How do you clean outdoor furniture fabric?

I wanted to follow up our how to clean cushion covers article with a broader look at how do you clean outdoor furniture fabric?

Our recent How to clean outdoor furniture cushion covers article looked at one type of outdoor fabric, however, I wanted to follow that up with a wider look at How do you clean outdoor furniture fabric?

The outdoor soft furnishing industry has just exploded over the last few years, so I felt it was important to look at ways you can clean the textiles on other items such as Parasols, Awnings, Sun Loungers, Outdoor Rugs, etc.

The larger items, unlike our cushion covers, can often not be removed to pop in the washing machine, or in the case of an outdoor rug they’re simply just too big to fit in. 

If you have any outdoor furniture fabric that you need to clean in situ, then most outdoor fabrics can be cleaned via the same simple method.

However, before we look at the actual cleaning, I feel it is important at this point to stress how important it is to follow the manufacturer's guidelines.

If they aren’t printed on a label attached to the fabric/item or supplied when you first purchase, then please get in touch with them to confirm before you clean.

Whilst I’m confident our quick outdoor cleaning method is simple and safe to use on any fabric, it always pays to be 100% sure.

The popular types of outdoor furniture fabric in the UK

The most common types of outdoor fabric in the UK are Polyester, Acrylic, Olefin (lesser known but similar to acrylic it is a synthetic fibre made from a polyolefin, such as polypropylene or polyethylene), PVC Mesh (often found on seating and sun loungers) and Marine Vinyl.

At Lazy Susan, our parasols and cushion covers are made from a fast-drying waterproof acrylic. This is soft to the touch but is easy to clean and it will stand up to a sudden downpour/won’t fade in the sun's UV rays.

These outdoor acrylic fabrics are a little more heavyweight than those you’d find inside the home. They have almost a canvas or jacquard-style feel to them and they’re specifically woven for durability. 

Although limited in colour and design due to the nature of the production process, they come in a range of outdoor-friendly colours that are achieved by solution or over-dying the fibres before they are spun into the actual fabric.

This process is done to dramatically reduce fading from the sun. It also ensures that our cushions and parasols have a much higher abrasion resistance than indoor fabrics. Meaning the fibres won’t break or mark as easily if you were to accidentally drop them on a stone patio.

That said, I wouldn’t advise you to test this and whilst they are weather-resistant, I would always advise you to store them indoors when not in use. It’ll keep them clean and looking like new for much longer.

How to quickly clean outdoor furniture fabrics

In terms of a light cleaning after they’ve maybe been outside for a weekend or two during the summer months, then regardless of fabric, the following method is tried and tested.

It won’t remove any heavy staining but it will get rid of any loose dust and dirt that is inevitable when sat outside, especially on larger pieces such as a parasol…

  • Start by giving the fabric a gentle run-over with a soft bristle brush to remove any loose particles.
  • Then with the garden hose rinse it off with cold water.
  • Fill a bucket with a solution of warm water and a splash of laundry detergent. You don’t need much, just enough to freshen up.
  • With a microfibre cloth, give the fabric a wipe-down.
  • If there are any dried-on bird droppings for example, then just let the wet cloth sit on them for a few minutes. The warm water will often be enough to soften it so you can wipe it away. Avoid scrubbing if you can,

As I said, most outdoor fabric will be cleaned with this method. And whilst most of these fabrics are designed to be both weather and mould-resistant, an occasional wash with this method just helps to keep them looking (and smelling) fresh.

Again, I must stress that this method while safe, it is also important you follow the manufacturer's care instructions and labels. If you want to wash any removable outdoor fabrics such as our cushion covers, then just pop them in on a gentle delicate cycle at 30 degrees. 

If I do this, I also add a colour protector or stain Oxi-style stain remover if they’re brighter coloured fabrics that could fade or white items that are stained. 

When it comes to drying, never use a tumble dryer. Outdoors in the sun is best. If they need to be ironed, lots of steam, not too hot and place a tea towel on top to protect the fabric, don’t iron directly as it tends to leave white marks on the fabrics and can damage any protective coating.

However, we have a few more little methods, tips and tricks that make the cleaning of these larger outdoor pieces with a fixed and/or large fabric area a little easier…

How to deep clean the fabric on a Parasol

When it comes to a parasol, I find that the light quick clean method above on a regular basis is the way to go. This just helps to stop dirt from building up to the point where it becomes a problem or at least noticeable.

Always store it indoors when not in use or under a parasol cover, and most importantly, never put it away wet or dirty. This is where problems start and you could end up with mould forming.

If the fabric on your parasol is looking a little worse for wear and you do have mould or algae forming, then the following ‘homemade’ method might help to combat the problem:

  • Mix 1 cup of undiluted white vinegar with a quarter of a cup of washing-up liquid in a bucket of warm water.
  • Open the parasol up fully so the fabric is tight and drop it down as low as it will go or carefully rest it on its side.
  • Using a soft bristle brush apply the solution and gently scrub the fabric in a circular motion.
  • Make sure you scrub all the fabric not just the areas with mould as it can still be lurking but not seen. The vinegar will stop it in it’s tracks.
  • Gently rinse with the garden hose. Avoid using a pressure washer as they are just too powerful and you could damage the parasol.
  • Leave it open to dry fully in the sun before you use it or put it away.

How to deep clean the fabric on Awnings

The above method is also great on awnings too, however, if you feel you need something a little more long-term and preventative then I would suggest you go for Wet & Forget’s Moss, Mould, Lichen and Algae Remover.

It is perfect for fixed fabrics such as awnings that you can’t bring indoors and they stay outside.

This is a great product to have in the shed or garage full stop and it can be used on everything from cladding, brick paving, composite decking, concrete, driveways, wooden decks, greenhouses, gutters and facia to awnings and outdoor fabrics.

It contains a combination of biodegradable selective surfactants for moss, mould and mildew stain removal that when diluted with water and applied, it immediately penetrates the unsightly stain. 

Each time it rains, this safe, cleansing combination reactivates to gently lift the moss, mould and mildew stain without damaging the surface of your awning. It requires no scrubbing or rinsing. 

You have to be patient, Wet and Forgets gentle cleaning action takes time depending on how heavy the stain is and results are visible over time.

How to clean an outdoor rug

Outdoor rugs have become increasingly popular in recent years but they do take a bashing from the elements and general use. Way more than other types of outdoor fabric…

That said, they are designed to sit outside, so they’re pretty robust and relatively easy to clean. 

I start by sweeping off any loose dirt with a brush and if you can pick it up give it a shake away from your patio area. If it is too big to pick up then as long as it is fully dry, then give it a quick hoover.

Then with the trusty bucket of warm water and washing up liquid, I will give it a scrub with the sweeping brush and rinse it off with cold water.

The important thing with an outdoor rug is to hang and dry it, don’t leave it flat on the floor. Pull it over a garden table or washing line. Make sure both sides get the time they need in the sun to fully dry too.

If you have one, then a carpet cleaner is another great way to clean an outdoor rug. The brushes will gently remove any dirt but it also suck away a lot of the moisture so the rug dries quicker.

If you have any outdoor fabric tips or cleaning tricks you’d like to share, please let us know!

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