Articles of Interest
Washing Paraglider Wings
written by Keith Pickersgill
I firmly believe that all paraglider wings should get a thorough wash down
every 6 months or so if used regularly. You can go much longer
without, especially if you do not notice the dirt, but the wing will
suffer the consequences.
Among my personal collection of wings I have one that I am very fond of. It is 7 years old and has over
3000 flights on it, yet I still fly it occasionally, and everyone
comments that it still looks new... actually I believe its condition is
aking to most wings that are around 2 to 3 years old.
How can such a heavily used wing still look and fly so good?
Because I wash it regularly.
A textile engineer whom worked for Gelvenor Textiles (manufacturer of good quality paraglider fabric)
once told me while waiting at a paragliding competition, that the biggest enemy of our wings is
NOT ultra-violet, but dust, grit and general dirt in the fabric. When we
walk with the wings, or while transported in vehicles, the movement and/or
vibration causes abrasion of the protective layers and of the fabric
itself. The abrasion is destructive when dust or dirt is present in or on
Aging of the wing is a result of this abrasion and ensuing erosion of the
protective layers, which reduces your UV resistance and dirt repellent
capabilities, leading to accelerating aging.
So I wash all my wings every 6 months or so, and discovered many
other benefits too. The wings retain their dirt repellant capabilities,
they do not become so porous, and they last much longer, but the big plus,
they retain their "new" looks and that "fresh" fabric feel and crinkly
Here is how I do it... Stains and marks, I remove with either
Woolite (a liquid detergent designed for delicate fabrics), or a fabric-softener (as used in washing machines' rinse cycle). Certain stains are removed best with one,
other stains respond to the other. Most stains are insect blood
and guts (grasshoppers etc), plant or grass sap, oil and rubber residue
picked up from tarred car parks, etc.
Both Woolite and fabric softeners are friendly to the fabric, and both
restore and replenish the protective layers, both the UV shielding
and the dirt repellant layer.
After removing the stains, I then proceed to hang the wing in the
shade, along its trailing edge, using a whole bunch of clothing pegs on a
tautly drawn line.
Then with a fine mist sprayer on a garden hose, thoroughly rinse
down just ONE surface, say the bottom surface first. Pour lots of
water on, get it real wet and soaking. You will not believe the dirty
colour of the water rinsing away...
Don't worry about the lines, they could also do with a rinse. And
the dirtiest part near the risers where you ground-handle, soak
those in Woolite too. Thoroughly rinse the lines and risers.
Let that surface dry IN THE SHADE!!!!!
Then do the other surface, in this case the top skin.
Again, go overboard and get it really wet and soaked, keep pouring
water on for at least 10 minutes.
Again, let it dry, then do the inside of the wing, by going inside
each cell and spraying deep into the wing. The water will simply
run out the leading-edge openings.
Let that dry, which will go quicker if you have the bottom surface
facing a light wind, which will inflate the wing and separate the top and
bottom surfaces. Also, the air will circulate inside the wing carrying the
Wait for the lines to dry thoroughly, then do a re-stretch of the
lines. Details below.
The reason you do only one surface at a time, is so as not to
overload the wing with too much water weight, which may distort
the fabric as it dries and may cause your washing line to sag
under the weight. So we do one surface at a time.
The reason we do this in the shade, is that sunlight will cause
certain areas to dry much faster than others, and will leave you
with a distorted wing. The only way to recover from that is to again soak
the whole wing and re-dry slowly in the shade again.
I use my double-garage to do this in, but I know others whom work
under oak trees or similar with good shading qualities.
Removing the salt, dust, sand and grit every few months will do the
wing a lot of good and make it last much longer, however the lines
will need further attention.
Stretching the lines.
Tie a pulley (an old speedbar pulley works well) to a doorknob or
similar convenient attachment location. Tie a rope of about 2
meters to BOTH your risers, pass the loose end through the pulley,
then down to a 20 kilogram weight. I use a water can filled with enough water to give just the right weight.
Now stretch your wing out with the lines taught.
Take each line one by one at the wing attachment points, and pull
gently to slowly lift the weight off the floor. Hold that for about
20 seconds, then lower the weight to the floor. Move onto the next line.
Concentrate especially on the rear lines, as these carry less weight in
flight therefore gradually end up shorter than the front lines.
Voila! your wing will fly like new again, and will look great to boot.
Incidentally, you should do this line stretch every 6 months
anyway, so you may as well combine it with the wing wash.
You should also line stretch every time the lines get wet or damp,
especially if any Dynema lines are used.
The Dynema lines swell in girth (diameter) when wet, which makes
them shrink in length. When next you fly, the front lines quickly
stretch back to their original length, but the rear lines seldom do,
leading to the wing becoming sluggish and more prone to parachutal
Now, a trick I learnt recently after getting my lovely all white
paramotor wing all black form burnt flora. I thought the wing was wrecked!
I soaked the wing, lines, risers and all, in a tub filled with luke-warm
water (about 25 degrees), and one bottle of Woolite mixed into the water.
Soaked overnight, then found the marks simply wiped off with no effort at
all. Also, other old marks, oil, insect blood, grass stains, etc, were
almost completely gone, and the rest came off with a light rub with my
After a thorough rinse, I laid the wing on the grass to dry a bit (in the
shade!), then turned it over for a while to dry the other side, by then it
was light enough to hang on the line, leading edge down, for final drying.
A quick line stretch later, I had a wing that looked like brand new!!! It
still does, 50 flights later.
I have never noticed any change in behaviour of the fabric, stitching,
colours, or the flying, from any wing after washing. I have spoken to many
fabric manufacturers, none see any problem with Woolite or fabric softener
Furthermore, I have put in plenty of hours on such wings, including
my 7 year old favourite which still looks almost new even
after heavy usage.
I now firmly believe in the benefits of regular washing of wings. In the last few years I have been flying mostly all white wings, something I was always scared of as whites seemed to get dirty so fast. Now I enjoy the beauty of an all-white wing and keep it looking good with regular washes without fear of damaging the wing.
Address comment to Keith Pickersgill at firstname.lastname@example.org