Making Sense of Sunbrella Marine Fabrics

Sunbrella offers several great lines of marine fabrics, most of which come in standard, solid colors. We love these products and their color line, but when so many fabrics look alike it can be hard to know if you’ve ordered the best one for your application. Each of Sunbrella’s lines has its own unique properties that make it perfectly suited to different projects. We’re going to break down the differences between all these marine solids, so you can rest assured you’re making the best choice for your next project.

2015_July-Sunbrella-1

Sunbrella Marine Grade

Sunbrella Marine Grade is the standard cover cloth of the marine industry. Like all Sunbrella fabrics, it is a 100% solution-dyed acrylic fabric and is soft, breathable and UV, water, and mildew resistant. Sunbrella Marine Grade will not noticeably shrink or stretch and both sides of this fabric are the same, so either side can face out. Sunbrella Marine Grade is suitable for use in awnings, dodgers, biminis, sun bands, boat tops, sail covers, outdoor covers, outdoor furniture, cockpit cushions and enclosure curtains. Marine Grade fabrics are 46” wide, but select colors also come in 60” width. These fabrics are exactly the same, just wider.

Sunbrella Plus

Sunbrella Plus features all the same properties as Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric but with an additional urethane coating on one side of the fabric. This coating gives Sunbrella Plus fabrics more moisture and abrasion resistance than regular Marine Grade. Sunbrella Plus fabric should be used with the urethane-coated side facing down. As the coating does reduce the breathability a bit, this fabric is most suitable for awnings, dodgers, biminis, boat tops, and enclosure curtains but not cover applications unless vented.

Sunbrella Supreme

Sunbrella Supreme features an acrylic flocking adhered to the back of regular Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric with a urethane adhesive. This bonding process makes the fabric almost completely waterproof. The flocking is short cut fibers that create a soft surface that won’t scratch varnish, paint, gel coat and plastic. Use Sunbrella Supreme in applications where the canvas lays against delicate surfaces and for dodgers, biminis, and enclosures. Some Supreme fabrics have a dark top but lighter flocking, which is great if you want all your boat canvas to match but also want to brighten up the interior of your cockpit. Sunbrella Supreme should be used with the flocking side facing in.

Sunbrella Clarity

Sunbrella Clarity is very different from the other three, in that it was specially engineered for awnings, not necessarily for marine applications. Clarity features a durable polyurethane undercoating for excellent water resistance and a special finish on the top that uses sunlight and rain to remove organic contaminants and stains (like roof-run off) from the fabric. How this works is that when sunlight hits the awning the properties in the fabric are triggered to cause organic materials like oil, mold, mildew, grime and VOCs to decompose. Then the rain washes these materials away. Unlike other Sunbrella fabrics, water doesn’t bead up on Clarity, rather it wets out, which is part of the cleaning process. This technology makes Clarity the perfect choice for hard to reach awning applications, as it’s mostly self-cleaning. We recommend Clarity for commercial and residential awnings, canopies, market umbrellas, and other hard-to-reach shade structures as well as marine tops and boat awnings. Clarity should be used with the smooth, soft, uncoated side facing up (exposed to the outside).

Sunbrella has a lot of great acrylic fabrics to offer and hopefully now the choice between them will be a little less daunting.

See the full line of all Sunbrella Marine Grade & other exterior fabrics at Sailrite.com.

Have you used any of Sunbrella’s specialty fabrics like Plus, Supreme or Clarity on your projects? What do you think of them? Share your experiences and opinions with us in the comments section below.

8 comments
  1. Sue L. said:

    Thank you! I found this information very clear and useful.

    • Nikki said:

      You’re welcome, Sue! Happy to help!

  2. jrhannum said:

    how about adding suggestions for thread and needle sizes for each of the fabrics?

    • Nikki said:

      Great idea! Actually all of these fabrics can be sewn with a #18 needle and V-69 thread or a #20 needle with a V-92 thread. For outdoor applications, you’ll always want to use a polyester or a PTFE (lifetime) thread.

  3. Dave said:

    Thanks Nikki, I enjoy your blogs. I have a question. I will be modifing my full boat cover this fall and have a question about what reinforcing (backing) fabric to use in high wear and stress points. Currently, these areas have a “fully coated on both sides” fabric that matches the Sunbrella. I don’t know what this fabric is called or if you carry it. Some areas have a leather doubler and I don’t know what leather to use. Please advise, thanks, Dave Shill

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Dave,

      It sounds like what you have currently might be a 12oz. Stamoid vinyl. We really like using vinyl fabric for chafe resistant patches on covers because vinyl has outstanding abrasion resistance. Shelter-Rite is a great choice for this and you can buy a yard of it if you need a lot of patches or it also comes in 3″ wide tape (black and white only) which is really convenient for patching. Weblon Regatta, Herculite Riveria, or Naugahyde are great choices also. For your leather areas, any of our marine leathers would work or you could replace that with vinyl too, which is personal preference.

      Here’s a link to all of our vinyl fabrics for you to browse: http://www.sailrite.com/Vinyl-Fabric#!Vinyl-Fabric

      Hope that answers your questions!

  4. Dave said:

    Hi Nikki, 3 years ago I had a full boat cover made for my sailboat which is dry stored in Anacortes, Wa. The cover is on the boat about 6 months a year. Over the winter a lot of dust, dirt and bird poo land on the cover. This fall, before I put it back on I am thinking I should clean it and perhaps rewaterproof it. Can I just lay it out on the deck and scrub it with a boat brush and boat soap? It is not real dirty yet but a friends boat cover is a few years older than mine and his actually has stuff growing on it.

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Dave,
      You can clean your boat cover with mild soap and a soft bristled brush. Always rinse it well and let it air dry, too. If it’s Sunbrella, you can apply 303 Fabric Guard to re-waterproof the fabric after it’s dry. If you have other fabrics, just check to make sure it’s not on the “do not use list” which is on our product page here: http://www.sailrite.com/303-Fabric-Guard-16oz

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: