WINSOL Laboratories, in cooperation with the major manufactures of industrial vinyl fabric, has developed an awning maintenance chemistry line.
This information is to help Building Owner & Home Owners to better understand how these cleaning agents work. We should first get ourselves familiar with the different types of fabric used in today’s awning market. The easiest way will be to divide the material into two categories. The first will be vinyl or coated material and the second will be woven or what is presumed to be canvas or canvas like material.
PLEASE REMEMBER THIS INFORMATION IS TO BE USED AS A GUIDE AND THAT NOT ALL STATEMENTS WILL BE TRUE IN EVERY CASE. THIS GUIDE IS NOT INTENDED TO MAKE THE MAINTENANCE PERSON AN EXPERT IN VINYL OR THE FABRICS USED IN MAKING AWNINGS BUT TO GIVE THE BUILDING OWNER & HOME OWNER A GENERAL IDEA AS TO WHAT IS OCCURRING WHEN AWNING MAINTENANCE IS TAKING PLACE.
The first material to be discussed will be vinyl. Vinyl manufacturers build many grades or qualities of vinyl and they are sold under many different names by a large number of master distributors. There are, however, just a few manufacturers. These manufacturers will build fabric costing from a few cents a foot to a couple of dollars per foot and for every penny difference there is another grade of vinyl. A good rule of thumb for deciding on the ease of maintenance is the smoother the top surface of the awning the easier it will be to clean. The more checked and woven looking the harder it will be to clean. Remember, though, all fabrics whether vinyl or woven will be highly susceptible to chemical attack.
Some of the more expensive grades are very exotic fabrics that appear to be a solid color may actually be ink top-coated (either eradicable or heat transfer) thereby giving the appearance of blue, or any other color, but in reality are white. This property allows a new art form of translucent colors and graphics. Brand names of fabric in this category include: Cooley, Unitex, Signtech, Forster, Astrup, Dickson and John Boyle. Large users of this type of material include: Subway, Baskin-Robbins and Novus Windshield Repair. This type of material combined with back lighting at night makes for beautiful signage that portrays a rich and elegant setting. Most vinyl fabric, however, is solid color stock and does not lend itself well to back lighting because it does not transfer light well. Vinyl fabric consists of a fiber mesh (usually cotton and/or polyester) coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Vinyl is a petroleum-based product and is subject to the gas release problems called plasticizer migration.
Plasticizer migration is a natural occurrence; the best example is the dashboard of your car where it meets the windshield. The film that forms on the windshield that looks like nicotine is actually the natural solvents (plasticizers and oils) venting. The out gassing of these plasticizers because the vinyl to dry out leading to cracking and hardness. The same thing happens to awning material. The lesser the grade of vinyl the more this can occur. The migration will also cause a very sticky residue that can make the awning very difficult to clean. This will sometimes lead the inexperienced maintenance technician to look for a quick fix solution in finding a cleaning chemical that will clean instantly. This can lead to a very costly mistake for the inexperienced maintenance company in the long run. Using the wrong chemistry will cause a great deal of grief, as any chemical that is considered a heavy degreaser will likely cause some degree of damage. Remember, PVC is petroleum based and similar to grease and many of the airborne pollutants that you are trying to remove, so it stands to reason that any chemical designed to remove grease will have an effect on the awning itself. It is imperative that the chemicals used be tested by the vinyl manufactures for compatibility.
The second type of fabric used for awnings is made from canvas and materials that look like canvas. These are mostly polypropylene and acrylic fibers. Although canvas is still used it is not the dominant fabric it was up to 15 years ago, so most of what appears to be canvas is actually a man-made fabric. However, all canvas type fabrics will clean the same way. The two most important things to keep in mind: First, do not use a harsh detergent system as this may cause color blending in some fabrics. Second, when fabric awnings are wet they may appear dingy even after adequate cleaning until they dry.
Certain things will be helpful for you to know about the WINSOL awning maintenance system:
First, even if the chemicals are misused the cleaners themselves cannot do damage to the awning. As a chemical manufacturer WINSOL designs chemicals to work safely using high dilution ratios and the label instructions are written accordingly. These ratios are averages for best results. It is our experience, however, these labels are often not read or merely glanced at. Our products, therefore, are designed to be safe even when used improperly. The biggest problem the OTHER inexperienced, companies maintenance technicians will encounter (when improperly using the product) is that improper dilution rations may mean the product may not work as advertised. Cleaners are designed to need a certain mixture of water to work properly.
Second, that in order to assure you that the chemicals cannot due damage to the awning there must be some trade off as to what WINSOL may or may not clean. WINSOL’s awning maintenance cleaners cannot be all things to all fabrics. To insure, that the maintenance person does not damage awning fabrics certain safeguards were built into our line of products. Because DBA THE WINDOW CLEANING SPECIALIST, LLC TECHNICIAN may not know the exact type of fabric being cleaned it is assumed by WINSOL that the fabric in question is an eradicable finish (even though this will not always be the case, of course) this way one will error on the side of safety. However, this will mean that on some vinyl awnings black streaking may not come clean with the first cleaning. Most will fade, however, and more will fade with the second cleaning. It may take a few cleanings, but they will come clean. This is where the tendency to use a stronger cleaner that offers quick results can cause problems. It is best to explain to the awning owner that a proper maintenance program will cure the problem over time and prevent it from reoccurring. Remember, if you are cleaning a SUBWAY awning and your crew makes it into =SUB=WA=Y, it can be a very expensive day. It must also be remembered the environment in which the awning has been placed plays a great part as to the cleaning ease of the awning. If the awning is situated near a bus stop, highway, factory or any place where there is a greater chance of airborne pollution it will be more difficult to clean.
Third, WINSOL’s awning maintenance chemicals cannot repair damaged fabric. Damaged, cracked, ripped, sun-faded or heavily oxidized fabric may require replacement.
Fourth, WINSOL’s line was developed to work with a major vinyl manufacturer’s fabric that is considered the most delicate on the market. WINSOL’s chemicals are sold under private labeling by vinyl manufacturer’s as well as under our own name. This should give you the confidence that our products are safe for any type of fabric you will encounter on the job. It is paramount to remember that if you use untested products on an awning, most fabric manufacturers will not stand behind their warranties. ALL PARTIES MAKE SURE ANY PRODUCTS YOU INTEND TO TRY HAVE BEEN FIELD-TESTED BY THE VINYL MANUFACTURERS AND FIND OUT WHO DID THE TESTING. ASK FOR THE PHONE NUMBERS AND A PERSON YOU CAN TALK TO. REMEMBER ALL PARTIES ARE ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGE CAUSED BY A PRODUCT SOLD OR USED BY ANY PARTY TO YOU BY ANY UNINFORMED SALESPERSON. Use of the wrong chemical can not only cause loss of ink but may well cause a flaking of the topcoat (this is similar to dandruff of the scalp).
When cleaning an awning these simple steps must be followed to insure both ease of cleaning and the best results for your time and efforts. If you follow these guidelines it will save you time, money and a great deal of anguish.
- Hire a professional Awning Cleaning Company
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT AWNING CLEANING
- WHY DOES IT MATTER WHAT KIND OF CLEANERS TO USE?
Because of the materials used in the construction of the different fabrics, especially vinyl. Vinyl is a petroleum-based product that in resin form is layered over the scrim (loosely layered woven threads) to form a flexible vinyl fabric. If a degreasing compound is used to clean this type of fabric it can actually strip a layer of vinyl off. You must also be careful to use a cleaner that does not contain a solvent or alcohol. These types of products can actually remove color from eradicable fabric. When cleaning a woven fabric, you must use a chemical that will not promote color bleeding. These types of fabrics are more commonly solution dyed these, days so this is becoming less of a problem.
- WHAT MAKES WINSOL’S PRODUCTS ANY SAFER THAN OTHERS?
WINSOL’s products are designed in conjunction with one of the world’s largest- producers of vinyl fabric. Therefore, our formulations are tested every step of the way to make sure they will not damage fabric even if misused. That is the guarantee we give to all of our customers. WINSOL products are the only ones on the market approved by all of the major manufacturers of awning fabric. Therefore, any work done with our products will not void warrantee’s.
- HOW MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF FABRIC ARE THERE?
There are basically two types of fabric: woven and vinyl. Within these two groups, However, there are literally thousands of grades, styles and manufacturers.
- IF THERE ARE SO MANY DIFFERENT KINDS OF FABRIC HOW DO I KNOW WHAT WILL HURT THEM AND WHAT WILL NOT?
Because we had the opportunity to work with a fabric manufacturer from the very beginning and we used this experience when designing our entire line of products. WINSOL awning maintenance products are designed to be both safe and effective on even the most delicate fabrics. We will guarantee the customer that they will not damage any fabric, even if misused.
- DO I NEED TO BE CAREFUL ABOUT THE TYPE OF EQUIPMENT I USE?
Yes, it is vitally important that you are not too aggressive on vinyl or woven fabrics. On vinyl the danger is scratching the surface. This will dull the finish and possibly allow moisture to penetrate to the scrim and cause mildew to grow under the vinyl coating. If this occurs there is nothing that can be done to remove it. On woven fabric the danger is abrading or “fuzzing” the surface. This will give the awning a fuzzy look when it is dry and shorten the life of the fabric.
- WHAT SORT OF EQUIPMENT WILL WE DBA THE WINDOW CLEANING SPECIALISTS, LLC BE USING?
To get started what we use is a ladder, bucket, source of water and a brush or awning sponge. The brush should be about the stiffness of a hog’s hair brush. The bristles should be relatively short, around 2″ in length. If the bristles get any longer they have a tendency to lay flat and this will inhibit your scrubbing effectiveness. For applying the awning armor the most effective way is with a pole, window washers T-bar and a scrub sleeve or towel fastened. This will give us a wide path of coverage and a soft applicator. We can go from a bucket and brush to a pump sprayer and even a boom truck.
- CAN YOU USE A PRESSURE WASHER TO CLEAN AN AWNING?
Absolutely not! Pressure washing equipment often cannot be adjusted down enough to provide a safe pressure for awnings. It is possible to split seams, stretch the VINYL itself, force dirt deep into the vinyl, blow off letters and graphics and a host of other problems. Damage cause by pressure washing will not be covered by the manufacturers-warranties.
- HOW DOES DBA THE WINDOW CLEANING SPECIALISTS, LLC CLEAN A VINYL AWNING?
There are two types of cleaning: maintenance and restorative. Maintenance cleaning can be done with WINSOL’s AWNING CLEANER AND PROTECTANT. This is a one step process that is effective on new vinyl awnings that are cleaned within about 3 months of installation or on awnings that have already been restored and are re-cleaned every 2-3 months. Restorative cleaning is a two-step process. It is performed with WINSOL DEEP CLEAN as the first step and followed up with WINSOL AWNING ARMOR or XTRA SHINE. Restorative cleaning is necessary whenever an awning is badly soiled and neglected. This will likely be the bulk of your cleaning, especially when you first start and don’t have clients on a cleaning schedule. The cleaning process is the same for both. Start by rinsing the awning down. This will remove loose soil and debris. Next, using the appropriate cleaner (mixed following the label instructions) scrub an area no larger than you can keep wet until you are ready to rinse. It is important to clean from the bottom up to avoid clean streaks. When you have thoroughly scrubbed an area, rinse and move on to the next section. If you are doing a maintenance cleaning rinse once more and you are done. If you are doing a restorative or heavy cleaning proceed to the second step the application of AWNING ARMOR or XTRA SHINE. The awning armor must be wiped on using a soft applicator. It is not necessary to perform any rubbing or buffing though. Let the sealer soak into the fabric and you are done.
- WHAT IS PLASTICIZER MIGRATION?
Plasticizer migration is the natural “off gassing” or drying of vinyl and plastics. This process cannot be stopped but it can be slowed down. The more slowly an awning loses its plasticizers the longer it will last and the better it will look. That is why it is important to replace some of the plasticizers after each cleaning. This can be done by the use of the one step AWNING CLEANER AND PROTECTANT or through an application of AWNING ARMOR or XTRA SHINE.
- DO I HAVE TO USE ONE OF THE VINYL SEALERS EVERY TIME I USE THE DEEP CLEAN OR CAN I USE AWNING CLEANER AND PROTECTANT?
Yes, you should use AWNING ARMOR or XTRA SHINE every time you use DEEP CLEAN. The use of AWNING CLEANER AND PROTECTANT will not properly seal the fabric after the use of DEEP CLEAN.
- WILL THE DEEP CLEAN ALWAYS REMOVE ALL THE STREAKS?
No, sometimes awnings have been neglected to the extent that they cannot safely be completely cleaned the first time. It also depends greatly on the grade of the fabric and the environment to which it was exposed. Most of the time an awning will come completely clean with its second scheduled cleaning. If you have cleaned an awning that will not release all of its streaks go ahead and treat it with AWNING ARMOR or XTRA SHINE. The penetration of our sealers often, lift dirt to the surface as they hydrate the fabric and will allow you to clean it the next time.
- DOES WINSOL HAVE ANYTHING THAT WILL GET STREAKS OUT THE FIRST TIME, EVERY TIME?
A qualified yes. We have cleaning products that we manufacture for other markets that will remove the black streaks with a single cleaning. If they damage the awning in the process, however, we are not really helping you. The DEEP CLEAN is generally as aggressive as you wish to get. A more aggressive cleaner or application system can potentially damage the awning and leave you to foot the replacement cost. When dealing with mold, algae or other growth in woven fabrics the manufacturers recommend a mixture of 4 ounces of laundry bleach mixed with one gallon of water as a pre-spray to kill any growths in the awning.
- DO I USE AWNING ARMOR OR XTRA SHINE ON FABRIC AWNINGS ALSO?
No, fabric awnings do not need plasticizer replacement. What is required for fabric awnings is the use of a waterproofing sealer. We at WINSOL, as well as the fabric manufactures, recommend a non-silicone, air-drying, fluorocarbon based waterproofer. WINSOL AWNING GUARD 690+ is the product of choice for this application. It is best to waterproof fabric awnings annually.
USE AND APPLICATION OF WINSOL AWNING PRODUCTS
There are two conditions to consider when cleaning awnings. First, are awnings that are severely soiled or neglected. The second is an awning that is only slightly soiled and is in generally good condition. You will be able to tell the difference immediately. If an awning appears to be only lightly soiled yet does not clean easily with WINSOL CLEANER AND PROTECTANT, stop and follow the directions for heavily soiled or neglected awnings.
- Light soil and general maintenance product.
Use WINSOL CLEANER AND PROTECTANT.
Tucker awning pole or equivalent, or hand tools. For hand washing a moderately firm brush (generally nylon, are the best), 3M pads (white or yellow), natural sponges or a drywall sponge and a bucket. Dilution for hand cleaning is 1:16. Always clean from the bottom to top to avoid streaking. Scrub the surface firmly and evenly (approx. a 6×10 foot area and then rinse thoroughly as you go to eliminate dried soap scum. If additional suppleness or shine is desired or required AWNING ARMOR or XTRA SHINE may be applied.
2 Heavy soiling or neglected awning maintenance
Use WINSOL DEEP CLEAN AND WINSOL AWNING ARMOR or XTRA SHINE.
Cleaning tools will be the same as described in NO. 1 above. AWNING ARMOR and XTRA SHINE are best applied with a sprayer and spread with a cotton towel, window scrub sleeve or the like.
Dilute the DEEP CLEAN as per label instructions (normally 8 ounces to a gallon of water). Cleaning is performed as described above. Dilute AWNING ARMOR or XTRA SHINE 1:1 before applying. Spray an area that you can smooth out before it dries (drying time will vary with the weather). The awning need not be completely dry from, it’s rinsing as both sealers are water-soluble. Spread evenly using a circular motion to avoid streaking and allow to dry. Reapply as needed and avoid dripping.
Whether the awning is natural or man-made fiber does not change your choice of chemicals or tools. There are two conditions to consider when cleaning awnings. First, are awnings that are severely soiled or neglected. The second is an awning that is only slightly soiled and is in generally good condition. You will be able to tell the difference immediately. If an awning appears to be only lightly soiled yet does not clean easily with WINSOL CLEANER AND PROTECTANT, stop and follow the directions for heavily soiled or neglected awnings. Except for Lichen. Lichen needs more then one time to restore awning back to its original state without a use of a pressure washer to do this.
WINSOL DEEP CLEAN AND WINSOL AWNING GUARD 690+
You will use the same cleaning tools and techniques described above but fabric awnings usually take more hard work, time and cleaner than smooth vinyl as soil and pollutants are free to enter the weave of the fabric if it has not been properly waterproofed. AWNING GUARD 690+ is applied undiluted using a pump-up sprayer and a wide fan tip using overlapping passes to assure even distribution. Properly applied 690+ will prevent soil and moisture from penetrating the fabric weave and will make subsequent cleanings faster and easier.