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Multi coloured sailshades for schools

Maintenance tips for shade sails

A shade sail creates a covered outdoor space based on the textile technology of a ship’s sail. It uses a flexible membrane (usually a knitted or PVC fabric) tensioned between a number of anchoring points. Shade sails also have the benefit of being relatively cheap and easy to install.

The concept dates back to the times of the Ancient Egyptians, and the Romans and Greeks, who created shades with large fabric pieces, including at the Colosseum.

With the hotter summers consistently making headlines, shade sails protect against the sun in places like playgrounds where children could otherwise be at risk of sunburn.

Shade sails offer a high level of UV protection and create cooler play or outdoor dining areas, while the mesh of the fabric allows for a pleasant breeze. Equally, there is plenty of scope for colour options and different styles. What’s more, they’ll keep visitors as well as pupils and staff under cover, plus they can be especially useful at school events.

Shade sails are designed to need very little in the way of upkeep. But, as with anything else, the right maintenance regime keeps your shade sail in the best possible condition, while ensuring its longevity and effectiveness.

Here are our top tips for keeping your shade sail in tip-top shape:

Regular Inspection and Maintenance

Shade sails are low-maintenance thanks to their tensile membrane structure, but you still need to check and service them regularly so they don’t lose tension or pool water, which will damage the sail.

Bad weather can affect shade sails. So check them regularly to ensure maximum effectiveness, and do an inspection after windy or stormy weather. (Equally, do take down your shade sail in high winds or beforehand if these are forecast.)

Check that the fittings and connections are in good order, and that the fabric remains tense enough. If the fabric is not tightened promptly, it could lead to mechanical failure and breach your warranty.

The shade sail posts should also be checked regularly for any signs of damage – if they are wooden, make sure there is no rot or insect infestation. If they are steel, check for paint damage which could cause it to rust and affect the structural integrity of the sail. If any damage is found, ensure it is repaired promptly.

It’s also worth removing leaves, twigs, dirt and anything else which may have accumulated on the roof of your shade sail every week with a broom.

Cleaning shade sail

This is really straightforward. Just follow these simple steps a couple of times a year:

  • Carefully remove the shade sail from its fixings (we recommend marking the corners so you can easily refit later)
  • Apply a solution of water and mild detergent or spray cleaner using a sponge or brush with soft bristles. Let the liquid stand for 10 minutes before you rinse the material thoroughly with clear water at a low pressure.
  • Only use products which are pH-neutral and free from chemicals and anything acidic

Reassemble the shade sail only once it’s dried out thoroughly – and wash shade sails only on a sunny day, so they can dry out afterwards.

Storing the shade sails

It can be a good idea to take down shade sails during the worst weather, and this is could be one way to avoid wind damage and increase their lifespan. The ability to take them down also makes these products highly versatile. If you’re putting away a shade sail for a while, make sure it’s bone dry to avoid mould and mildew.

Removing mould and mildew

Here are some points to bear in mind if you find mould or mildew on your structure:

  • Wear protective gloves
  • Spray a mould-cleaning solution over the affected area to open the fabric’s pores
  • Allow the solution to absorb and break down the mildew
  • Gently scrub the material with a brush with soft bristles
  • Hose down to get rid of any lingering debris or grime
  • Lay out your shade sail in the sun to dry and kill off any remaining scraps of mildew or mould

Restitching the shade sail

Every few years, we recommend get your shade sail restitched by a professional company, and get any loose or disintegrating threads dealt with. They can also carry out any repairs that are needed to the posts or fittings, and ensure the shade sail is properly tensioned. It is very important that tensioning the sail is done correctly, as loose tension will cause the fabric to flap in the wind and ultimately damage the fabric and fittings.

At Kensington Systems, we have extensive experience fitting shade sails and school canopies. Talk to us about all aspects of sail shade care, and ask us any questions you have.

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