patio in the snow

Summer Furniture Fabric Round-up

Even though summer will not be with us for much longer, our outdoor furniture often stays outside well into the fall, and that’s fine. It’s OK to leave it out all year round if you’ve chosen the right fabric and foam. There is no reason good outdoor furniture can’t be used and enoyed for many, many seasons.Let’s look at what makes a fabric suitable for outdoor use so when you are looking for new fabric for covers this winter you will know what to look for.

Fiber content.  Natural fibers – like cotton and linen – are very affected by the sun and bleaching and fiber deterioration will usually take place in one season. Yes, they are natural and bio-degradeable, and can also be organic, but you need to consider them as one-season wonders. After one full summer, here, you will see a lot of sun fade, and that is the indication that the fibers are deteriorating.

This is a piece of trim I made out of 100% cotton fabric. It was wound onto a spool and set in the spool holder under a north-facing window which had a serious awning —  in April. The bleaching happened in one day.

welt cord sun fade

If your out-door fabric is constructed of man-made fibers (such as polyester) and the pattern is printed on it, expect it to last several seasons. How do you tell if the pattern is printed? The right and wrong sides are obvious. Higher-quality outdoor fabrics are made of acrylic, and the dye is part of the fiber itself. Sunbrella is made this way; it’s almost impossible to tell which is the right side because both sides are almost identical.

This is also why most Sunbrella fabrics are plains or stripes — they are less expensive to weave than prints. This outdoor fabric will last for many, many seasons — some is even warrantied for five or more years. And it’s bleachable. No kidding.  But you pay for this — expect solution-dyed fabric (that’s the name for it) to cost about four times as much as printed polyester.

patio furniture

None of the out-door fabrics are water-PROOF, and you don’t want them to be. If moisture enters a water-proof cushion through the stitching holes or the zipper, it will get trapped inside and will encourage mold and mildew growth.  You want the moisture to pass through the interior foam and evaporate out the fabric.

Cleanablility. Can the cushion covers be removed and washed or is dry-cleaning necessary? Natural fibers may shrink after the initial washing, so that’s a consideration. Good out-door fabric can be cool washed and hung to dry. Most of it goes nuts if it’s even in the same room as an iron, so don’t try.

And don’t forget about the cushion filler. There are fillers available that are made specifically for outdoor use. Quick-Dry (left) is one brand name, densified polyester (right) is available by the sheet; it’s stacked to make the depth you need,  and open-cell foam are three.  This video demonstrates the water issue very well. 

dry fast foam
densified polyester

 Some outdoor fabrics are rated with UV protection, Sunbrella is rated at 98% UV protection, which is an indicator of how long it will last —  the UV rays are the ones which damage  the fabric.

Would you like some help planning the refresh of your outdoor furniture cushions? Email me,


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