Question: A customer has fallen in love with a fancy printed cotton fabric, the type used by interior designers. She wants to use it on her boat but is worried about it fading from the sun. Is there anything we can spray on it to protect it?
Answer: You’re right to be wary of using a material designed for the indoors in an outdoor application; it’s not likely to be engineered to withstand the elements. We had a lengthy conversation with 303 Products, the manufacturer of a variety of fabric protection products. They explained that they do have a UV protector product (303 Aerospace), but it’s meant for use with rubber and plastic (like vinyl-coated fabric). When used on a fabric made out of natural fiber, like cotton, it would make a large damp spot that would never fully dry. On the rubber or plastic, this excess chemical wipes off. The damp spot would attract dirt, and the material would become unsightly. 303’s High Tech Fabric Guard product might slow down UV degradation, but by only about 50 percent. The product has been tested by Consumer Reports on nylon, but not cotton.
We did find another company, Sun & Soil, whose product does claim to impart stain and sunlight resistance. We were assured that their product is compatible with cotton fabrics, but it seems to be marketed to consumers rather than canvas shops.
Krylon, the spray paint company, has a UV spray that’s sold to the consumer market. Check retailers like Ace Hardware, Kmart and Sears, or visit Krylon’s web site www.krylon.com.