Canvas Care – Part Two

Welcome back to the second article on Canvas, the 1st one dealt with its history, the different canvas on the market and we got down to the process of what they do to make it mildew/rot resistant, put the colour in to it and finally the waterproofing process

Just to remind you of what types of canvas is available on the market, there is 100% Cotton canvas, Polyester/cotton blend canvas, usually somewhere between 64/35 or 50/50 and then there’s the 100% polyester canvas. The 100% cotton is not used much in the RV industry much any more, mainly due to not withstanding the harsh Australia climate and therefore shortening its life expectancy.

The 100% polyester is used mainly in applications where great strength is needed, like truck tarps, horse rugs where the “breathability” is not an issue and finally, the poly/cotton blends, (anywhere between

50/50 to 65/35, blend) which is where we as campers choose to live under such materials and consequently the breathability is important as much as the longevity and weather proofing is.

At the same time getting a good life expectancy out of the investment, is just as important as under these structures, and this comfort should not be sacrifi ced in place of the waterproofing when Australia can produce a brilliant canvas that will do both. A good Australian manufactured canvas is legendary and for very good reasons, it’s developed specifi cally for Australian conditions. Australia has been producing canvas for canopies, tents, swags, and multitudes of outdoor covers and camping gear for many years and as a nation, we generally like to make sure as mentioned we get the most out of our investment.

There is now product being imported in to the Australian market in the RV industry with canvas not produced here in Australia. Despite spending a lot of time researching on the Internet, the only product specifi cations I have found so far on its is it’s a poly/cotton blend, but the percentages, have not being documented any where that I could fi nd, nor has the shrinkages, tear resistances and breaking forces, so we have yet to see how long this canvas maintains its integrity under our normal harsh Australian conditions. From what I have seen so far the quality of the canvas does not come close to what is produced here in Australia, and this opinion is not based on a patriotic bias but one of many years experience in the canvas industry working with the product.

Care of the canvas:

New camper? Before heading off on your trip with your new camper, it is wise to proof your canvas, as the canvas is not an un-touched piece of fabric, but a product that has been converted from a piece of cloth to a canvas structure. In this process, the manufacturers will cut and sew, add zips and mesh, puncture the canvas with needles etc etc, which all produces holes in the canvas. The fi nal product should be wet down or proofed as we call it, dried between applications, and repeated 3 times. This is where the cotton component will take up the water, swell and sit in to place, this is especially important in the areas where the needle has penetrated the cloth, this combined with proper manufacturing of the cloth by using lock seams in positions where extreme exposure to the elements is likely.

Despite the Australian manufacturers using an anti mildew agents in the final preparations of their canvas, Mildew and mold problems will occur if you fold your canvas product away wet or damp. If you have packed your camper away damp/wet there is a general rule of thumb, that you have approx 36 hours to open it up again and air your canvas, even if the weather is still inclement, to open the camper or to expose the canvas to proper ventilation will prevent the mold process taking hold, but in saying that mildew can start whilethe camper is set up for no apparent reason as well.

Unfortunately mold is very destructive to the cotton component to the canvas as well as other materials, and will decrease the life expectancy of the canvas and may impinge on its integrity.

So what to do if mold is found? Open the canvas product to its full extent, place in a spray bottle, a mixture of bleach and water, 1:20 ration, one being the bleach to 20 parts water. Spray the affected area and either hose off immediately or let dry and gently brush off with soft brush, do not have a stronger concentration of bleach. If you have enjoyed a camping spot amongst many of our birdlife and they have left their calling cards on your roofs, then these droppings will also have an effect on

the canvas, it is wise to remove them at your earliest convenience, by simple water and a gentle brush. DO NOT use detergents on your canvas as this will remove the water proofing aspects of your canvas.

Dirty marks and stains on your camper? These will be a normal part of your camping adventures, those who will accept this wont worry about a camper demonstrating where its been, but it is wise to hose down your camper when you get home, this will remove any major dirt stains, or animal droppings, or leaves left on your roof which will decompose and again degrade the canvas.

Gently brush off after drying any remaining stains with a soft hearth like brush, but do not in any circumstances, as mentioned before, use detergents, this will remove the water proofi ng agents. If by chance a you have done this prior to reading this article, you may need to re-spray the area you have used detergent on to regain its waterproofi ng integrity. Finally, when storing your camper away, make sure your 100% positive the canvas is thoroughly dry, and if your in a position to leave the cover slightly ajar, this may help with preventing mildew in high humid areas.

There is no better return on your investment than buying a great quality canvas, following these steps to looking after it and it will give you many years of wonderful memories, and you should be able to pass it on to the next generation