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Cleaning and straightening out your sails


70 replies to this topic  – Started by Medievalego , Mar 20 2008 01:57 AM

#26 Ivan K.

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 01:40 PM

Hello!
I have many ship sails and most of them are new, but also have these from set no. 6274 Caribbean Clipper, which are also good, but I am still thinking- what will happen if I take the sails on chemical cleaning? Is this kind of cleaning gonna be risky for the colors?
Thanks!

#27 Destroydacre

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 04:41 PM

View PostIvan K., on Mar 30 2010, 05:40 AM, said:

Hello!
I have many ship sails and most of them are new, but also have these from set no. 6274 Caribbean Clipper, which are also good, but I am still thinking- what will happen if I take the sails on chemical cleaning? Is this kind of cleaning gonna be risky for the colors?
Thanks!

What kind of chemicals are you talking about?

Whenever I've needed to wash a dirty sail, I've soaked it in cold water with a small amount of laundry detergent (no bleach) for a few minutes, then sloshed it around for a few minutes, then let it soak a few minutes more. I'm usually pretty gentle with it because as others have said, repeated heavy agitation will cause the sails to fray. Once I'm happy with the sail, I wash it off well with cold water. Next, I iron the sail to dry it out and keep it straight. This method has never failed me and the colors look great. I can't make any guarantees, but in my experience anything that is safe for colored laundry has worked for Lego sails.

#28 MetroiD

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 05:26 PM

View PostDestroydacre, on Mar 31 2010, 05:41 PM, said:

What kind of chemicals are you talking about?
He means the dry cleaner's. Although I'd hardly recommend dry-cleaning LEGO sails :pir-hmpf:

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...in my experience anything that is safe for colored laundry has worked for Lego sails.
Ditto. I've received some rather old sails as parts of bucket purchases over the years and a simple gentle cleaning up has always worked wonders there.
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#29 Lord Augusta

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Posted 02 April 2010 - 12:43 PM

I found that all lego cloth will become softer after let them wet, and never recover again.

It is much obvious in sail. It cannot be as stiff as before, the sail just lay a bit down looks like the ship in a no wind condition. :pir_bawling:

I have read someone said that when we wash lego's cloth, it wash away some kind of water soluble gel that lego spray on the cloth to make them stiff. And he suggested that we can re apply some transparent acrylic paint on the back to make it stiff again.

Does anyone have comment on this?

#30 Captain Becker

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Posted 02 April 2010 - 01:43 PM

Well, I've cleaned my sails very gently wiping with a damp cloth, sails were in good shape after that, i dont know will that works but thats my way to clean my sails. Good luck for it. :pir-classic:

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#31 jonwil

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Posted 02 April 2010 - 02:25 PM

I have sails from the reissue Black Seas Barracuda, the green wing pieces from the green dragon creator set, sail from the orient expedition chinese junk set, tent from the Indy camp set and the roof from the Shanghai Chase. These have been kept in a closed plastic container along with some other regular parts. They are clean and flat.

How can I keep these sails and cloth bits in good condition so they last as long as the rest of my LEGO?

#32 yys4u

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Posted 02 July 2011 - 01:52 AM

It's been a while since this thread has been discussed. I'm hoping to reopen it to see if there's any updated techniques.

I recently tried to iron the top sail on the BSB. It seemed to be a little cleaner after and a straightened it a little, but some of the thicker creases stayed. Most importantly it lost its stiffness. It's softer now almost like cotton, but when I put it back on it seems to actually look better. (I feel like it will sag more within the next couple days.) I think its because the other top sail that wasn't iron is still more rigid, so its bends seem more evident because it retains its "crooked" shape.

In any case, I was hoping there was a technique to keep it still but make it straight again and get creases out. Maybe something like iron then spraying with starch?

P.S. I emailed LEGO seeing if they had any recommendations, they seemed to send me an almost template response suggesting I order replacement parts. I guess they failed to realize I was asking about vintage sets :(

#33 Phred

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Posted 02 July 2011 - 06:12 AM

View Postyys4u, on 02 July 2011 - 01:52 AM, said:

In any case, I was hoping there was a technique to keep it still but make it straight again and get creases out. Maybe something like iron then spraying with starch?
I have not attempted this, but I believe spraying on starch will stiffen the sails back up.  When I was in the military, we used starch when ironing our uniforms.  I can say with certainty that the fabric of our uniforms were stiffer.  I would be careful about using too much starch, because I believe it may then leave a gloss or shimmer on the fabric.

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#34 Stash2Sixx

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Posted 02 July 2011 - 07:15 AM

I've found with older cloth flags, capes, and sails, if I place them flat in a plate of hot water from the tap and leave them for a while, they seem to take care of themselves pretty well.  Let them dry out on a paper towel and there ya' go!

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#35 yys4u

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Posted 02 July 2011 - 07:44 AM

View PostStash2Sixx, on 02 July 2011 - 07:15 AM, said:

I've found with older cloth flags, capes, and sails, if I place them flat in a plate of hot water from the tap and leave them for a while, they seem to take care of themselves pretty well.  Let them dry out on a paper towel and there ya' go!

Hmm interesting as it doesn't use soap or high heat. Approximately how long is a while? Couple hours, 15 minutes, a day?
People were also complaining about mildew after being soaked, nothing like that ever happened to you?
I guess if it dries on a paper towel it will soak up most of the moisture..

#36 Stash2Sixx

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Posted 02 July 2011 - 07:48 AM

Nope, no problems, I've still got sails from the original Dark Shark and the Carribean Clipper.  Time wears them down but hot water for about 20-30 minutes usually softens them up.  Then just press them into a few flat paper towels to dry them out.

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#37 yys4u

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 06:01 AM

Ok I just wanna add something here in case someone down the line google searches how to clean sails. I definitely would not recommend cleaning them or straightening them via iron or water. I found that the iron will melt whatever kind of starch they use (noticed this because my sails stuck to the towel I was using, leading me to believe the starch was melting off, and once finished the sail became extremely flimsy.)

I also tried leaving the sail in a plate of hot water and letting it dry. While the sail currently is not completely dry, I can already notice its loss of stiffness, again I assume the starch was washed away. I'll note that the sails do appear cleaner, but not stiff anymore. I also noticed in the water there was some stuff floating, small streaks of something, ALMOST like oil in water, but not exactly. I couldn't tell if it was dirt or starch. Regardless I wouldn't recommend this method either. Maybe I did both these process incorrect, I'm not sure, but I'm just sharing my experience so people know the risks.

I still intend to buy some spray on starch and see if it works. I'll post an edit if there's something worth noting.

#38 Mr Misty

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 09:48 AM

While restoring my ships I purchased several dirty sails on bricklink due to the cheaper price with the hopes I could restore them to their former glory or at least close to it. I've had very good results using my washing machine. I started by hitting the sails on both sides with Spray & Wash or Shout if they're yellowed or had stains. Then they went into my front load washing machine, I washed them together as a set but with no other items such as towels or sheets in the machine. I set the machine to delicate/hand wash with low spin while using small amounts of Tide and Oxyclean, the sails came out wet but they dried when I hit them with the iron which I set to Cotton. I would go over them once or twice lightly, never letting the iron stop and sit in one spot unless there was a bad crease in which case I would flip the sail to the side it stuck out on and hit the crease with the corner of the iron while moving it back and forth over the offending spot quickly. Larger sails like the ones on the Skulls Eye Schooner are easier to iron than smaller sails like on the merchant ship from the Imperial Trading Post which I had to hold down on an exposed corner with my finger while ironing. Depending on the size of the sail they would either come out totally dry or slightly damp in the center which I allowed to air dry after hanging the sail back on the ship. I did have one or 2 sails that frayed but only 1 or 2 threads came loose, I trimmed them down with a pair of sharp scissors and they look like they just came out of the box. If your not comfortable using an iron I wouldn't recommend your first experience being lego sails. I have heard that pressing them between paper towels stuffed inside thick books such as dictionaries or encyclopedias for a few days works well.

#39 yys4u

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 05:13 PM

^Yea I actually meant to make a correction to my post. Leaving them in a shallow plate with warm water actually worked pretty well. My sails weren't really dirty, there was just a crease down the center where the seller had folded the sail in half when he shipped it to me. The water and leaving it to dry on a flat surface between two paper towels, with a book on top straightened it pretty well. You can still see the fold, but it hangs pretty well. Apparently when I wrote my last post my sail wasn't completely dry, now that it is I see it's still pretty stiff, so I guess water is safe.

With the iron, I used one of the BSB sails because theres multiple sails on the ship that I can compare stiffness too. I placed it between two towels, and used very low heat and of course didn't let the iron sit on the sail, always used slow passing motions. Still i found that the sail "stuck" to the towels which I assumed was some kind of starch coming off.

Perhaps NOT sandwiching the sails between two towels will allow the heated up starch to settle back into the sail, and retain its stiffness.
I also wanted to ask if you kept a test sample to see the sails rigidity before and after, because I didn't really notice my sail was soft until I compared it to the rest...

#40 Mr Misty

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 04:19 AM

The sails on my Black Seas Barracuda are unwashed and original and I can't tell the difference between them and the ones I washed for my Red Beard Runner and Armada Flagship. The front triangular sail on my 6271 Imperial Flagship feels a little softer than the others but it doesn't show in the way it hangs, you have to touch it to notice.

#41 yys4u

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 11:05 AM

View PostLord Augusta, on 02 April 2010 - 12:43 PM, said:

I found that all lego cloth will become softer after let them wet, and never recover again.

It is much obvious in sail. It cannot be as stiff as before, the sail just lay a bit down looks like the ship in a no wind condition. :pir_bawling:

I have read someone said that when we wash lego's cloth, it wash away some kind of water soluble gel that lego spray on the cloth to make them stiff. And he suggested that we can re apply some transparent acrylic paint on the back to make it stiff again.

Does anyone have comment on this?


I know I'm reviving this old thread for a 2nd time, but I'm still researching how to properly clean and straighten sails. I'm constantly referencing this thread and this comment always caught my attention because I have suspected the same thing, that sometimes when I soak the sails, they don't come back as stiff.

I was reminded of this with the sails from my Red Beard Runner. I didn't really want to wash them because they were in good condition, they had vibrant colors, were still stiff, only a couple small stains and minor wrinkles, but no creases. But I tried it anyways, I let them soak in cold water, then used a hair dryer on cold setting to dry them. Been trying to not apply any heat to avoid shrinkage and color fading. Well when they dried I notice they weren't as stiff, but they look okay, they still have some small wrinkles though.

Anyways, to the point, I began researching the fabric that LEGO uses for the sails and came across this page

http://www.minifigcu...s.com/node/5395

They author talks about capes, but I think they use the same fabric for sails. He mentions using "artist's acrylic matte medium" on the fabric to prevent fraying and mentions that they become stiffer. I think I'm going to try and buy some of this medium and apply it to my BSB sails (as they are in the worst condition of my collection and have become my test dummies).Hopefully this works well so I can finally not be afraid of ironing out all the tough wrinkles and creases on my sails and then apply this medium to stiffen them up again. I've tried using starch, but I had to use A LOT to make it noticeably stiffer, and while the sails hang really nice, you can really feel the difference when you touch them and I don't like it.

#42 Zeya

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 11:58 PM

I washed my childhood sails and other cloth elements yesterday, and I wanted to post my experiences here, particularly for anyone stopping by in the future looking for information.

These sails and other cloth elements are from my childhood Lego collection. We're talking 20+ year old Lego. You can read more here about my collection unboxing and cleaning.

But I wanted to go over here about just the sails and cloth elements. I took some photos as I went along.

Here's a "before" shot of the cloth elements. As you can see, it's a decent mix with some large, some small, and 2 small flags and a tiny cape from the dragon knights (circa 1993). The condition here isn't horrible. The Caribbean Clipper (blue and white) sails have some yellowing around the edges, and one is worse than the other 2. Of the two red/white striped sails, one of them has yellowing in the white area while the other one doesn't. And one of the tan sails at the top has a stain going all down it, visible from both sides. I'm not sure if that is mildew or just some old coke/coffee stain of some sort. And all together, the sails are wrinkled and folded. Some of these were packed away with string, masts, and poles attached, which deformed as well. I might be making it sound worse than it is here. They actually weren't all that bad, all things considered.
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So on to the cleaning! I've read through this thread in the past and want to thank all of you for the advice in here. I decided to be somewhat cautious, but not overly so. My first step was to fill a bucket with hot water and regular laundry soap (Tide brand "brighter whites" is what I used, but still safe for colors - no bleach!).
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DSC_0005 by ZeyaV, on Flickr

Then I just used my hands. I tried a toothbrush, but that wasn't going very well because the cloth is very thin and saggy and hard to work on with a toothbrush. So I just used my hand and worked over the surface with my fingers. I would hold the element against one palm and lightly scrub with the other hand. When I was done with one, I would put it in another bowl filled with clean water:
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DSC_0006 by ZeyaV, on Flickr

When all were done scrubbing, I took it all over to the sink to rinse:
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DSC_0007 by ZeyaV, on Flickr

I've been washing a lot of Lego recently, and my advice when hand washing is to nest a colander inside a slightly larger bucket. This makes it easy to dump away water and repeatedly rinse.

So after rinsing, I left the elements in a clean bowl of water. My initial idea was to leave them all out to dry on an ironing board. I laid them all out flat on top of a clean cloth (the ironing board had some cruft on it and I didn't want my precious Lego to get even more dirty):
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DSC_0009 by ZeyaV, on Flickr

But I quickly realized that as they dried they would wrinkle up. So I decided to go ahead and iron. I read someone else on here recommend putting a protective towel across the elements during ironing. But I threw caution to the wind and just ironed away. I made sure to use the lowest iron setting. I also made a point of putting the elements face down, with their printed sides down. For the red/white striped sails, both sides seemed to be printed, but everything else had a backside.
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DSC_0012 by ZeyaV, on Flickr

After ironing everything dry, I laid it out on a table:
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DSC_0015 by ZeyaV, on Flickr

But I realized that despite ironing, the cloth had a tendency to curl up as it was before cleaning, to a slight extent, as you can see here:
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DSC_0014 by ZeyaV, on Flickr

Here's a close-up to consider:
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DSC_0016 by ZeyaV, on Flickr

As you can see, that one sail still has that stain on it. My cleaning faded away the stain just a little bit, but maybe only by 15% or so from what it was. Likewise, there wasn't really a rousing success with the yellowing on the other sails. I'm not so worried about all that, though. After all, real-life sails do tend to get dirty, so it's not all that bad.

But another thing to note here is that the elements tended to fray a bit. The photo makes it look worse than it seems to the naked eye. That's an unfortunate consequence of this cleaning. I'm not sure if the scrubbing, ironing, drying, or all of the above caused this.

The final step for me was to go over to the bookshelf and find a sufficiently large hardcover book with a spooky nautical theme to it...
Posted Image
DSC_0017 by ZeyaV, on Flickr

...and place the sails inside to help keep them flat!
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DSC_0018 by ZeyaV, on Flickr

Just don't forget which book you put them in!

Okay, some final thoughts on this whole process. It wasn't as dramatic as I first thought. The cloth Lego uses is pretty durable after all. I was also afraid about some talk on here about the cloth losing its starch-like coating. I think that happened to me here, but just a little bit. I haven't had a chance to play around with the sails yet, but I don't anticipate much of a problem with sagging, at least for me.

But my final thought here is that I would only recommend sail cleaning if there's a real need for it. If your sails are significantly folded, dirty, or smelly, then by all means go ahead and clean. But if it isn't so bad, I wouldn't clean them. I say that because you'll run the risk of getting a little bit of that fraying around the edges like I did, and maybe also a little bit of the sagging/softness issue. Also as you can see here, I wasn't really able to get rid of stains or the yellowing all that well. What cleaning really did do well was to get rid of the wrinkles and creases. Just the act of getting the sail wet and laying it out I think would have done wonders; but the ironing really sealed the deal.

Okay, thanks for reading. Hopefully this post is helpful to someone in the future.

#43 yys4u

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 02:28 AM

^Great post! Thanks for all the pictures. I'm curious as to what you did with the fraying? When some of my sails frayed I clipped them with sicors and the ones fraying really bad, I put some Fray Block on. That's a very aggressive approach however. I assume many would want their sails to be as original as possible.

#44 TalonCard

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 03:49 AM

This is good to see...I love posts with lots of pictures like this.  I'm a little concerned about when the time comes to clean my sails...they're all super dirty.  I've actually replaced most of my original Pirate collection at this point, so they're not in bad shape, but they attract dust like nothing else.

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#45 Faefrost

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 05:38 AM

I swallowed my pride and asked my mother for suggestions on this one. While she looks down on me playing with toys at my age, she simply cannot resist answering a laundry question. (Believe it or not, the woman actually did her college thesis on Laundry. Gotta love Hunter College). Her suggestion was hand wash gently with Woolite, dry flat like you would a sweater, or between absorbent material like paper towels, and iron on low heat putting a layer of cloth between the iron and the sails so you don't singe them. Her big thing wa sto stress using Woolite, but she says that for almost anything related to cloth, so that may just be the old person crazy talking.

View Postyys4u, on 06 May 2012 - 11:05 AM, said:



Anyways, to the point, I began researching the fabric that LEGO uses for the sails and came across this page

http://www.minifigcu...s.com/node/5395

They author talks about capes, but I think they use the same fabric for sails. He mentions using "artist's acrylic matte medium" on the fabric to prevent fraying and mentions that they become stiffer. I think I'm going to try and buy some of this medium and apply it to my BSB sails (as they are in the worst condition of my collection and have become my test dummies).Hopefully this works well so I can finally not be afraid of ironing out all the tough wrinkles and creases on my sails and then apply this medium to stiffen them up again. I've tried using starch, but I had to use A LOT to make it noticeably stiffer, and while the sails hang really nice, you can really feel the difference when you touch them and I don't like it.

Matte Medium would be interesting to use for that, but will probably need some tricks to thin or soften it for application. Incredibly thinned white glue might work as well. Although you might want to try it on some sort of scrap material first.
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#46 Zeya

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 07:32 PM

View Postyys4u, on 19 February 2013 - 02:28 AM, said:

^Great post! Thanks for all the pictures. I'm curious as to what you did with the fraying? When some of my sails frayed I clipped them with sicors and the ones fraying really bad, I put some Fray Block on. That's a very aggressive approach however. I assume many would want their sails to be as original as possible.

Thank you. I haven't done anything about the fraying, at least not yet. The only thing I would imagine doing is to carefully snip some of the frays shorter so they're less visible. I've never heard of Fray Block.

#47 Ritz Brick

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 08:02 PM

I've straightened some of my sails by just soaking them in water and ironing them between wax paper (similar to how you press leaves and flowers). I'm going to assume some sails will have different ink and such, so warm water might be a bit iffy. A soap meant for babies might work better as it's more gently and the chemicals aren't as strong.
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#48 yys4u

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 05:50 PM

View PostFaefrost, on 19 February 2013 - 05:38 AM, said:



Matte Medium would be interesting to use for that, but will probably need some tricks to thin or soften it for application. Incredibly thinned white glue might work as well. Although you might want to try it on some sort of scrap material first.


Ya your right, the Matte medium does need to be thinned. I decided to test it on some Broadcloth I bought at a fabric store, according to another source I read, that material is pretty close to what lego uses. But it left the fabric with a noticeably different feel, too much of a difference I wouldn't think of using it on actual lego sails. I meant to make some kind of tutorial video and upload to youtube, but never got around to it. I should probably go back and try the matte medium again with a more diluted sample.

As for the watered down white glue, I heard about that too. It's probably pretty similar to matte medium, when I opened the bottle of stuff I had bought it looks identical to watered down white glue haha.

View PostZeya, on 19 February 2013 - 07:32 PM, said:


Thank you. I haven't done anything about the fraying, at least not yet. The only thing I would imagine doing is to carefully snip some of the frays shorter so they're less visible. I've never heard of Fray Block.

I think I first read about Fray Block on this forum, but didn't go back through the pages to confirm that or not. Basically it's like liquid plastic that will stop the fabric from fraying again. There's supposedly a number of "side effects" to using it though. Such as discoloration to applied parts, and yellowing overtime, I haven't noticed anything yet. It is a little tricky to apply though, as the applicator is built for sweaters and much thicker fabrics. I think I bought mine at Walmart for around $3.

#49 Zeya

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 07:23 PM

View Postyys4u, on 21 February 2013 - 05:50 PM, said:

I think I first read about Fray Block on this forum, but didn't go back through the pages to confirm that or not. Basically it's like liquid plastic that will stop the fabric from fraying again. There's supposedly a number of "side effects" to using it though. Such as discoloration to applied parts, and yellowing overtime, I haven't noticed anything yet. It is a little tricky to apply though, as the applicator is built for sweaters and much thicker fabrics. I think I bought mine at Walmart for around $3.

In that case, I personally wouldn't risk using it. The fraying isn't too bad for me, and I'm not worried about it. Thanks for the suggestion though.

#50 Konrad

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 05:36 PM

i would be weary of ironing them as its dye sub



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