With warmer weather approaching, you can expect to spend more time outside on your outdoor furniture. It’s not uncommon for cushions, rugs, and chairs that live outside to be neglected and left alone to endure the elements. This leaves outdoor fabrics prone to mold, mildew, collecting dirt and sometimes fading. When taken care of properly, they can look great for many years to come. If you ended up on this blog, you’re probably wondering what the most durable fabric for outdoor furniture is— and the fabric care experts at Fiber-Seal are here to answer it for you! We will also provide some tips for increasing the longevity of your outdoor fabrics, along with tips on how to clean outdoor cushions and other furnishings.
What is the most durable outdoor fabric?
If you’re in the market for new patio furniture, any of the fabrics mentioned below will make a good, durable outdoor fabric. Acrylic, polyester, nylon and olefin make the best outdoor fabrics thanks to solution dying. Solution dying is a manufacturing process that— in addition to being more eco-friendly than conventional dyeing— adds the ultimate fade resistance to fibers. The inherent characteristics of fabrics coupled with solution dyeing allows them to be hydrophobic, stain resistant, fade resistant and all-around durable— perfect for enduring different seasons outdoors
Most Common fabric for outdoor furniture
Acrylic, nylon, polyester, and olefin are the best outdoor fabric choices. Since being introduced in the past century, these fabrics have come a long way in terms of versatility and comfort. This group of fabrics are often referred to as performance fabrics, for their increased resistance to stains, mildew growth and fabric abrasion. When solution dyed, these fabrics exhibit excellent fade resistance. Learn more about performance fabrics here. It is important to know the different qualities each fabric possesses to determine the best way to care for them.
NOTE: before cleaning any fabric, make sure to test an inconspicuous area to ensure that no color change occurs.
Introduced in the late 1940s, acrylic was made to mimic wool, and is still used in many wool blends. You may have heard of Sunbrella outdoor fabric, which is a popular choice made from solution-dyed acrylic. Acrylic fabrics are excellent at enduring the natural elements as they aren’t affected by mildew or insects. They are very resistant to most stains, and when solution-dyed, have excellent fade resistance.
Nylon was first introduced to the fabric market in 1938 as a fiber in pantyhose and is now used in a wide variety of interior and exterior textiles. It is common to see nylon blended with other fibers for its excellent durability and resilience. Although nylon is not as commonly found primarily outdoors, it is known for being able to handle a good bit of wear and tear. Nylon is very easy to maintain, making it a good contender for outdoor furnishing fabric when it is solution dyed.
There are hundreds of different types of polyester, which are commonly used in floor coverings, upholstery and apparel. Polyester blends are common to increase the durability of the fabric it is blended with. These fabrics are inherently hydrophobic as well as resistant to shrinkage and strong chemicals. This means that cleaning spills up is typically a breeze on polyester fabrics, and there is little chance of permanent stains— if spills are taken care of in a timely manner.
The downside to polyester is that it will fade fairly quickly in sunlight unless solution dyed. Be careful when cleaning polyester and always test because ringing can be an issue with tightly woven polyesters. They can also pill, leaving tiny balls of fabric on the surface, so it is important to perform routine maintenance on polyesters to keep them looking fresh.
Olefin, also known as polypropylene, was first produced in Italy in 1957. Olefin fabrics as outdoor rugs may run into some issues such as matting and soiling, but it cleans up very well. Olefin is resistant to stains, sun, chemicals, and abrasion, making it a durable choice as an outdoor fabric.
How to protect outdoor fabric
There are many preventative measures you can take to protect outdoor fabrics. The best thing you can do is make sure they are covered by some kind of awning to limit the amount of precipitation they come in contact with. Should cushions get wet it is important to prop them up so they can dry on all sides…this will limit the damage that mold and mildew can cause. Although these fabrics are known for repellency, mold growth can become a problem if they are constantly getting wet. If you live in a rainy/snowy area and don’t have a way to cover your outdoor furnishings, consider bringing outdoor cushions and rugs inside your home, or storing them elsewhere for the months that they are not in use. Taking these precautions and frequently cleaning your outdoor furnishings increases the longevity of these fabrics, allowing them to look newer for longer.
how to clean outdoor furniture fabric
Cleaning your outdoor fabrics starts with the preventative measures listed above. Upholstery and floor coverings, no matter the fabric type, are going to perform substantially better when protected from sunlight, rain, and other weather elements. However, when the inevitable spills happen, it is important to take the right steps. Luckily, spots and spills can usually be removed with common detergents, a little hot water, and some agitation. With solution dyed fabrics, harsher chemicals, such as diluted chlorine bleach, can be used to remove stubborn stains. However, pre-testing should never be skipped!
How Fiber-Seal Can Help
Although these fabrics tend to repel water better than others, no fabric is completely waterproof. For an extra layer of repellency, consider using the Fiber-Seal Fabric Care System to protect your furnishings with our proprietary fabric protection spray. Fiber-Seal’s fabric care experts offer professional cleaning on all of your outdoor fabrics as well!