A guide to outdoor fabrics

Phantom Screens / May 31, 2016

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Outdoor fabrics and beauty don’t have to come as separate packages. Fabrics covering couches, chairs, porch swings and love seats can be just as appealing as the furnishings in the interior of your home. However, outdoor fabrics are made to be more durable and withstand the extreme conditions of the great outdoors. They undergo a chemical treatment process during manufacturing that ensures they will be able to ward off stains and mildew. The fabric fibers are woven specially for both strength and durability. Whether the fabric is being used for patio cushions, window awnings or gazebo covers, they’re essential for an outdoor space. Here is everything you need to know when it comes to fabrics for your porch.

Different types

  • Canvas: This is one of the strongest and most heavy-duty fabrics you can find for outdoor living spaces. This material is used to make things like tents, backpacks, sails and tarps. It is usually made from cotton or linen or blends of these materials. However, because the canvas is made of natural fibers, this fabric is more prone to mold and mildew.
  • Acrylic-coated polyesters: Acrylic is used as a base for outdoor fabrics because of its durability and resistance to fading, mildew growth and wrinkling. In this type of material, the fabric threads are woven and dipped into an acrylic coating which gives it its color. This type of fabric is typically used to make boat and car protectors, but is also commonly used for patio umbrellas and awnings.
  • Solution-dyed acrylics: This is a fabric that is dyed before the yarn is created. Most fabrics begin as colorless, and then fibers are woven into the yarn and the yarn is dyed. This process causes the material to be water-resistant, soft and breathable, often used for cushions and pillows on your front or back deck.
  • Vinyl-coated synthetic fiber mesh: This type of fabric is also commonly known as PVC mesh or sling-able fabric, and is often used for outdoor chairs whose fabric – rather than the frame of the furniture – supports the user’s weight.

Knowing which fabric to buy

With the amount of outdoor fabrics available for purchase, it can be overwhelming to choose one for your deck. Here are some tips for buying the right kind and correct amount of material:

  • Measure: Be sure to measure the area or furniture piece to determine exactly how much fabric you’ll need. It’s better to buy extra, in case repairs are needed.
  • Take note of surrounding style: You’ll want both the color and type of fabric you choose to match with the rest of your deck’s design. If you have a more contemporary space, you might want to go with brighter cushions and pillows to add a visual “pop” to your patio. If you already have a colorful space, neutrals might be a better option.
  • Check the quality: Make sure the quality of the fabric is all weather-proof, fade resistant and will hold up to normal wear and tear. Read over reviews from other customers to get a good idea of the quality of what you’re buying.

Caring for outdoor fabrics

While outdoor materials can stand up to the wear and tear of being outside, they can always stand for a good cleaning every once in awhile. While acrylic does not support mildew growth, it may grow in dirt and residue that has not been removed from the fabric. This will keep them looking just as new and fresh as when you first got them.

First, read for any cleaning instructions that may be present on the tag of the material, or you could call the company where you purchased the item for expert advice. For a general cleansing, use a mild, soapy solution, along with lukewarm water. Hose down awnings and seat cushions periodically to remove any dirt buildup or stains.