The Official Website Removing Sail #'s

Removing Sail Numbers and Residue

By Gillian Horvath:  December 2013

This has worked for me on very old sails, brand new sails and inbetween......

you will need -

  • Thinners
  • Paint Brush
  • Plastic Scrapers
  • Clean white material (old sheet, or similar is good)
  • Lots of Patience

Start at a corner of a number and gently pull away from sail.  Repeat until all are removed from both sides.  This will often take time and patience.  Of course if a very old sail the numbers will be sewn on, so you have to unpick the stitches first.

  1. Lay the white cloth on a flat surface (table is best - you can actually sit on a chair to do the job).
  2. Put sail on top. 
  3. Put Thinners into a small container (not too much as it will get mucky as you keep putting the brush into it) and brush over one of the number marks.
  4. As the glue softens - use the scraper and scrape glue inwards from the edge numbers.  (DO NOT scrape all over the place or you will end up with  more marks on the sail that is desirable, and you will more cleaning to do.
  5. The glue will soon start to move.  Keep painting and scraping inwards  until all the glue is gone.  Have paper towel on hand and clean off the scraper as you go.
  6. Have plenty of credit cards and you can replace as necessary also replace paint brush as necessary.
  7. When all is removed give a final wipe over with thinners and then turn over and do the other side.
  8. The beauty of this method is that you can put new sail numbers over where the old ones were and often end up with very little evidence of the previous numbers if you are careful.
  9. Finally -  This of course gets tedious and more often than  not I don't get done in one day. When I get sick of it, I leave and come back the next day - it depends on how good the glue is stuck.  But I have never failed to get all the glue off.  Be patient.

A few Notes over the page.....


Thinners - Do not be alarmed at the thought of using thinners.  Of course try on a small corner of the sail first, but I had never had any problems or damage to the sail using this.

(I use thinners to remove many stains from many items  - all successfully)

Plastic Scrapers - My plastic scraper of choice (for anything, plastering, etc. etc.)  is an old credit card or similar.  I never throw them away - just cut off a small piece of corner so you will know it is not active.  And as they get a build up on them, just throw away and get another one.  No cleaning.

White Material  -  DO NOT lay sail on a plastic tablecloth or anything coloured, and only use white cloths to clean surface.  The first time I attempted this I laid sail on a green plastic tablecloth and whiped surface with a red flannelette shirt.   It worked, but the plastic tablecloth melted and I ended up with green and red stains on the sail - which could not be removed.