A Senior Moment or. . . Rust-Stained Sails? Try This: EDITED

In the previous post “Rust-Stained Sails? Try This:I claimed to have use TSP (trisodium phosphate) as the rust-removal agent. I was mistaken. I actually used OXALIC ACID. I tend to get the two confused. . .

This is the stuff.

This is the stuff.

Let me say this another way – if you are considering TSP to clean your sails, you should research this thoroughly. I have no experience with this chemical with respect to sail cleaning. In fact, it is possible that TSP isn’t the best product to use. . .

Okay, it seems that I can clean sails with the correct compound – oxalic acid is what is generally recommended for removing rust stains – but I can’t seem to write about it without confusing the two.

And this points up another caution: When reading stuff on the internet (my stuff included!) one should reference enough material (not use just one source of information) to get a broad picture of the range of recommendations – then make your own decision!

Okay – apologies to every reader for my muddle-headedness.

  1. I’m guessing you speak music better than chemistry;).

    Rust stains, scale, and black streams are all metal hydroxides and are best removed with weak acids, like oxalic acid. Alkaline cleaners, like TSP, while effective on biological stains (fats, mildew, algae, and common soils attracted to the preceding), just set rust stains deeper. Same with bleach; you can’t bleach rust.

    Most cleaners are safe for sails so long as exposure time is moderate. Bleach should be limited to laundry concentration (more is NOT actually better). Strong acids (battery acid) will melt nylon, and even oxalic acid should be well-diluted around nylon.

    I’ve done a bunch of stuff on cleaners for Practical Sailor, with more coming. This one, on mildew, might be of intest:


    • Thanks Drew. You know, I can’t remember this kind of stuff to save my life. I was so happy to have you sort it out for me, and went out to apply my new knowledge in some boat cleaning the other day. By the time I got on the boat, I had got them confused again. Thanks again. I guess I just need to write it down to refer to it when I need to clean. No, I don’t speak chemistry. . . ! Music is a different matter though – Let me post a link for you to listen – this is something I wrote last year and recorded this past winter.

      This is called Darrell’s song:


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