How to Retreat Sunbrella Fabrics

How to Retreat Sunbrella Fabric

All Sunbrella fabrics are treated with a fluorocarbon finish that makes them water-resistant, but after years of being out in the elements and being pelted by rain the finish can wear off. If you notice that your Sunbrella fabrics aren’t beading water like they used to, it’s probably time to retreat them and restore their water repellency. We’ll show you what to use and how to retreat your fabric so it repels water again.

To restore the water repellency of your Sunbrella fabric we recommend using 303 Fabric Guard. Actually, 303 Fabric Guard is also the choice of the manufacturers of Sunbrella as the best treatment to restore water repellency. 303 Fabric Guard also protects against stains and provides UV screening without affecting the color, feel or breathability of the fabric. While 303 is great for canvas like Sunbrella, it should not be used on vinyl, zippers, plastics, rubber, fiberglass or imitation suede, so be careful when applying it to canvas near these other materials.

How do you know when to retreat your Sunbrella? We recommend always retreating your fabric after a thorough cleaning and also when you notice the fabric stops beading water. Do a quick test of your cover every couple of months by flicking a small amount of water on the cover and see if the water beads up and runs off or soaks into the material. If the water soaks in, it’s time to retreat.

In this video we’ll show you step-by-step how to retreat a boat cover with 303 Fabric Guard. Also included is a brief discussion of the differences between the different lines of Sunbrella fabric and how to tell which side should face out on your projects (hint: for most Sunbrella fabrics, it doesn’t matter!).

You can find 303 Fabric Guard and other products for cleaning and caring for your fabrics at Sailrite.com.

Do you use 303 Fabric Guard on your Sunbrella fabric? Share your experiences with it in the comments.

5 comments
  1. Sue said:

    It would have been useful to include Surlast fabric in this, as it does have an inside and an outside. Also – any tips on how to re-treat a large cover, like a winter cover for a 30-foot boat?

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Sue,

      Actually, we have a separate but similar video just on Surlast fabrics that you can see here: https://sailrite.wordpress.com/2015/09/18/surlast-which-side-is-the-outside-surface/

      As for re-treating your large cover, to make spraying easier you can put the 303 in a power sprayer, but 303 Fabric Guard will eat the container if you leave it in there for too long, so be sure to clean the sprayer out really well when you’re finished. It might be easier to retreat the cover when it’s on your boat, which you can absolutely do, but be careful to clean up overspray promptly because the 303 can damage your boat’s hull. To prevent this, you can always take the cover off the boat, like we did in the video.

  2. John said:

    You didn’t mention anything about cleaning the cover. Can you retreat this without washing the cover?

    • Nikki said:

      Hi John,

      You could retreat the cover without washing, but you’ll get better results if you wash the cover first.

  3. chase said:

    I was looking for a good waterproofing agent with certain characteristics. Silicone free being one of them. I chose 303 Fabric Gaurd after reading tests done by Sailboat mag years ago.

    I have tried others and 303 costs more, but 303 has proven itself to out last and give a better waterproofing overall.

    I use it on pretty much anything that needs waterproofing. Bimini tops, tents, backpacks, luggage, even boat shoes.

    It works and doesn’t collect dust and dirt.

    Applying 303 must be done after you clean the item with a product that does not leave residue after rinsing. I don’t care what anyone says, this is key to a good waterproofing. Or you’ll just be doing it again in short time.

    Other key factors are applying it on hot low humidity days, with full Sun exposure for the full 8hr cure time. And if possible, making the fabric taught.

    I have tried applying it in 75-80 degree low humidity but it didn’t last near as long as when I applied it in 95+ degree weather.

    Being in S. Florida part of the year I can get the higher temps. Finding days with low humidity down there, can be a challenge. You have to pick the season that gives you the highest temps above 80F degrees with the lowest humidity for the best results from your application.

    Sometimes that’s not possible to wait for optimum weather conditions. In that case don’t expect premium waterproofing or longevity. Do expect short term waterproofing and to have to rewash and reapply it again when the weather is right.

    Speaking of which, I’ve been waiting out the weather for a couple weeks now in S. Florida. The temps right, but 72%+ humidity levels just isn’t cutting it. I may have to apply it anyway and redo it when the weather is right if I don’t get a break shortly. lol.

    All said, it’s a good product. It works. Hopefully they won’t change the formula bringing down it’s quality trying to increase bottom line as others have. If they do, we’ll just have to find the next bbd in the waterproofing gambit.

    Happy Sailing all,
    – chase –

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