It’s all to easy to forget about look­ing af­ter the canopy, but it could cost you dear – so here are some of the ways to keep your cover in top con­di­tion and get many more years out of it

Canal Boat - - This Month - WORDS BY DAVID BRIND­LEY

Our tips to keep canopies in tip-top con­di­tion and get many more years out of them

The great­est cause of prob­lems for all types of boat cover is ul­tra vi­o­let from the sun; add to that the ef­fects of wind, rain and ex­tremes of tem­per­a­ture and you re­alise how ro­bust cov­ers need to be.

The first step in treat­ing a canopy is to as­cer­tain what type of ma­te­rial it is made from. The two most com­mon fab­rics are PVC-coated polyester and acrylic can­vas. If you’re un­sure what type of fab­ric is on your boat, here are some tips to help you iden­tify them along with the best treat­ment for each.


This is a fairly heavy fab­ric that tends to be­come stiff with age. It’s gen­er­ally coated with a PVC layer that has a grained tex­ture on the top side and a smooth sur­face un­derneath which is of­ten sil­ver/grey in colour. Some PVC has a can­vas back­ing, al­though this isn’t ideal for boat cov­ers.

PVC cov­ers are, how­ever, the low­est main­te­nance op­tion; they can eas­ily be cleaned us­ing soapy wa­ter, a hosepipe or even a power-wash. They don’t re­quire any spe­cial treat­ment and will never need re-wa­ter­proof­ing. How­ever, the life of a PVC cover can be greatly ex­tended with care­ful clean­ing and use of a good PVC pro­tec­tor which pro­vides a bar­rier against at­mo­spheric pol­lu­tants and UV.


This lighter­weight fab­ric is made from wo­ven so­lu­tion-dyed acrylic yarn and looks much like a tra­di­tional can­vas ma­te­rial. It will re­tain its colour for many years and re­main flex­i­ble through­out its life­time, but it does re­quire a lit­tle more care and main­te­nance.

To clean your can­vas use a mild soap such as Dri-Pak Liq­uid Soap Flakes (don’t use de­ter­gents, they will dam­age the wa­ter­proof coat­ing on the can­vas). Make a soap so­lu­tion us­ing warm wa­ter (less than 100F/38C). Ap­ply the soap so­lu­tion with a soft brush or sponge pay­ing at­ten­tion to any per­sis­tent soiled ar­eas. If you use a brush, be care­ful not to use it on the vinyl win­dows as they will scratch. The most com­mon causes of stain­ing on can­vas are black/brown mildew and green al­gae/ moss.


Acrylic fab­rics do not pro­mote mildew growth, how­ever, mildew can grow on dirt and other for­eign sub­stances that are not re­moved from the fab­ric.

To clean stub­born stains:

Pre­pare a so­lu­tion of 1 cup bleach and 1/4 cup of mild soap per gal­lon of clean wa­ter. Soak af­fected area in so­lu­tion for 15 min­utes. Blot the stain with a sponge or clean towel. This step should be avoided when clean­ing the coated side (back side) of Sun­brella Plus, Supreme,

or Clar­ity.

Rinse thor­oughly to re­move all soap residue. Air dry.

Note: Use cau­tion when us­ing bleach so­lu­tion and be care­ful not to al­low it onto other ar­eas which may be ad­versely af­fected.

Many marine can­vas prod­ucts, in­clud­ing cov­ers, canopies and cock­pit cush­ions, use ‘Sun­brella’ brand fab­rics. The Sun­brella web­site has de­tailed in­struc­tions on how to care for their can­vas prod­ucts which can be found at

sun­­ing. The same prin­ci­ples may be ap­plied to any marine acrylic can­vas.


An­other com­mon com­plaint with can­vas is the ap­pear­ance of green stain­ing, es­pe­cially along bot­tom edges or any­where that wa­ter can col­lect. This is caused by al­gae or moss growth and can be ef­fec­tively ban­ished by brush­ing the af­fected ar­eas with white vine­gar, al­low­ing it to stand for half an hour be­fore thor­oughly rins­ing.

Once your can­vas is clean and dry, you will need to treat it to re­store its wa­ter and stain re­pel­lency. This is sim­ple us­ing an aerosol which is sprayed di­rectly on the clean can­vas. As marine acrylic can­vas is orig­i­nally wa­ter­proofed us­ing a fluoro­car­bon agent, it is not ad­vis­able to use sil­i­con-based proofers be­cause they will be re­jected by the fluoro­car­bon-treated sur­face and be in­ef­fec­tive. Al­ways re-proof with a fluoro­car­bon-based agent such as Hol­menkol HiTech Proof or Ul­tra­mar.


The clear sec­tions of the canopy are prob­a­bly the most vul­ner­a­ble el­e­ments. As the win­dows are made of vinyl, the sun’s UV rays will dam­age them over time making them dis­colour and even­tu­ally crack. In­stalling win­dow cov­ers will help greatly by shield­ing the win­dows from the sun when the boat isn’t in use. They can, though, be­come a lit­tle cum­ber­some and un­sightly un­less they are com­pletely re­mov­able. When re­mov­ing and stor­ing any pan­els with win­dows, en­sure the plas­tic is not folded and al­ways try to loosely roll them to avoid per­ma­nent creases or cracks in the win­dows.


The other im­por­tant com­po­nents of a canopy are the zips and fas­ten­ings. Most marine zips are made from ny­lon which is eas­ily dam­aged in the sun’s UV rays, so it’s im­por­tant to make sure any pro­tec­tive can­vas flaps cover the zips prop­erly.

Clean and lu­bri­cate the zips and any me­chan­i­cal fix­ings such as press studs (snaps), turn but­tons and lift-the-dot fas­ten­ers. Keep­ing them lu­bri­cated will ex­tend their life sig­nif­i­cantly and help pre­vent dam­age. Use a clear sil­i­cone spray such as Zip Lube, but be care­ful to keep the sil­i­cone off of the can­vas. You can spray the sil­i­cone on a rag and then ap­ply it to the zips and fas­ten­ers if nec­es­sary. Also, avoid petroleum­based prod­ucts be­cause both sil­i­cone and petroleum prod­ucts are not com­pat­i­ble with most marine can­vas coat­ings and ma­te­ri­als.


In an ideal world, the canopy should be re­moved for dry stor­age dur­ing the win­ter months and re­placed by a fit­ted ton­neau cover or sheeted over with a cheap tar­pau­lin. Both op­tions are fine, but what­ever you do, avoid cov­er­ing the canopy with a non-breath­able sheet. This will cause mois­ture to be trapped both in­side and on the canopy with­out any air­flow; a guar­an­teed recipe for mildew and mould growth.

Roll canopies with win­dows

Clean un­der edges

Use white vine­gar on green stains

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