Today, we use vinyl for awnings, signs, tents, boats, tent structures, clothes, and more. From boat seat coverings to that corporate banner sign, vinyl performance fabrics are a part of our daily lives. Understanding how to care for and cleaning vinyl fabric is the first step in ensuring you not only enjoy your PVC fabric product, but 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 a variety of 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 being capable of withstanding relatively large distortions while offering good toughness, damage resistance, and high overall load tolerance.
Herculite’s PVC composite textiles offer advanced core stabilization. That means our industrial, structural, and marine fabrics are not only resistant to weather, moisture and mildew, but also 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 a lot of headaches down the road. Be sure to occasionally brush any dirt or debris off your vinyl to prevent build up and accumulation.
When cleaning your vinyl, only use water, soft sponge, and a light non-detergent soap. Harsh chemicals and abrasive clothes can damage the surface of the fabric and lead to quality degradation. Once you are done cleaning, be sure to wipe the fabric surface clean, and dry with a soft cloth. Vinyl fabrics are naturally water resistant, but ensuring they are dry can extend the lifespan.
If you have a tough stain, you can 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 easily visible to see if it discolors or damages your fabric. If it does, stop using the blend and look for a cleaning solution that is specifically made for vinyl).
Tent fabrics are made to withstand the outdoor elements, often designed with features like 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 completely after being washed or wiped down. Ensure that the whole tent - including ratchets, ropes, poles, zippers, and other components are moisture free, as mildew or mold can easily grow on damp fabrics.
Do not leave your tent set up, or out in the sunlight for extended periods of time (i.e., weeks or months) unless specifically instructed to do so by your manufacturer. You don’t want your tent subjected to the elements for longer than it must be. If your tent is out for too long in the sunlight, you risk degradation of the fabrics UV resistance properties.
Vinyl awning fabrics are exposed to high levels of UV rays, but can suffer from dirt, mold and mildew accumulations on the underside, and topside if located in a shady location. Occasional, seasonal cleaning with a hose and soap and soft brush will help to keep it looking fresh.
In areas particularly conductive to mildew, brush away any visible accumulation of dirt on underside. Mildew can grow on dirt but does not grow on or attack the vinyl itself. 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. If you get too close, you will put a hole in the fabric. Test an inconspicuous area and maintain a minimum safe distance between the nozzle and the fabric surface of at least 12 inches.
Healthcare fabrics offer a unique level of understanding. The first key difference is to understand 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 physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it 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 either 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, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
Cleaning health care vinyl is really no different than standard cleaning of any vinyl, however sanitizing is regulated by government organizations and regulatory organizations. Manufactures then help to determine how those standards relate to their specific products. It is then up to facility operates to develop specific procedures for their unique environments.
Marine vinyl is exposed to extreme weather, high levels of UV rays, and in some uses, salt water, which all presents a unique challenge. Keep in mind 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 boats fabrics down after use, and try to clean your boat’s fabrics every few weeks when it’s not in storage. Before storing your boat, make sure to clean and fully dry all the fabrics. Then use a recommended boat cover for additional protection while in storage.
Because of the nature of the environments were 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 manufactured to be mold and mildew resistant, fire retardant, and antimicrobial. The same features are also present in most military tent and awning materials. Because awnings and marine boat covers are constantly exposed to moisture, these specialty fabrics are designed with a variety of features that help you combat mold and mildew growth.
Sure-Chek® Antimicrobial fabrics from Herculite incorporate a proprietary antimicrobial additive. This controlled release feature allows the migration of the antimicrobial agent to the fabric surface effective for the life of the product. 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.
Vinyl textiles have some inherent qualities that make the easier to clean, and resistant to the microbes, mold, and mildew that can cause staining and damage. Generally regular maintenance, and gentle cleaning will help provide you with a long lifespan for your fabrics. However you should always consult with your specific fabric manufacturer to determine if your product needs any special handling.