How to Clean Outdoor Furniture Upholstery

Having outdoor furniture is great for making the most of your garden space whilst offering a communal area in the sun. But the weather in the UK is renowned for being unpredictable, offering sun, rain, snow and even more rain!

With this in mind, your outdoor furniture is going to get exposed to every element that nature can throw at it. This will, over time, make your furniture fabric look dirty and possibly even damaged. 

Luckily, most outdoor furniture fabrics are made for this sort of thing. But how do you clean dirty outdoor furniture upholstery? 


Why Do Outdoor Fabrics Get Dirty 

Before we look at how to clean our outdoor fabric, we need to understand what it is exactly that is making our outdoor furniture get so grubby. Are there ways we can prevent the fabric from getting even more dirty or damaged in the future?

Damp and Moisture – As the weather in the UK is damp, wet and cold one day and sunny and humid the next, furniture moss can start to grow on the surface of our outdoor furniture fabric. 

Dirt and Dust – Along with moss, various other types of dirt can build up on your furniture, especially in the crevices. Some of this can be easily brushed off but if kept unchecked, this dirt can discolour the fabric.

Wildlife – Cats, birds and other forms of wildlife can make your furniture dirty or even damaged. 

Sun Exposure – Outdoor furniture upholstery is built to be able to withstand long periods of exposure to the sun, but years of exposure will discolour and damage the fabric. 

Food and Drink – Outdoor furniture is there to be enjoyed as a communal space. Often this means that food and drink gets consumed around the furniture, exposing the fabric to the odd spill. 


How You Can Prevent Outdoor Fabric Getting Damaged or Dirty

If you’re interested in prolonging the life span of your outdoor furniture, there are a variety of different actions you can take to help prevent your furniture getting damaged or dirty. 

  1. Shield your outdoor cushions with plastic or fabric covers that will add a layer of protection from a variety of different elements whilst the cushions are being used. 
  2. When your outdoor furniture is not in use, cover it with a fitted plastic sheet, completely protecting the furniture from the seasons. 
  3. To ensure your outdoor cushions don’t get damaged or dirty, you could invest in an outdoor cushion storage box. This will provide complete protection for your cushions without taking up space in your house. 
  4. Store your outdoor furniture indoors or in a sheltered area (if possible).


Additional Tips

There are additional steps that you can take on a case-by-case basis that will help ensure that your upholstery remains in good shape. 

Regular Maintenance: Regularly brush off dirt and debris to prevent build up. You could even choose to air out your cushions regularly to prevent smells from building up. 

Prompt Cleaning: Address spills and stains promptly to prevent them from setting.

Use throws or blankets: A quick and easy way to add an extra layer of protection to your furniture is to use throws and blankets across the surface of cushions. This isn’t a guaranteed protection, but it will definitely help to keep your furniture protected. 

What You Will Need to Clean Your Furniture

Cleaning outdoor fabric is most likely more straightforward than you think.. Some of the items you will need before you get started with cleaning your outdoor furniture upholstery include:

  • Vacuum
  • Bucket
  • Washing up liquid
  • Warm water
  • Microfibre cloth
  • Brush


Your outdoor cushions might need a more gentle hand depending on the material they are made from. Check out our blog on how to clean upholstery properly for guidance on how to clean certain fabric types. 


Cleaning Your Outdoor Upholstery Step-by-Step

Brush Off Loose Dirt: Use a soft-bristle brush or a vacuum to remove loose dirt, dust, and debris from the fabric. If your furniture is a little more complex, you could use a toothbrush to really get into the crack and crevices.

Prepare Cleaning Solution: Mix a mild soap with lukewarm water in a bucket. We find that a ratio of about 1/4 cup of soap to 4 litres of water works well.

Spot Test: Before applying the cleaning solution to the entire piece of furniture, do a spot test on a small, inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn’t cause any discoloration or damage.

Apply Cleaning Solution: Use a soft-bristle brush or sponge to apply the soapy water to the fabric. Work in sections and scrub gently to avoid damaging the fabric.

Let It Soak: Allow the cleaning solution to sit on the fabric for about 10-15 minutes. This will help loosen dirt and grime.

Rinse Thoroughly: Use a hose with a spray nozzle to rinse off the soapy solution. Make sure all soap residues are removed to avoid attracting more dirt or leaving soapy marks. 

For Stubborn Stains: For tough stains, you can sprinkle baking soda on the stain and scrub gently with the soapy solution.

Drying: Allow the fabric to air dry completely in a sunny, well-ventilated area. Avoid using a dryer or exposing it to direct heat sources.


Outdoor Furniture Reupholstery 

If your outdoor furniture has become damaged, you might first think that buying new, replacement furniture is your best option. But have you considered reupholstering your existing furniture? 

By reupholstering your existing furniture, you can keep your existing furniture, save large sums of money and be more environmentally friendly in the process.


Contact Us 

At South West Upholstery, we can help you bring your outdoor furniture back to life with our outdoor upholstery service. 

Whether you’re looking to freshen up fabrics or repair your outdoor cushions, we are here to help. Simply contact us today and a member of our expert upholstery team will be happy to assist. 

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