays. Still, they can suffer from dirt, mold, and mildew accumulations on the underside and topside if in a shady location. Occasional, seasonal cleaning with a hose and soap and a soft brush will help to keep it looking fresh.

Mildew can grow on dirt but won’t attack the vinyl itself, so it is essential to brush away any visible accumulations preventatively. Underside mildew can be removed with a light-duty power washer (maximum 1800 PSI). Care must be taken not to damage the vinyl awning fabric with the pressure water intensity at close range. You will put a hole in the material if you get too close. Test an inconspicuous area and maintain a minimum safe distance between the nozzle and the fabric surface of at least 12 inches.

Cleaning Healthcare Vinyl

Healthcare fabrics offer a unique level of understanding. The first key difference is understanding the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects.

Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to remove germs from surfaces physically. This process does not necessarily kill germs; removing them lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.

Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs; killing them on a surface after cleaning can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Cleaning health care vinyl is no different from standard cleaning of any vinyl; however, sanitizing is regulated by government organizations and regulatory organizations. Manufacturers then help to determine how those standards relate to their specific products. It is then up to facility operations to develop specific procedures for their unique environments.

Cleaning Marine Vinyl

Marine vinyl is exposed to extreme weather, high levels of UV rays, and salt water, which all present a unique challenge in some uses. Remember that marine vinyl naturally has a long lifespan, but you can extend it and keep the material looking new by applying additional ultraviolet ray protection products. UV ray protection helps keep your vinyl from drying out, cracking, and fading. Use a spray that is specially formulated for the marine industry. (Check online or ask your local canvas shop for a recommendation).

A few additional recommendations are to rinse the boat’s fabrics down after use and try to clean your boat’s materials every few weeks when they’re not in storage. Before storing your boat, clean and fully dry all the materials. Then use a recommended boat cover for additional protection while in storage.

Mold And Mildew Resistance

Because of the nature of the environments where high-performance textiles are utilized, mold and mildew can be two of the most common sources of fabric soiling. The medical industry uses specialty textiles that are mold and mildew-resistant, fire-retardant, and antimicrobial. The same features are also present in most military tents and awning materials. Because awnings and marine boat covers are constantly exposed to moisture, these specialty fabrics are designed with various features that help you combat mold and mildew growth.

Antimicrobial Surface Protection

Sure-Chek® Antimicrobial fabrics from Herculite incorporate a proprietary antimicrobial additive. This controlled release feature effectively allows the antimicrobial agent to migrate to the fabric surface for the product’s life. The antimicrobial agent helps protect the fabric from microbial attack and reduces undesirable organic odors. Sure-Chek® brand antimicrobial fabrics were developed for health care and patented for use as protective covering fabrics in medical environments. Developed in cooperation with healthcare professionals, they have been the industry standard for over 60 years.

Final Considerations

Vinyl textiles possess certain qualities that make them less prone to staining and damage caused by microbes, mold, and mildew. To ensure longevity, it is important to perform regular maintenance and gentle cleaning. It is recommended to check with the manufacturer for any special handling instructions specific to your product.


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