With spring quickly approaching and the warm weather teasing us lately it’s time to get those outdoor spaces ready! What’s a beautiful garden if you don’t have a place to sit and enjoy it? Outdoor seating areas are a great way to expand your home in the warm months to come. There are three important things to think about when you are planning your outdoor cushions.
When buying outdoor fabric it is important to be an informed customer so that you know what you are getting into. Everyone knows the name “Sunbrella”, but what is Sunbrella fabric? What people often don’t realize is that Sunbrella is a Brand of fabric, not a specific type — think of the word “Sunbrella” being used to describe outdoor fabric in general, like the term “Kleenex” is used to describe tissues. Sunbrella brand outdoor fabric is 100% solution dyed acrylic. Solution dyed basically means that the fibers that the fabric is made of are dyed in a color solution before they are woven – not printed on after the fabric base cloth is made. There are other great outdoor 100% acrylic fabrics that are not necessarily under the Sunbrella brand. These 100% acrylic fabrics are a great option for outdoor use as they are water resistant and the colors can stay true for a longer period of time.
While the 100% acrylic fabrics are great, sometimes there are not as many bright intricate patterns with this method. Using the screen printing method you can get more detail and brighter colors in patterns. These outdoor fabrics are typically spun polyester. While this allows for a wider range of patterns, these fabrics can also fade faster and are typically only approved for 300 hours of UV exposure (if there are 8 hours of sun in a day, this could equal out to about 37 days!). I know what you are thinking — that is crazy that they are only rated for 37 sunny days, however since most outdoor furniture is in a shaded environment (porch/screened patio) these fabrics tend to do well in the proper environment, also the color don’t disappear after 300 hours they just start to fade and as long as they fade evenly you may hardly notice. So while these spun poly fabrics are weather resistant it is important to use them only in areas that don’t see a lot of direct sunlight and it they should be taken inside when not in use to preserve the quality. Generally we recommend you consider solution dyed acrylic for large elements like cushions that are harder to remove and also cost more to have made and then use some of the brighter spun poly fabrics for accents and pillows. As a side note both Acrylic and Spun polyester fabrics should be stored inside during the colder/wet winter months (make sure they are dry first of course).
Still not sure which outdoor fabric is best for you. Here is a handy dandy comparison chart we have created. (Note these facts and figures don’t apply to every outdoor fabric but they do to the vast majority)
FAQ’s – Solution Dyed Acrylic Fabric (ie. Sunbrella) versus 100% Spun Poly fabric:
|Solution Dyed Acrylics||100% Spun Poly|
|How long before outdoor fabric starts fading?||2000 hours +(hours in direct sun before fading)||300-800 hours (most are rated at 300) (hours in direct sun before fading)|
|How much does outdoor fabric cost?||Solids* – $25-$35/yd
Stripes* – $30-$45/yd
Woven Patterns* – $50-$100*At U-Fab annually we buy overstocks and closeouts to stock our stores, most of which are $15-$20/yd
|Solids – $10-$15/yd
Stripes – $10-$20/yd
Patterns – $10-$25/yd
|Can I use it in direct sunlight? (ie. around a pool or on a deck)||Yes , however it will still fade slightly over time.||No, we do not recommend using these fabrics in direct sun areas.|
|Can I use outdoor fabric inside on my furniture?||Yes, in fact acrylics are becoming very popular for indoor use as they are very soft and durable||No, while some will tell you differently, we strongly recommend you do not use Spun Poly on indoor furniture as in our experience it does not wear very well with everyday use.|
|What does outdoor fabric it feel like?||Each pattern is different but generally solution dyed Acrylics feel very soft to touch, are quite flexible and are very similar to the cottons or polyester fabrics you use inside||Spun poly tends to be quite stiff and have a rougher hand. However some of the new woven (basket weave) spun poly fabrics feel much better|
|Will outdoor fabric mildew?||No acrylic fabrics do not promote mildew growth, however mildew can arise if the fabric is dirty or is wet for long periods of time. Generally any mildew can be removed using a bleach and soap mixture.||No, spun poly fabrics do not promote mildew growth, however mildew can arise if the fabric is dirty or is wet for long periods of time. Generally mildew can be removed using soap and water or by dry cleaning.|
Foam plays are large part in the life of your outdoor cushions. There are two main types of foam that can be used. Regular foam, what you would typically find in your sofa and chair cushions, can be used in outdoor settings as well. As a pro this foam is easy to find and reasonably priced. But, one of the major cons to the regular foam is water sitting in the cushion. Any outdoor fabric is only relatively water proof in a rain storm, and will eventually let water into the cushions. Water sitting in the foam of your cushion can mold your fabric. If you are willing to cover your pieces or make sure that you bring them inside so they do not collect moisture, this could be a good option for you.
There is also foam that is made specifically for outdoor use. Picture Swiss cheese, this foam has holes throughout that allow for the water the run through the foam and not sit. As a con to this foam it can be pricy. This is a better option for things that will inevitably be wet, like a boat cushion, or cushions that you plan to leave outside through the treacherous spring and summer weather.
Base of cushion
When you have a piece of outdoor furniture it is also important to think about what your cushion is sitting on. You want to make sure that there is not something solid under the foam for the water to sit on and mold the bottom of your cushions. Make sure there is some sort of slating or woven base that will let any water run through the cushion and help to dry the cushion after rain.
Here a u-fab our staff will be able to help you choose the fabrics and foam that will be best suited to your outdoor living space and lifestyle. From fabric to foam we can provide you with everything you need to brighten up your cushions. Not up to the task of tackling your own cushions? Our expert seamstresses are ready tackle them for you!
Here’s another look at our latest arrivals in outdoor fabric.
Douglas McKay says
I need three yards of a solid fabric to cover my built in BBQ—-maybe a gray or brown in color. The BBQ area takes direct AZ sun all day. I need something very tenacious like a Sun Brella Fabric or stronger. Will you please email what you recommendations and related costs—— do you have anything on sale?
Pat Averitte says
I would like to know where you could purchase foam specifically for outdoor use
In the Fort Worth, TX area
Diann Anderson says
First of all in live in Florida! Need I say more? I need fabric for cushions and curtains on my patio which is in DIRECT sunlight 15 hours a day. I bought outdoor fabric, it was not sun resistant. A season later it has faded to shabby. I don’t want solids, I’m look for prints and stripes that will match, something in ocean colors – blues , turquoise.
Thanks for your inquiry Diann! Unfortunately, as we mentioned in this post, all outdoor fabrics fade with direct sun exposure, this is not unique to any fabric manufacturer. If you are looking for a refresh, please see this post for some of our fun blue & turquoise outdoor patterns:
Toots waddell says
I just bought 100% Spun poly pillows in a green and cream pillow cover. The green is too dark for the chair it is on. Can I safely Clorox it to possibly lighten the green, while not fading the cream?
Thank you for your question. I have to admit that this is quite an odd question. I cannot really comment on how this will turn out for you. Spun poly will fade in the sun, over time, but I am not too certain how bleach will affect it. Bleach is used to clean the mildew from outdoor fabrics and depending on how much you use, it could bleach the color. Usually bleach is used for cleaning, so again I cannot comment on how this will turn out.
I’m sorry this was not much help.
Good luck on your project.