Outdoor furniture must be specific when it comes to the fabrics that can be used on the items. After all, outdoor fabrics must be capable of withstanding showers and direct sunlight without it affecting the way it looks.
However, it's not all about dealing with those sudden showers that we experience so often in the UK. Instead, the fabrics used with this particular type of upholstery must be capable of withstanding mildew (we have written a guide on how to clean mildew off outdoor cushions just in case) and other nasties that may appear with repeated exposure to the elements.
But here is the problem that we have found. People tend to be unaware of what is viewed as being an outdoor fabric. So, that is what we will talk about.
Why You Must Choose the Right Fabric for Outdoor Furniture
Selecting the right fabric for your outdoor furniture is about a whole lot more than simply finding something that is visually appealing. Instead, you want something that is not only water-resistant, but also both mildew resistant and fade resistant simultaneously.
This may sound like a tall order, especially with the UK weather, but we know of various fabrics that are not only water-resistant, but actually water repellent. In short, these fabrics hate the rain and just won't allow that water to penetrate into the actual fabric.
But why is this so important? Well, if you want your outdoor cushions to continue to look brand new, then the correct fabric will be essential.
However, this is about more than simply dealing with the weather.
The Different Outdoor Fabrics
So, how about these fabrics? Which ones do we see as working well, and what are potential negatives associated with the different fabrics?
In the UK, several options are available. However, a number are more popular than others.
The most popular include:
- Acrylic fabrics
- PVC mesh
- Marine vinyl
Understandably, there are several there you may never have heard of, but let's explain.
Polyester requires little to no introduction. It's used widely and is treated to become water resistant while it is also easy to wipe clean. Do look at a polyester fabric that has also been treated to protect against sunlight, or colours will fade, resulting in your outdoor furniture losing some of its luster.
Pros and Cons of Polyester
Polyester is very easy to clean. It is heavy-duty, but can be wiped with a damp cloth making it perfect for outdoor furniture cushions.
It is also relatively inexpensive, so if you want a bargain for your furniture fabric, then this could very well be the ideal solution.
But here's the problem.
You cannot simply buy any old polyester fabric. Normal polyester that has not been specifically treated will fade in around a year.
This is the least expensive, but also the fabric that tends to offer the greatest variability when it comes to design. However, you need to balance up lower cost with the durability, and that is why we suggest only buying polyester that has been specifically treated.
Acrylic fabrics are also popular, and they are a better option if you live in an area where rain is more of an issue. It's soft, but has an amazing ability to wick away moisture. But that's not its only amazing property.
Acrylic fabric is also fantastic at keeping cool in warm weather. It means it's the ideal choice for cushion covers that won't then get too hot. Also, it dries super fast, so those showers will mean your cushions won't be wet for long if they are made from acrylic.
Pros and Cons of Acrylic
Acrylic performs very well against mildew, so if that's a concern, then this could be the answer. It also copes well with sunlight and UV rays, so as upholstery fabric goes, this is a real contender for the best fabric for outdoor cushions.
It's hard-wearing, and can be used on canopies, umbrellas, and other outdoor items aside from furniture.
But it comes with its own potential problems.
You must make sure the fabric has been protected against stains. If not, then you will find those stains will also become quick-drying, and you then have a problem in removing them.
It's also more expensive to buy. However, thanks to the UV resistance, and general durability, it should last for some time.
As we just said, acrylic covers are more expensive than most. In saying that, they can last for years and still look good.
Olefin is perhaps the least well known of the fabrics we will list here, but it's an excellent choice when it comes to awnings, being stain-resistant, and can be used on all types of outdoor furniture.
This fabric is synthetic, and it's made from either polypropylene, or polyethylene. It is a lightweight fabric, and is often lighter than acrylic, but don't think it means it will do a lesser job than acrylic.
Olefin is highly durable, is available in a wide range of colours and patterns, and it's also very easy to wipe clean. It may not be able to cope with as wide a range of weather as acrylic, but those showers won't pose any problems.
Pros and Cons of Olefin
It is extremely resistant to stains, so if you stress about food landing on your outdoor upholstery, then Olefin fabric may be your answer.
Also, not only is it water resistant, but it copes well with those UV rays, and it should stay looking fresh and new even after thousands of hours of UV light hitting the fabric.
This fabric is also resistant to mildew, so that is often a huge plus for any fabric.
But it's not all perfect.
It is harder to find, although it's getting easier, and it is heavier than other fabrics. That means while it may work for outdoor cushions, it's not a good idea to use it on umbrellas.
For price, this fabric is significantly cheaper than acrylic, but it's more expensive than polyester. However, if your budget can stretch to Olefin, then you will certainly get a bargain thanks to its durability.
PVC mesh can be an excellent choice for your outdoor furniture. Not only is it water repellent, but it stands up well against any abrasion, so it won't rip or be damaged without it putting up a fight.
This fabric is also capable of standing up well against UV light, so the colours of your outdoor cushions won't just fade the first time you place them outdoors.
This material is strong. In fact, it's often viewed as the strongest on the market, so if you feel that you need resilience in your fabric, then this could be the right one for you.
Pros and Cons of PVC Mesh
The main positive of this material is its durability. It can put up with a lot of abuse before it can rip. This is the toughest of all outdoor fabrics, and it's resistant to both pets and pests.
It also won't be attacked by mold, and that saves a lot of hassle in trying to keep things clean.
But as with every fabric, it's not perfect. This fabric is not the best when it comes to the planet, and that may very well be something you wish to consider. It can also be quite tough for the companies to work with, so your options may be restricted.
Also, it gets hot to the touch.
For price, PVC is relatively inexpensive, so it's more to the bargain end of the market.
Marine vinyl is typically manufactured as a combination of both PVC and polyester. Often, the split between the two fabrics is around 75% PVC and 25% polyester.
What that means is you have a fabric that is highly waterproof, but also has some of the durability and resilience associated with PVC.
This material has been created to cope better with the air and elements found near the coast. This is due to the salt water, so if you live in a coastal area, this fabric could be the best option for you.
Pros and Cons of Marine Vinyl
The main positive of this material is how it copes with the harsher elements. It is also highly waterproof while durability should not be a problem.
It is also capable of lasting for years without looking too bad, and that's due to the heavy-duty nature of the fabric. It can withstand a lot of punishment, and still come out of it looking relatively new.
But sweat and even sunscreen can adhere to the vinyl, so it does require some regular maintenance to make sure it looks good. Also, you cannot use bleach to get it clean. Bleach can affect the structure of the vinyl, so you must be specific when cleaning it.
For price, the marine vinyl is only slightly more expensive than normal vinyl and it's due to the added UV resistance and extra waterproofing. However, it is not the most expensive on the market.
And those are the types of fabric used for the sake of upholstery on outdoor furniture in the UK. The industry does have its favourites, but each fabric mentioned above can cope with a fair amount of weather and punishment.
The price does vary greatly, but we recommend balancing out price with durability. This concept of durability will change depending on how often you plan on using your outdoor furniture, but you want things to look perfect for as long as possible.