How Do You Clean Outdoor Furniture Fabric?

Caring for your outdoor furniture extends beyond the framework. In fact, that's the easiest part, as cleaning outdoor furniture fabric often proves trickier than you think.

However, it only becomes challenging when you are not up to date with the correct cleaning methods to be applied in this instance. Having the incorrect tools and cleaning products will quickly turn an easy task into one that takes significantly longer, and may not lead to the results you were hoping for.

So, what is the correct way? Well, that is something we will explore shortly, but to get something spotlessly clean, you need to understand how it could get into such a mess in the first place.

Outdoor Fabrics and How They Get Dirty

Living in the UK means the weather is not always predictable. So, it makes sense that rain and mildew can become an issue. Add in general dirt and dust, and it doesn't take long for those outdoor fabrics to look past their best.

But then, there are other ways in which these outdoor fabrics can get dirty.

Bird droppings, food, wine, oil, grass stains from clothing. The list is longer than you think, and then you have muddy paw prints from dogs or cats climbing all over it. You have little chance of your outdoor cushions remaining clean.

But that's not designed to put you off having them. Instead, knowing how to clean the fabric will be the best course of action to take.

How Often Should You Clean the Fabric?

So it's obvious how things get dirty, but how often should you clean the fabric?

Well, we must stress that you should not only do this once a season, or once a year would be even worse. The key is in regular cleaning to prevent a build-up of material that is then harder to remove.

So, this is what we recommend.

If it has been raining, wipe down your patio furniture to remove excess water. While the fabric used on outdoor furniture is water resistant, it can leave rain spots that may form over time. Considering we are looking at a quick wipe with a dry cloth before being left to air dry, then it's not a time-consuming task.

But that's not all.

Marks and stains should be dealt with as soon as you discover them. This means inspecting your upholstery before and after using your furniture. That allows you to keep on top of matters.

In short, dust or lightly wipe the upholstery on a regular basis, but never soak it for reasons we will explain next.

Your Equipment

From an equipment perspective, you do not require anything elaborate or special. In fact, there's a good chance you will already have everything you need for this job.

This is the sort of list of items you should consider using to clean your outdoor furniture.

  • Soft brush
  • Duster
  • Soft cloth
  • Vacuum cleaner with upholstery attachment
  • Two buckets
  • Warm water
  • Washing-up liquid
  • Toothbrush

How to Clean Your Outdoor Furniture Fabric

We will help you with specific details regarding how to cope with different marks later, but now we look at a basic clean that helps keep things looking pristine.

The first step is to give your outdoor furniture cushions a light brush. This is intended to remove dust and dirt that may be sitting on the surface that has had a chance to dry. You may be surprised at how much is on there just by sitting outdoors for some time.

But be warned, this light brushing will not be capable of removing hard stains on your upholstery. That will require some additional work, but more on that later as this is more about light soiling.

Step 1: Brush and Rinse

This first step applies no matter the fabric used on your upholstery. Brush with a soft brush, and then you can rinse your outdoor cushions with your garden hose. You don't need to hit the fabric hard, and you should remove the cushions from the furniture before doing this.

Step 2: A Light Wash

Get a bucket and mix some washing-up liquid with water, and mix to get a lot of soap suds. After that, get a cloth and wipe over the cushions. You won't have to do too much for most light stains. This mix will be enough to remove the majority of things.

Step 3: Rinse and Air Dry

The final step with this simple approach is to rinse the soap residue off the cushions, and then allow them to air dry. You can speed up the process by wiping it with a dry cloth to remove as much moisture as possible.

That is the basic approach to cleaning your outdoor fabric, but that only applies to general dust and light stains. Things become different when you need to deal with some stubborn stains.

Cleaning the Different Types of Fabric

But before we talk about those difficult marks, a quick word on the various fabrics that may be used on outdoor furniture.

They are all going to be water-repellent to a certain extent. They will all be able to cope with some washing up liquid being applied to them without damaging the fabric. So, don't worry about the fabric as your main focus should be on dealing with the different marks.

But here's one thing to consider. Some outdoor furniture fabric can be hand wash, while others can be removed and thrown into your washing machine. Check the label to see which one applies to you.

Remember you are dealing with removable covers.

Dealing with Different Marks

For the cleaning part, the easiest thing is when you simply give the cushion covers or upholstery a wipe over with some warm water and a clean cloth. After that, leave them to air dry, and that should be enough to remove just general dust.

However, what about other causes of marks and dirt on your outdoor fabrics? Well, the way you clean them can differ according to whatever the mark may be.

Bird Droppings

So, you notice a bird has pooped on a cushion, and you want to get it off. This is something you should deal with straight away, as it can leave marks, and it's just not a nice thing to have on there from a hygiene perspective either.

For this, you want to begin by determining if the bird poop has dried. If it has, you need to get an old brush and try to brush off as much as possible. This will make the cleaning process easier.

Next, use laundry detergent mixed with water, and scrub. Leave it on there for around half an hour before rinsing. You may also want to pressure wash as another option.


As we use our outdoor patio furniture for entertaining, it's entirely possible that the odd wine stain can appear on the upholstery. Once again, your cleaning approach needs to be rather specific to make sure it does not leave a mark.

In this instance, we are talking more about red wine, as that is the tough one to remove.

Here, you need to avoid wiping. Also, use lukewarm water mixed with washing up liquid. A soft bristle brush should then be used. Do check for a potential stain remover that deals with wine stains, but check it can be applied to the fabric.


A major concern is sunscreen, and dealing with this is different to other marks. Actually, this method can help with any oil based stains, so keep this in mind.

You want to soak up as much of the liquid as possible. A cloth or paper towels will do. After that, apply something such as baking soda or cornstarch to the liquid, and leave it there to work its magic.

After 15 minutes or so, you should be able to wipe away the sunscreen from your outdoor pillows, and the stained area should be clean. If not, either repeat the process, and then scrape off the remnants.

Mold and Mildew

Dealing with those mildew stains is easier than you think, in fact we have written a full guide on how to clean mildew off outdoor cushions. However, you need to determine if you have acrylic or fabric cushions as this changes how you deal with this issue.

With mold and mildew, there are two approaches. One is slightly more toxic than the other, but that doesn't translate into being something bad. After all, you will be trying to clean outdoor cushions outdoors.

The non-toxic approach is to mix white vinegar with water. Add it to a spray bottle and soak the cushion. The acid in the vinegar works well with the mildew. It's also easier on the skin compared to something such as borax, which is also recommended as a potential cleanser for mildew. However, borax is bad against your skin, so you may want to avoid this.

Another option is to take a pressure washer and blast that fabric. This can remove a lot of the mildew, and it's more powerful than trying to use a scrub brush.

Key Maintenance Tips

Finally, here are some important maintenance tips that should help you keep your outdoor furniture fabrics looking pristine for years to come.

1. Deal with Marks Immediately

If you spill something on the fabric, then deal with it as soon as possible. This is important with food and wine stains as you have a better chance of effectively diluting it before it dries into the fabric.

2. Wipe Down Every Time You Use the Furniture

Another important maintenance tip is to wipe down the cushions every time you have used them. You won't even have to use dish soap as simply removing loose dirt can help preserve your patio cushions for longer.

3. Check for the Wash Instructions

Finally, outdoor living often comes with removable covers, so check the wash instructions. They will tell you if liquid detergent or hot water can be used when cleaning, so follow them closely. Failure to do so can result in damage being done, and we want to avoid that.

And that is how you clean the upholstery on your outdoor furniture. Nothing about the process is complex, and as long as you have the correct cleaning solution, along with cleaning tools, then there's no reason why you won't have clean outdoor cushions once again.

Our only other tip is to keep on top of this as best you can. Don't wait until the upholstery is looking terrible. Even just wiping things clean on a regular basis can make a huge difference, and it will stop you from having to even potentially replace those cushions simply because you cannot get them as clean as you want.