How to Clean Different Outdoor Furniture Fabric

Outdoor furniture is designed with durability and longevity in mind, as it has to battle the elements of a patio, backyard, or deck. Designers have created unique fabric blends to resist fading, tearing and to be easy to clean after long periods of storage. There are several types of materials commonly used in outdoor furniture, and each requires a different level of care and cleaning routine.


Solution-Dyed Acrylics


Commonly used for softer, more pliant pieces of furniture, solution-dyed acrylics are commonly used for outdoor pillows, umbrellas, and awnings. To create this type of fabric, the acrylic is formed in to colored fibers prior to becoming thread and dyed prior to being woven into cloth. This chemical treatment makes the material water-resistant and provides a better colorfast, which means the fabric is far less likely to bleed color when wet. According to a home-guide on SFGate, to properly clean this soft, breathable material, use a mild, soapy solution in warm water. Easily wipe away any dirt or mildew with a soft sponge or cloth.


Acrylic-Coated Polyesters


Polyester is a durable, man-made material which is commonly used in protecting outdoor furniture, especially due to the availability of many color choices. Unlike the solution-dyed acrylic fabric, this type of fabric is woven prior to being dipped into a colorful acrylic coating. This type of material is also available as a polyester-cotton blend, and most commonly used in protective covers for automobiles and watercraft. To clean this material, shake or vacuum loose dirt or debris from the fabric before using a mild soap with lukewarm water to wash and rinse clean. The fabric should be allowed to air dry and properly breathe in order to prevent growth of mold or mildew.


Vinyl-Coated Synthetic Fibers


Also known as PVC mesh, this type of fabric is most commonly used in outdoor hammocks and sling-style chairs due to its strength and durability. PVC mesh is created from polyester or acrylic yarns which have been coated in vinyl for a strong, non-stretching material that is intended to support the weight of an individual. Vinyl-coated synthetic fibers are colorfast and easily cleaned with a cloth, lukewarm water, and a mild powdered soap solution. Avoid acid-based or vinegar-containing cleaning solutions, as these may damage the mesh. Never use an iron or heat exceeding 150 degrees as this may cause melting or warping of the material. Due to the combination of durable, water-resistant fabrics, PVC mesh is also mildew-resistant.


Synthetic Fabric


Other types of pliable, synthetic materials used in outdoor furniture include those designed to protect from fading and sun damage. Furniture covers and umbrellas take the brunt of the elemental beating, and have been designed to stand up to the harsher conditions which affect an outdoor space. According to Terra Patio, who specialize in outdoor furniture, to properly clean these types of fabrics, immediately brush off accumulated dirt and spot-clean spills quickly to avoid staining. Avoid cleaning products which contain bleach, as they may discolor the fabric, and do not use detergents. Mild dish soap and lukewarm water should suffice in caring for the area. Avoid using an iron or steamer on the synthetic fabric as it may warp or melt. Air dry for best results.




Olefin is a man-made material related to plastic which is created by heating polyethylene (or other petroleum-based compounds) and pressed in to a spinneret to create long fibers. Olefin is manufactured in a similar style to other man-made fabrics such as nylon or polyester, but has a much smoother texture. Olefin is used in furniture such as lawn chairs and outside carpeting due to its quick-drying and weather-resistant properties. It is also stain and mildew-resistant, making it a great fabric for the outdoors. To clean Olefin, wipe off or vacuum dirt particles before using a mix of bleach, dish detergent, and warm water. Saturate the fabric with the solution and rinse well.


Properly caring for outdoor furniture increases the longevity of the pieces, protecting against mold, dry rot, and damage due to adverse weather conditions. Although the fabric used in the manufacture of outdoor furniture is more durable than those intended for exclusive indoor use, homeowners should properly clean and store their patio furniture when not being used for an extended period of time.


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