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How To Properly Clean Your Outdoor Fabrics

Outdoor Couch

Adorning your outdoor living space with pillows, chair cushions, umbrellas or awnings in colorful, durable fabrics can provide a pop of color and comfort to the area. Outdoor fabrics are designed to endure abuse from sun, soil, moisture, lounging and even alfresco dining. Yet, even the toughest fabrics need an occasional reboot. Cleaning outdoor fabrics is relatively easy, but different materials require different cleaning techniques.

Ready to brighten dingy fabric and expel foreign substances from your outdoor cushions? Here are some cleaning suggestions and tips for how to keep your patio fabrics free from funky fungus and looking good.

Supplies you’ll need to freshen your outdoor fabrics:

  • Enzyme-based stain remover
  • Mild, bleach-free detergent
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Warm water
  • Bucket
  • Spray bottle
  • Garden hose
  • Soft bristle brush or sponge

Read your fabric’s care label prior to cleaning. If the tag is missing, check the manufacturer’s website for specific laundry instructions. Some fabric can be cleansed in the washing machine with a stain-fighting booster, while non-removeable fabrics, such as pillow or umbrella covers, may require washing by hand. Cleaning methods for three common types of outdoor fabric follow.

Acrylic Outdoor Fabrics

Acrylic is one of the strongest and most durable fibers in the industry. Though soft and breathable, it’s constructed to be resistant to liquids and soils.  

Cleansing suggestion — Acrylic can be easily cleaned with a solution of ¼ cup bleach-free detergent that’s dissolved in one gallon of warm water. Fill a spray bottle with the mixture and apply it to the affected area. Scrub with a sponge or soft bristle brush, then rinse thoroughly and air dry. For tough stains such as suntan lotion, pretreating the stain for 30 minutes with a paste made from water and powdered detergent may help. Do not use bleach on acrylic fabrics — it can cause discoloration and may weaken the fibers.

Vinyl-Coated Synthetic Fiber Mesh

Also known as sling chair fabric or PVC mesh, vinyl has a smooth, plastic feel and is often used for umbrellas. Polyester yarns are coated with colored PVC and woven into a durable open mesh fabric that is stain resistant and breathable.

Cleansing suggestion —Although vinyl can be washed without damage to the fibers or loss of color, do not expose the fabric to water temperatures over 100 degrees. Use a mild solution of three parts water, one part bleach and a capful of detergent. Scrub with a soft bristle brush then rinse completely. Dry in open air and sunlight. 

Spun Polyester Fabrics

Spun polyester is an easy-care fabric that’s soft to the touch. It should be cleaned on a regular basis, but avoid using bleach on printed fabrics.

Cleaning suggestion —Cleanse with a 50-50 combination of mild soap or detergent and water.

Tips to Keep Outdoor Fabrics Looking Like New

The best way to keep outdoor fabrics in pristine condition is to keep up with regular maintenance. Consider following these handy tips:

  • Clean spills as soon as possible — Mildew can grow on spills that are not promptly removed, so make sure to spot clean immediately. The quicker you clean spills and stains, the easier they are to remove.

  • Dry brush furniture regularly — Use a whisk broom or vacuum to remove loose dirt, dust, insects and plant debris. This can help maintain the integrity of the fabric.

  • Minimize moisture exposure —Turn your cushions on their edge, seam-side down and tilt them if possible. Allowing the water to run off will speed up the drying time.

  • Don’t dry clean or tumble dry fabrics —Doing so may break down the protective finish.

  • Rotate your pillows —This can help even out wear and sun exposure.

  • Clean your outdoor upholstery before storing for winter — This can extend the life of your furniture and make springtime prep easier.

Following these cleaning suggestions once a month will help ensure that neither sun nor rain nor food stains nor bird droppings will ruin the beauty of your outdoor fabrics for years to come.

Author bio: Evan Burchfield is Social Media and Digital Marketing Specialist for FabricGuru.com, an online retailer offering designer fabrics. He has more than three years of experience in the industry and focuses on creating content for FabricGuru.com’s social media following.