Salt water, we can’t really avoid it so we need to be aware of the harm it causes sails and do what we can to limit it. Salt crystals when they dry expand, when this is put in the context of sails it means that our sails when they dry from a rough days sailing, are being cut on a microscopic level by the sharp edged salt crystals expanding inside the weave of Dacron sails. The end result is that the sail is being weakened. This is something we cannot fix on a sail by sail basis but there are things that can be done to limit the effect.
Washing the sail results in the crystals being washed away, often this means that the sails look better too as the stains of a years sailing are washed away to say nothing of any mould or mildew forming on the sail. For those of you who wish to attempt to do this at home, please DO NOT use bleach as the chemicals remove the resins applied to the sail in construction and lead to the untimely demise of the sail and break down in the stitching.
An easier alternative is using the laundry service available from your local Ullman sails agent. Ullman sails are currently the only sail loft in the UK using a non invasive ecologically friendly sail washing system. It is often thought that washing is only appropriate for woven sails but this is not true, salt crystals can play havoc with the delicate mylar films used in race sails leading to early de-lamination.