Outdoor cushions get dirty—it’s a fact of life. Whether it's from storage, weather, or last month's barbecue, outdoor fabrics will eventually need to be cleaned. Fortunately, refreshing furniture pieces like outdoor cushions, pillows, and even patio umbrella canopies, is quick and easy.
We’ll prove it. Our outdoor living experts have created this guide to cleaning outdoor cushions and fabrics so you can continue to enjoy your patio furniture next season, and the one after that, and the one after that...
Check the Care Label
Before cleaning any outdoor furniture fabrics, be sure to review a piece’s care label. They will provide the manufacturer’s specific instructions regarding proper care and maintenance of the material, be it Sunbrella, polyester, or olefin. We recommend following those directions even if they conflict with the information in this guide.
- Coatings or Treatments - Outdoor fabrics like Sunbrella often come with protective coatings or treatments that make them resistant to water, stains, and UV rays. But if you employ a cleaning method that is too harsh, these treatments may strip away as a result.
- Stitching and Construction - Some fabrics are constructed with delicate stitching and include embellishments. Aggressive cleaning, particularly scrubbing, may damage such detailed stitching and compromise the furniture.
- Color Fastness - The manufacturer's instructions should include how to clean a certain fabric without causing color to bleed or fade. That said, Sunbrella, polyester, and olefin are all recognized for having excellent color fastness.
- Shrinkage and Stretching - Fabrics used for outdoor furniture can react differently to moisture and cleaning solutions, so checking the label can help you avoid shrinkage or stretching during your cleaning.
- Warranty - Some warranties require following the manufacturer’s care instructions and deviating from those recommendations may void the warranty.
Remove Dust, Loose Dirt, and Debris
The most natural starting point of the cleaning process for outdoor cushions and fabrics is to begin by removing dust, dirt, and debris. This can be accomplished by brushing or vacuuming off any loose dirt as well as shaking or beating cushions to remove dust and debris. Just remember to dust in a clear, open area to avoid contaminating other surfaces and to protect yourself from inhaling dust particles.
Remove Mold and Mildew
There are a variety of ways to remove mold and mildew from your outdoor cushions and fabrics, but our experts recommend an environmentally friendly approach. This being a solution of water and white vinegar, which can then be sprayed on to cushions and left for an hour. Then gently scrub with a sponge or brush and allow it to thoroughly dry in the sun. Fabrics like Sunbrella call for a solution of bleach, mild soap, and water, which is to be allowed to soak for 15 minutes before cleaning with a towel or soft bristle brush.
This kind of cleaning can be very effective on isolated stains, especially if you can spot clean right after a spill has occurred. Simply mix a solution of mild soap and water and use a soft brush or sponge to scrub the fabric. Afterward, rinse thoroughly with water and dry in the sun. In the case of oil-based stains, Sunbrella fabrics call for use of an absorbent such as corn starch to immediately be applied directly to the stain for a period of 10 minutes before rinsing.
Remove Cushion Covers
Removing the covers of your outdoor cushions allows for a more thorough cleaning as you can address stains, dirt, and odor on the inside of the cover. This can also protect the actual cushion or filling from potential damage during the cleaning process, not to mention the cover will dry much faster when not attached to that cushion or filling—a key factor in preventing mold or mildew.
Is Machine Washing an Option
The answer to this depends on the manufacturer’s instructions, so be sure to check the care label before doing anything. If your cushions are indeed machine washable, and drying is allowed, this can save you a lot of time and energy. Our experts recommend using a gentle cycle with color water and a mild detergent unless the label indicates otherwise.
When All Else Fails
There will come a time when your outdoor cushions or fabrics can no longer be cleaned enough to warrant continued use. That, or a mishap has damaged them beyond repair. Either way, they may need replacing, but that’s when the fun begins. We have no shortage of Sunbrella, polyester, and olefin-based outdoor cushions (plus, replacement cushions) and pillows that will elevate your outdoor space.
Outdoor Cushion Storage and Maintenance
During the winter, outdoor cushions should be stored in dry and well-ventilated spaces. We recommend keeping them in airtight containers so that they can breathe and there’s no chance of pests damaging the material. Make sure to check them during the off-season for any signs of mold or mildew and try to air them out on a sunny day to keep them fresh. It is also advisable to use a commercial fabric guard before storing (and after cleaning) as a part of a healthy maintenance routine.
Lastly, don’t forget to use proper fitting patio furniture covers on your all outdoor furniture pieces to keep them in good condition between seasons. You’ve spent good money on these cushions and fabrics and the best way to protect your investment is adhering to a regular cleaning and storage process each year.
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