Stylish upholstery is often the finishing touch furniture needs to look its best. This is true of outdoor decor just as it is any space within the home!
Outdoor cushions may be more durable than their indoor counterparts but they still require a bit of TLC every now and again. And knowing how to properly clean your patio cushions will ensure they last for many years to come.
Keep reading for our step-by-step guide on how to clean outdoor cushions, plus a few tips and tricks for getting the most out of your patio upholstery!
How To Clean Outdoor Cushions
1. Check Care Instructions
The best way to clean outdoor cushions is by following the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
Care instructions can typically be found on a tag attached to each cushion. However, older or secondhand cushions may be missing their tags.
If you can’t find specific instructions on how to wash your cushions, opt for the gentle method described below.
2. Remove Covers (Optional)
Many outdoor cushions feature removable covers, making it extremely easy to clean them as needed!
It’s a good idea to check for a zipper or Velcro closure on each patio cushion before proceeding to the next step.
Place removable covers in a washing machine or hand wash them according to the provided care instructions.
After removing the covers, inspect the bare cushions for further dirt or staining.
3. Vacuum Loose Debris
An upholstery vacuum attachment is a great tool for removing dust and other debris from your outdoor cushions.
For cushions with non-removable covers, this should be your first step!
For cushions with removable covers, vacuum the covers (before laundering) and the bare cushions separately.
4. Soak and Rinse
Using a large utility sink or bucket, mix one tablespoon of liquid dish soap and ¼ cup of Borax in warm water.
Generously apply the mixture to each cushion. Work the dish soap and Borax into the fabric using a sponge or scrub brush.
Allow to soak in for five to 15 minutes. Rinse with clean water from a garden hose or faucet.
While some people recommend using a power washer to break up tough stains, proceed with caution. The extreme pressure could damage some fabrics.
5. Allow To Dry
Air drying is the ideal method for nearly all cushions. But you can speed up the process by squeezing any excess water out first with your hands or a towel.
Leave in a sunny location to expedite drying. Prop cushions upright for maximum airflow.
We recommend cleaning outdoor cushions on a warm, dry day if possible for the best results!
How To Treat Tough Stains on Outdoor Cushions
Following the above steps will remove most dirt, dust, and debris from your outdoor upholstery. But it might not be enough to eliminate stubborn stains.
Here’s how to easily and effectively treat the most common stains without damaging your favorite patio cushions:
Oil and Grease
Oil-based stains are some of the most daunting messes one can face. But the right strategy will ensure your outdoor cushions continue looking great even after your next family barbecue or pool party.
The secret to effectively removing an oil stain is to “absorb” as much grease as possible with a pre-treatment. While you can buy special powders for this purpose, household solutions like baking soda and cornstarch work just as well!
Sprinkle your chosen pre-treatment over the stain and allow it to soak up the grease. Scrape away the powder and repeat if necessary.
Once all excess oil has been removed, wash the cushion as normal with a mixture of Borax and warm water.
Remove grass stains from outdoor upholstery with an enzymatic laundry detergent like Biokleen Bac-Out.
Particularly tough grass stains can be treated with a diluted oxygen bleach (OxiClean is a popular choice). We recommend testing the bleach on a hidden part of the cushion before use.
Mold and Mildew
There are several ways to treat mold and mildew stains.
Start by removing as much of the mold as possible using a brush or rag. Most mold and mildew stains can then be treated with diluted Borax or distilled white vinegar.
Diluted bleach is also effective against mold and mildew. Again, be sure to patch test any bleach mixture in an inconspicuous part of the cushion.
We recommend treating these stains outdoors. Bringing moldy cushions inside could introduce spores to your home.
Tree sap is surprisingly hard to remove from fabric cushions!
Mix water and powdered laundry detergent to a paste consistency. Apply over the enzymatic treatment and scrub with a sponge or soft brush.
Finally, rinse the cushion with hot water (cold water could potentially “set” any remaining sap even further).
How Often Should Outdoor Cushions Be Cleaned?
In general, outdoor furniture and cushions should be cleaned about four times per year.
Give your outdoor cushions a thorough cleaning at the very start and end of summer. The better you clean your cushions in autumn, the easier it will be to clean them next spring!
It’s also recommended to clean your outdoor furniture once or twice while it is set out.
Of course, these thorough cleanings don’t replace the need for occasional touch-ups. Keep an eye on your outdoor cushions (and the rest of your patio furniture) and address stains or build-up as needed.
Choosing the Best Fabric for Outdoor Cushions
Not all fabrics are designed for life outdoors. Investing in the right fabric for your outdoor cushions and upholstery is the best step you can take toward quick and easy cleaning in the future!
Most home design fabric will show wear and tear within a single season outdoors.
You may notice colors fading or bleeding with exposure to sunlight and rain. The fabric itself may also degrade much faster than it would indoors.
Meanwhile, outdoor-safe fabrics will ensure your cushions stand up to everything Mother Nature throws at them for years to come.
Here are a few of the most durable materials to look for when shopping for or stitching your own patio cushions.
Polyester is cheap and widely available. However, its longevity leaves much to be desired.
The biggest concern with polyester fabric is its colorfastness. You can expect most polyester cushions to hold their color for up to 500 hours of direct sun exposure.
For the best results, use polyester fabric for cushions that will be used sporadically or for only a single season. Polyester is also a great choice for shaded outdoor spaces!
Acrylic fabrics offer incredible colorfastness and are resistant to moisture-related issues like mildew. The popular patio upholstery brand Sunbrella is one of the top distributors of acrylic fabrics.
Despite its many benefits, acrylic fabric is extremely susceptible to staining. Stain-resistant treatments are often applied during manufacturing but will erode with time.
Acrylic fabrics are also one of the most expensive textiles to choose from.
Made from synthetic polypropylene, olefin is one of the leading fabric choices for the outdoors.
While somewhat costly and harder to find, polypropylene fabric offers the same colorfastness as acrylic paired with greater stain resistance.
For outdoor cushions that will last many years, olefin is by far the best option.
7 Tips To Keep Patio Cushions Looking Their Best
1. Bring Them Inside
Being able to “set-and-forget” your patio furniture is convenient. But it’s not likely to maximize your furniture’s lifespan.
Bring outdoor cushions inside at night as often as possible. This limits the amount of moisture and dramatic temperature changes they are exposed to.
It’s also a great idea to put outdoor cushions in storage any time they won’t be used for an extended period. So, if you’re going on vacation or have a packed schedule, consider moving your patio cushions indoors for the time being!
2. Watch the Forecast
Yes, outdoor cushions are designed to withstand all kinds of weather. But that doesn’t mean harsh rain, wind, or temperatures don’t take their toll.
Covering or bringing your patio cushions indoors during extreme weather is a great way to protect them from general wear and tear. It will also ensure none of your cushions disappear on a gust of wind!
3. Treat Stains Immediately
You wouldn’t ignore a stain on your carpet or living room sofa. So why should your outdoor cushions be any different?
While some stains are extremely difficult (or impossible) to remove, immediate action will greatly increase your odds of success.
4. Invest in Spares
Life is unpredictable, especially when it comes to Mother Nature. For those who prefer the look of perfectly coordinated patio furniture, it’s always good to have a few backups.
Keeping one or two spare cushions in storage could save the day from a glass of red wine or strong wind.
If you sew your own outdoor cushions, be sure to request a few extra yards of fabric to keep on hand!
5. Use Furniture Covers
Patio furniture covers are a quick and easy solution that will protect your cushions from rain or shine when not in use!
Many furniture sets come with protective covers. However, there are also countless after-market covers available for your needs.
6. Apply a Water-Resistant Coating
High-quality patio cushions are typically treated with a water-resistant coating but this coating will eventually wear off. You can boost your cushions’ water and stain resistance by routinely applying a product like Scotchgard or KIWI Camp Dry.
Since these coatings work by “sealing” the fabric’s surface, it’s important to start with a clean canvas (no pun intended!). Treat your outdoor cushions immediately after cleaning for the best results.
7. Prep for the Off-Season
Off-season storage is just as important as how you treat your outdoor cushions when they’re actually in use!
Choose a cool, dry location. Adequate airflow is crucial—avoid stuffing outdoor cushions into a tight corner or packing them in plastic bags.
Likewise, be sure your patio cushions are completely dry before storing. Allow plenty of drying time between your end-of-year cleaning and putting them in storage.
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