By Bruce Claflin, Scuttlebutt Magazine

We hear from many boaters here at Scuttlebutt and one of the most frequent issues we hear about is the care of marine canvas. Let’s face it, marine canvas isn’t cheap. It’s also a very important component of your boat. It protects you and your boat’s interior from the harsh weather that sometimes affects us here in the upper Midwest. Canvas repairs can be both costly and time consuming. Since boat canvas is a tough thing to live without even for a little while, we sought the advice of an expert on the subject. Scuttlebutt caught up with Kevin Shaw, the owner of CanvasMasters in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

I asked Kevin what boaters should know about taking proper care of their marine canvas and his initial reaction was simple enough, he said “keep it clean”. According to Shaw, the number one culprit in prematurely aging canvas is environmental pollution in the form of dirt, dust, and sand. It reminded me of all the times I pulled my boat out of storage, stripped off the canvas and dropped it on the ground while I climbed inside to inspect interior seats and went about my spring cleaning. Shaw recommends that boaters use more care with their canvas and take the extra steps required to properly maintain this valuable piece of ‘equipment’.

Since canvas is textured, dirt, sand, and other airborne pollutants collect on its surface. Wind borne pollutants, algae spores, UV rays, and bird droppings can all deteriorate your canvas. Regular cleaning of the canvas surface will dramatically reduce the collection of this material. Shaw recommends cleaning regularly a few times per year and certainly prior to winter storage. He further recommended cleaning your canvas with IMAR cleaning products which are specifically designed for cleaning marine canvas, but water with a mild soap or water alone can also be effective. Don’t use detergents, harsh cleaners, or anything abrasive as these can deteriorate your canvas, or have a negative effect on its water repellency. Rinse thoroughly and always allow your canvas to dry thoroughly. NEVER fold and store wet canvas as this will surely lead to mildew or even mold growth.

I asked Mr. Shaw to provide us with a few pointers on taking care of our Isenglass–that’s the clear, ‘window’ portion of our boat canvas. Kevin says that many of the same points that apply to the care of our canvas, apply here as well. He explained that those same airborne pollutants that break down fabric will oxidize on Isenglass, creating that ‘fog’ that seems impossible to eliminate once it occurs. Kevin stresses the importance of keeping this portion of your covering clean and free from airborne pollutants. Sand and dust that accumulates on the ‘glass’ acts as an abrasive that can scratch this surface over time and reduce visibility which is critical when you get caught in inclement weather. Where your boat is parked or docked has an effect too. Bright sunlight heats the stainless steel framework that holds your canvas in place. Intense heat from the frame anywhere it is in contact with your Isenglass can scorch it, leaving those brown burn marks in their aftermath. Shaw recommends a simple fix–by wrapping your frame in a cloth adhesive tape at points of contact, you can mimimize these damaging events. Lastly , you should always wipe down your Isenglass prior to storage and don’t fold it–lay it flat whenever possible. This will go a long way to getting the most from your coverings.

Scuttlebutt says Thanks! To Kevin Shaw of CanvasMasters for providing us with this valuable information. If you have a question you’d like to ask Kevin or need some quality canvas work, you can reach CanvasMasters at (651) 494-9777