Maintenance Tips for Outdoors Canvas and Awnings

Canvas is one of the top outdoor fabrics, followed closely by marine quality vinyl. While canvas is incredibly strong and resilient, it isn’t indestructible. Your outdoor canvas items such as outdoor furniture, umbrellas, and awnings may need the occasional repair. Knowing how to do this can really help your outdoor canvas items last even longer. 

Causes of Damage to Outdoor Canvas

Yes, canvas is strong, heat-resistant, and mold-repelling. However, canvas can also rip, melt, and become brittle due to environmental factors. Canvas isn’t perfect—but it’s very close to being perfect. All your canvas items need is proper maintenance and care. 

Outdoors, your canvas items may: 

  • Be exposed to extreme heat
  • Become brittle due to a rusty frame poking at it
  • Become damaged by excessive rain
  • Be eaten by insects 

Soon, canvas awnings become sad features of your home. Yet, with some basic repair and maintenance, your canvas items can enjoy an even longer life. 

Types of Damage to Outdoor Canvas and Awnings

There are several ways in which your outdoor canvas furniture, umbrellas, and awnings can become damaged: 

  • Rips and tears are usually because of sun damage that causes the fibers to become brittle, and if something hooks on the fabric, a rip or tear will result. 
  • Corners, where the fabric is in contact with chair frames or awning structures, are often weak spots that will wear through. Exposure to rain can exacerbate this problem. 
  • Rubbing can happen if a particular section of the outdoor furniture, awning, or umbrella is frequently handled. 

Fixing Damage to Outdoor Canvas

To repair damage to your outdoor furniture or awnings, you need to stop the rip from running, patch the area to eliminate further fraying, and cover the unsightly damage. There are a few methods to do this without having to replace the canvas entirely. 

Glue Method

Using glue is an ideal method to fix rips and tears in canvas umbrellas and awnings that can’t easily be taken down to put through a sewing machine. For this method, you will need:

  • Latex glue 
  • Scissors
  • A spoon
  • A section of canvas that matches the current pattern or colors
  • Pins

Cut a square of the new canvas that is an inch wider and longer than the rip. Insert the square into the rip, using the back of the spoon to smooth out any wrinkles. Then use the back of the spoon to apply latex glue on the patch, working it into the rip and smearing it along the patch. 

Ensure the layer of latex glue is even and thin. Secure the flaps in place with pins until the glue has fully dried. Ensure that you coat the frayed edges of the rip with the latex glue as this will reduce further fraying. 

Sewing Method 

If you can disassemble your umbrellas, awnings, or furniture, you can proceed with the more durable method, which is to sew the rip or tear. Sewing the damage requires the following: 

  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine 
  • Latex glue 
  • A spoon 
  • Pins
  • Canvas section in matching patterns 

The method of sewing patches is a more long-term solution to a rip or tear in your canvas. Start by cutting a patch that is one inch larger and wider than the rip. Next, seam or hem the patch to create a fray-proof edge. 

Remove the canvas covering for your furniture or awnings and examine the rip in more detail. Continue to hem or sew the edges of the rip. Cut away leftover frayed strands. Take care not to move the fabric around too much as this can rip the tear open more. 

Once the hems have been finished correctly, you can insert the patch into the rip. Be sure to evenly balance the extra sides of the patch with the rip or tear. Use the back of a spoon to remove any folds or wrinkles. 

Apply a small amount of latex glue, using the spoon to evenly spread the glue. Position the original fabric in place, carefully bringing the edges of the rip together. Use pins to secure the patch and the rip. 

Allow the glue to dry, then remove the pins. Use the sewing machine to sew the patch into place, carefully sewing across the rip to reinforce the patch.

Preventing Damage to Outdoor Canvas 

If you can prevent damage to your outdoor canvas, your canvas will last much longer. There are some types of damage that happen because the canvas has been poorly maintained. 

To correctly care for and maintain your canvas, you should:

  • Dust the Canvas Weekly

Dusting your canvas items is an essential part of their care. When dust particles collect in folds or around flaps, it creates areas where mold and rot can easily take hold. To dust your canvas furniture, use a soft-bristled broom or upholstery brush. You can also use your vacuum cleaner to suction up any loose particles. 

Use a broom to brush the dust from umbrellas and awnings. Be sure to get into the corners of your awnings to remove any buildup of particles that can so easily cause rot. 

  • Wash the Canvas Monthly

Canvas, even outdoor canvas on an awning, should be washed monthly. By removing loose particles, plant material, and other debris, you will prolong the health and condition of the canvas fibers. A mild soapy solution will do wonders. 

Remove the canvas seat covers, wash them in mild soapy water, rinse, and dry. Most canvas chair covers will have manufacturer’s instructions that will guide you on exactly how to wash these. Avoid harsh bleaches as these damage the fibers, causing stretching, tearing, and breakage. 

When your canvas can’t be removed to launder, you can use a sponge or old broom to apply the soapy solution, such as with awnings and umbrellas. Let the solution work for a few minutes, then hose with a garden hosepipe. 

  • Keep the Canvas out of the Excessive Rain

While a canvas umbrella is meant to handle some rain, it’s not going to stand up to harsh and frequent rain. Most canvas umbrellas come with a protective pouch, which you can pull over the closed umbrella. Likewise, retractable awnings are a great idea as you can protect the awnings from excessive rain. 

Rain causes fabric to shrink. Over prolonged periods of heavy rain, the fibers of the canvas can become damaged. 

  • Protect Canvas Umbrellas from Excessive Sun When Not in Use

Your canvas umbrella and cushions may be designed to withstand harsh UV rays, but excessive exposure will only lead to loss of integrity and fiber damage. Therefore, it’s best to keep canvas seat cushions out of the sun when not in use. Folding your pool umbrella up and covering it with a protective sleeve is a great way to ensure minimal sun damage. 

Retractable awnings allow the same kind of protection. 

  • Prevent Bug Damage to Canvas

Insects can wreak havoc on awnings, umbrellas, and seat cushions. Aside from the creepy factor when you find that some insect has made its nest in your umbrella, industrious insects can gnaw through fibers and attach muddy glue from their nests to the canvas that will never come off. 

One hornet’s nest hidden in your umbrella folds can be enough to cause serious damage to the fabric. Spray insect repellent near or on your canvas, and regularly open and close umbrellas to discourage insects from setting up shop. This is also why your weekly dust sessions are so important. 

The Final Canvas

Canvas is a strong fabric that can be used for any number of purposes. Outdoors, canvas is rated as a high-performance fabric. Canvas is a popular outdoor feature due to its excellent sun resistance, fade-proofing, and rain resistance. From swings and hammocks to umbrellas and awnings, canvas is a really dependable material. 

Caring for your canvas is an investment as canvas is not a cheap fabric. With correct weekly dustings and monthly washes, your canvas will remain in tip-top shape. Fix rips and tears before they become a much bigger problem, and don’t let these grow in size or the likelihood that you’ll have to replace your costly canvas increases.

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