Tips for Washing and Protecting Your Outdoor Fabrics

There’s a myth that outdoor fabrics don’t need protection because they are made to withstand harsh elements. While they are less prone to fading and moisture than regular fabric, they require regular washing and conservation.

This guide will prepare your outdoor furniture for summer, winter, fall, and spring. Let’s discuss why outdoor fabric needs care and a few tips for washing and protecting them. 

Does Outdoor Fabric Need to be Protected?

Outdoor fabrics need care and protection despite being designed to withstand outdoor elements. Like regular fabric types, solution-dyed acrylic, PVC, and other outdoor materials also get dirty.

Outdoor fabric is more low-maintenance than other fabrics. You only need to clean or dry-clean them four times a year. Doing so will ensure they stay looking as new as the day you bought them.

Applying sun shields and other protectants to your outdoor fabric will also make it last longer. Remember that no fabric is strong enough to withstand the UVA and UVB sun rays for a long time. These products should also offer water-repellency to outdoor materials.

Is Outdoor Fabric Waterproof?

Most outdoor fabrics are only water-resistant instead of waterproof. That means it can only protect the cushions from water to a certain degree. 

An outdoor fabric’s ability to repel water also depends on its type. Most manufacturers prefer producing water-resistant outdoor fabrics so that it remains breathable.

Waterproof fabrics not only stop water from penetrating. They also hinder air from coming inside, which can be problematic for covers.

For example, if you want to cover your outdoor appliances with waterproof outdoor fabric, it will trap heat and moisture inside. This could lead to mold and mildew growing on your appliance. 

If breathability is important to you, pick a water-resistant outdoor fabric instead of a waterproof one.

Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant

Waterproof fabrics are fabrics that do not let water penetrate through them, while water-resistant fabrics allow some water to repel. 

There are no official guidelines or standards on categorizing any material as waterproof or water-resistant. But the best way to describe a waterproof fabric is a jacket that won’t make your skin wet when walking in the rain.

Water-resistance only offers a low level of protection from water. If you have a “water-resistant” jacket, the fabric layer typically becomes a weak barrier between you and the rain. It tends to seep into the skin if the rain is too heavy, so it’s only suitable for light showers.

A third confusing term is “water-repellant,” meaning the fabric is not penetrated by water because of specific treatments like coating. Also known as hydrophobic fabrics, water-repellent fabrics form water beads on the material’s topmost layer.

Does Outdoor Fabric Fade?

Solution-dyed polyester and olefin are fade-resistant outdoor fabrics. These materials are typically saturated with powerful pigments that are UV-stabilized before the manufacturers spin them. 

Some outdoor fabric types are more prone to fading because of the cheap materials and processes they undergo. For instance, polyester can easily degrade quickly because the color is not inherent within the fibers of the yarn.

Look for the textile’s color-fastness to know if it quickly fades. This measurement indicates how much sun it can withstand before giving off a faded look.

Tips for Washing and Protecting Your Outdoor Fabrics

Outdoor fabrics only need seasonal washing and protection if you keep them under the shade. Here are some tips for caring for these materials.

Treating the Stains

Remove the stain from your fabric as soon as you see it. Do not wait before your next laundry task before treating it.

There are many ways to remove these tough marks. The most common stain outdoor fabrics encounter is bird dirt. Try mixing one spoon of laundry detergent with 6 cups of warm water. Adjust the measurements according to your needs.

Put the mixture in your spray bottle, and spray on the tough stain. Use a soft bristle brush to scrub the area and rinse with warm water. 

If there’s mold on your stain, use a mixture of four parts of warm water and one part baking soda. Use a cloth to wipe the outdoor fabric, then wait a few minutes before rinsing with water. If baking soda doesn’t work, try one part water and one part hydrogen peroxide.

Removing Oil 

Outdoor fabrics are prone to grease, especially after a BBQ party. This dense fluid isn’t challenging to remove, especially if your material is water-resistant. 

Remove the excess oil with a microfiber cloth, then add cornstarch or baking soda. Let it stay for ten minutes, and remove the powder.

Regular Handwashing

After spot-treating your fabric, brush the rest of the material with a scrub and water. Mix some detergent liquid and water, then get a cloth to brush it carefully. 

Do not over-scrub the fabric so as not to destroy the fibers. Then, rinse the soap residue off. Wipe the fiber with a clean, dry cloth and let the fabric air-dry.  

You can also vacuum the fabric with a soft bristle attachment. Doing so will remove the dirt and dust penetrated between the fibers.

Machine-Washing Outdoor Fabric

The machine-washing procedure on outdoor fabrics depends on the type of fabric you’re using. Check the instructions for the material, then follow them.

If there are no instructions, use a gentle, cold setting on the washer. Do the same for the throw cushions. But don’t allow them to dry completely.

I recommend using a low, cool heat setting for the dryer to keep the fabric slightly damp. Alternatively, you can allow the outdoor fabric to air-dry. Just put the material under the sun, and wait for a few hours. 

Keeping Your Fabric Under the Shade

An outdoor fabric material must be under the shade unless you’re using a furniture cover. Try putting your outdoor couches under the umbrella for a permanent shade. Doing so will make the lifespan of the fabric longer.

Apply a Protectant

There are several types of protectants you can use for outdoor fabric. But the most essential type is the sun shield, which will guard it against harmful UV rays.

The most famous sun shield is 3M’s Scotchgard. One can protect four outdoor cushions by blocking UVA and UVB. 

It stops your outdoor fabric from fading and staining. If you spill gravy on the material, all you need to do is wipe it off with a cloth.

Bottom Line

Despite its durable property, the outdoor fabric can still be vulnerable to mother nature. Bird droppings, harsh sunlight, and rain can reduce their life span, so make sure to protect them regularly. Immediately remove stains from your outdoor fabric and wash them four times a year. Don’t forget to spray them with a protective coating to restore their water-repellency. With the right outdoor fabrics you can make an array of sewing projects, so check out our selection and get started!

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