Although outdoor fabrics are treated with special coatings during manufacturing to make them resistant to stains, UV, and moisture, they still get dirty over time. While these cushions are made to survive harsh outdoor conditions (and your family and friends), you shouldn’t leave them outside in the pouring rain and beating sun. We've put together a guide to help you figure out how to clean outdoor cushions and pillows.
How to Clean Outdoor Cushions
Get in the habit of a daily quick clean. Avoid having to deep clean your cushions too often by quickly cleaning your cushions after anytime you use them. Even if the cushions don’t seem dirty, clean them off with a rag or soft bristle brush. Mop up spills and spot clean new stains immediately.
Once a month, run the upholstery attachment on your vacuum over the cushions. Make sure to run the vacuum a few times over the seams to make sure you clean all the built-up dirt and grime.
Use the guide below to know how to clean all types of stains.
Have a small stain? Or has a bird graciously gifted your patio cushion with a surprise? No worries! You can get it out with a quick spot clean.
Catch stains in the nick of time by following these steps:
- Combine 1 tablespoon borax, 1 teaspoon dish-washing soap, and 4 cups of lukewarm water in a spray bottle.
- Spray the solution on the stain.
- Blot the solution to pick up the stain. Do not rub or you can cause the stain to spread.
- Let the solution soak for 15 minutes.
- Rinse with cool water to remove all soap residue.
- Set cushions on their edge to dry.
Tip: Any time you are using a new cleaning solution, make sure it doesn’t damage the cushion by doing a spot check in a small, discrete area.
Cleaning Oil-Based Stains
Did your kids get more sunscreen on the patio cushions than themselves? Follow these steps to cut through the grease:
- Immediately rub cornstarch on the stain to absorb the oil.
- Let the cornstarch sit on the stain for a minute.
- Scrape off the cornstarch with a straight edge like a ruler or a used gift card.
- Repeat as needed until oil is completely absorbed.
- If a mark remains, rub on Fels Naptha soap and rinse.
If your cushion is coated with grime, it’s time for a deep clean. But before you break out the buckets of water, check the cleaning guidelines on the cushion tags for cleaning restrictions and instructions. If the tags are faded, check the manufacture’s website.
- If your cushions have cushion covers, remove the covers and wash separately (these are typically machine washable, but be sure to check the tags).
- Use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum to clean off loose dirt. Be careful as you run the vacuum along seams and buttons.
- Mix 1 tablespoon Borax, 1 teaspoon of mild dish-washing detergent, and 4 cups of warm water.
- Gently scrub the cushions with the solution.
- Let the cleaning solution soak for 15 minutes, but do not let it dry completely.
- If you still see stubborn stains after soaking, apply more the cleaning solution and gently blot the stains with a rag or soft bristle brush.
- Rinse the cushions with a hose.
- Dab the cushion with a towel to soak up most of the moisture.
- Stand each cushion on its edge until it air dries completely to prevent the growth of mildew. If it’s too cold to completely air dry the cushions, use a blow dryer.
- Spray your cushions with a fabric guard to help them resist stains, dirt, and mildew.
Tip: Deep clean your cushions before storing them for the winter and store your cushions in a storage bag. This will make setting up your patio furniture in spring easy.
How to Clean Cushion Covers
Some cushions have covers that you can remove like a pillowcase. Before you clean these, check the tags or the manufacturer website for any cleaning restrictions.
Hand-wash Cushion Covers
If the manufacturer does not explain how to wash your cushion covers, it’s best to stay on the safe side and hand-wash them.
- Create a cleaning solution of ¼ cup liquid detergent per gallon of warm water.
- Place the solution in a clean sink or tub.
- Let the cushion covers soak for a half hour. Gently scrub as needed.
- Rinse thoroughly with cold water.
- Let the cushion covers air dry.
Machine Wash Cushion Covers
- Set the washing machine’s temperature to cool.
- Place in the normal amount of detergent and add a ¼ cup of chlorine bleach if needed.
- Let the cushion covers air dry.
How to Clean Different Types of Damage
Stains and Bird Droppings
The solution for spot cleaning stains and bird droppings is the same. In the case of bird droppings, clean off as much of the excrement as you can with a paper towel before beginning the process. Be careful not to rub it deeper into the fabric.
- Prepare a cleaning solution of 1 teaspoon of Borax and 1 teaspoon of mild dish soap mixed into 4 cups of warm water.
- Use a rag or soft bristle brush to dab the solution onto the fabric or spray it with a spray bottle.
- Let it soak for 15-30 minutes.
- Rinse well to remove all of the solution. Let the cushion air-dry.
- If the solution doesn’t completely remove the stain, rub on Fels Naptha soap and rinse.
Mold and Mildew
- Clean away as much of the mildew as you can with a rag or soft bristle brush.
- Mix 1 part Borox into 4 parts warm water.
- Blot the cushion with a generous amount of the solution.
- Let the solution soak for 15-30 minutes.
- Blot the fabric to clean the stain.
- Rinse well and let the cushion air dry.
Most cushions are made of durable fabrics that are resistant to UV rays. But in direct sunlight, even this fabric will fade over time. Bring your cushions inside, put them in the shade, or put them in a cushion storage bag when not in use. This can increase your cushion’s life span to 5-10 years.
Unfortunately, you are not typically able to restore faded cushions to their original state. Check with the manufacturer to see if they are covered by a warranty.
Like fading, water damage on your patio cushions cannot be undone. If your cushions get caught in a rain storm, you need to let them dry correctly.
- If your cushions have covers, unzip them and drain out the water.
- Stack the cushions on their edge so they can dry quickly.
- Make sure the cushions fully dry before you use them again.
- If it continues to stay damp outside, bring your cushions inside and use a blow dryer to dry them all the way through. This will save you from having mildew and mold grow in your cushions.
Protection is Key
The best way to keep your cushions clean is to prevent your cushions from getting dirty in the first place. You have two different options with patio furniture covers, either cover the entire piece of furniture or cover only the cushions. The best way to go is to keep your cushions protected and stored away any time you are not using them.
Store your pillows and cushions in a storage bag for the winter, and keep this in your garage or attic. Come spring, you'll be ready with fresh furniture to relax in the sun.