If you’ve made the investment in a new dodger or other canvas covers for your boat, a little care can go a long way toward increasing the life of your canvas. Here are some maintenance recommendations for common dodger and bimini materials:
• Rinse your canvas with fresh water as often as possible, particularly if it’s salty after a sail. While most marine fabrics made for outdoor use, like Sunbrella, will resist mildew, mold can grow if dirt and salt are left on the fabric too long.
• If you’re leaving your boat for a few weeks or have it stored for the offseason, take down all the canvas and stow it ashore, if possible, or in the cabin.
• For sailors living in northern climes, keep in mind that freezing temperatures can cause some vinyl window materials to crack.
• Consider having snap-on covers made to protect windows from UV rays when not in use.
• If the canvas needs a more thorough cleaning, you can gently scrub it with a soft-bristled brush and a solution of water and mild soap such as Woolite. Rinse the canvas thoroughly and air-dry.
• After you clean the canvas — and periodically, as needed — Sunbrella recommends using 303 Fabric Guard to restore water and stain repellency.
• Check the manufacturer’s recommendations before cleaning or polishing the windows, as materials vary greatly, and using the wrong products can leave windows scratched or cloudy.
• Don’t forget the stainless! To get the longest life out of the stainless frame, keep it clean and rust-free. I’ve had good luck with both Spotless Stainless and Collinite No. 850 Metal Wax.