Dos and Donts for Cleaning Heavy Duty Poly and Vinyl Tarpaulins

Dos and Donts for Cleaning Heavy Duty Poly and Vinyl Tarpaulins

Posted by CanopiesAnd Tarps on Jul 27th 2014

Cleaning a canvas, vinyl or poly tarp from Canopies and Tarps is easy and helps extend its life.

If you're shopping for tarps, you already know how a little maintenance goes a long way. You may be wondering how much maintenance a tarp requires to keep it strong season after season.

Good news! It doesn't take much maintenance at all.

Our heavy-duty tarps made out of polyethylene or vinyl are made from materials that are designed to be waterproof, rot-proof and 100% UV-resistant. They are made from either polyethylene or PVC, and both of those materials are basically plastics. Polyethylene is one of the most common plastics on the market, and PVC is almost as widely produced (many of the pipes in your home are likely made of a thicker, sturdier version of PVC).

For the purposes of cleaning, that means a mild dish soap is the only tarp cleaner you need. The same goes for canvas tarps, which are made with military-grade fabric.

If your tarp is put into regular use without being stored away, then once every year or two, you'll want to consider cleaning it. And when you take on that task, here are a few dos and don'ts to keep in mind:

Tarp Cleaners

  • Any mild dish soap will do. You've seen the commercials where a certain blue dishwashing liquid is used to clean oil spills off of ducks and seagulls, right? It works just as well on the grime and dirt that collects on tarps.
  • Do not waste your money on a strong chemical cleaner or vinyl cleaner, because it's overkill at best and damaging at worst.
  • So, can you wash a tarp in the washing machine? It's tempting, but the answer is almost always no, as this can damage your tarp or your washer.

Scrub Away

  • When it's time to start cleaning, simply spread the tarp out as much as you can. A flat incline or vertical surface you can drape it over is handy, but only if the surface underneath is smooth. A wooden privacy fence, for instance, is good for cleaning tarps. Use a sponge or a soft-bristled brush to remove the stains.
  • Do not use a stiff-bristled brush. That can cause scarring and scratching that leads to leaks and excessive wear.

Or Maybe Soak a Bit

  • For particularly tough stains, spread the tarp on the ground and let some of your soap solution soak for about 15 minutes.
  • Do not walk excessively on the tarp. If you're on grass, a few steps won't matter, but stepping on a rock underneath the tarp could cause a puncture. Instead, try a telescoping pool brush for the scrubbing, or fold the tarp in such a way that you can get to the stain.

Easy as Pie to Air Dry

  • When you're finished, let the tarp air dry. That privacy fence or a clothesline or two are perfect, but a smooth driveway works just fine, as well.
  • Do not leave it in a folded-over pile. That just leads to the quick creation of more mildew to clean.
  • Also, do not use a dryer. Fans can help speed the process up, but the heat from dryers will cause damage that shortens the life of your tarp.