All About Vinyl
May 29, 2011 5:59 PM | Tagged as vinyl mildew

What is Vinyl?
Vinyl is a plastic made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC).  Vinyl is manufactured in different ways in a number of forms and in varying qualities for thousands of uses.  A vinyl's topcoat holds in plasticizers, softening agents which keep vinyl supple.

Vinyl is a UV-sensitive material which degrades when exposed to sunlight. Maintaining the integrity of the topcoat and protecting against UV damage are the keys to keeping vinyl looking and performing "like new".

An enlarged sideview of common vinyl fabric would show raw PVC (polyvinyl chloride) covered by a thin layer of plastic called the "topcoat". The topcoat is the part of the vinyl you can see and touch. To keep vinyl fabric soft and flexible, manufacturers add agents known as plasticizers to the raw PVC. A major function of the topcoat is to hold in these plasticizers, which otherwise would quickly evaporate. If the topcoat is damaged or degraded, plasticizers begin to escape leading to embrittlement/cracking/failure.

Protecting the topcoat, then, is the most crucial aspect of properly maintaining vinyl, and the subject with which vinyl manufacturers are most concerned. Vinyl manufacturers agree on and recommend the following. 

General Cleaning
Never use household cleaners, powdered or other abrasives, steelwool or industrial cleaners, dry cleaning fluids, solvents (petroleum distillates), bleach or detergents. Use a medium-soft brush, warm soapy water (such as Ivory soap), rinse with cool water then dry.

Mildew Stains
To kill the bacteria creating the mildew, use a medium-soft brush and vigorously brush the stained area with a 4 to 1 mixture of water and ammonia; rinse with cool water.

Tough Mildew Stains
Apply a mixture of one(1) teaspoon ammonia, one-fourth(1/4) cup hydrogen peroxide and three-fourths(3/4) cup of distilled water; rinse with cool water. Note: All cleaning methods must be followed by a thorough rinse with water.

Obviously abrasives should never be used on vinyl. Petroleum distillates are a universal "no-no" for both vinyl and rubber. Waxes should never be used on vinyl because (a) Most waxes contain petroleum distillates, (b) Wax is a build-up product, holding in the heat absorbed from the sun and accelerating heat damage.

Virtually all vinyl manufacturers agree that no type of oil should be used on vinyl. Silicone oil vinyl treatments should not be used for several reasons; 1) Silicone oil formulations typically attack the vinyl topcoat, 2) Silicone oil formulations usually contain no effective UV screening ingredients, 3) Silicone oil formulations are build-up products which accelerate heat damage, 4) Silicone oil formulations are greasy and oily, attract dust, and soil more quickly. READ THE LABEL! Product directions suggesting more than one coat for better cosmetic enhancement are build-up products and are recommended against by vinyl manufacturers.

Clear vinyl
Lacking the topcoat of regular vinyl, clear vinyl is more sensitive to UV light, scratching and "outgassing" of the plasticizers which lead to hazing, fogging, yellowing and embrittlement.

Simple Cleaning
To avoid scratching, always rinse with water before washing.  Wash with soap and water using a soft mitt.  Rinse with water and allow to dry.

Dirt and moisture are essential to mildew propagation.  Thus keeping vinyl clean and dry is crucial to preventing mildew.  Dirty vinyl + dampness = mildew.

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