How Do You Clean Sunbrella Outdoor Cushions?

Sunbrella fabrics are a popular choice for outdoor cushions. They boast legendary durability and a wide array of characteristics that make them suitable for use outdoors. The fabrics come in rich color palates that are fade-resistant, are mold & mildew resistant, 100% waterproof, and chlorine safe. However, you’ll want to keep them clean to retain their aesthetic appeal for longer and give you the most bang for your bucks. So then, how do you clean Sunbrella outdoor cushions?

Cleaning Sunbrella cushions is relatively easy. It involves brushing off loose dirt from time to time for regular maintenance, spot cleaning occasional spills and dirt with soap and water as soon as they occur, and washing the cushions with a solution of 1 cup of bleach and ¼ cup mild soap per gallon of water for more thorough cleaning and stain removal.

Why clean Sunbrella outdoor cushions?

Sunbrella outdoor cushions are designed with the outdoor space in mind. They are meant to withstand weather elements. The exposure and normal use, however, eventually result in dirt, grime, and stains.

Like any household furniture and fabric, the accumulated dust, dirt, and stains from daily activity impact the quality of Sunbrella outdoor cushions. If these are left to stay on the cushions, they will cause the fabric to deteriorate quickly.

Although the Sunbrella outdoor upholstery fabric is resistant to mildew, accumulated surface dirt and moisture provide conditions that allow spores responsible for mold and mildew to thrive.

A little regular, light maintenance will go a long way in ensuring your Sunbrella outdoor cushions remain as good as new for many years.

This brings us to our next logical question – how do you clean Sunbrella outdoor cushions?

Methods of cleaning Sunbrella outdoor cushions

There is a lot of different ways to clean your Sunbrella cushion. Here, I’m going to give the tried and true methods that I use regularly at home. These are based on the manufacturer’s recommendations as well as the degree of dirt or type of stain.

While the Sunbrella cushions are quite resilient, they still have to be treated with care when it comes to cleaning. The wrong cleaning tools or methods can damage the special fabric.

Method 1: Dry cleaning for daily maintenance  

  1. Brush dirt off the Sunbrella fabric regularly

Use a dry brush with soft bristles to remove dirt from your cushions before the dirt becomes embedded. Do not use a hard-bristled brush as this might abrade the fabric.

You cannot keep your outdoor cushions from getting dirty. But brushing loose dirt from the surface from time to time or whenever you notice it can limit how dirty they become.

  1. Blot at liquid spills gently with a clean, dry cloth as soon as they occur

The fabric manufacturer stresses the need to avoid rubbing the spilled liquid on the surface. Running is likely to force the spilled liquid deeper into the fibers, which you don’t want.

In case of oil-based spills, apply corn starch first (an absorbent), then remove with a straight edge.

Notice the emphasis on wipe up spills as soon as possible. This will help limit staining. Allowing a spilled substance to sit on the fabric for longer increases its chances of getting ingrained in the fibers.

Method 2: Cleaning dirt and grime

For dirt that is deeply ingrained in the Sunbrella fabric, the dry cleaning methods we have discussed above would be less effective in cleaning the cushions. This requires a more thorough approach.

Step 1: Prepare a solution of 1 cup of bleach and ¼ cup mild soap per gallon of lukewarm water. Personally, I use a mild dishwashing or laundry detergent depending on what I have ready. You too can use either categories of detergent of your preference.

It is recommended that you use lukewarm water in preparing this cleaning solution even though I usually see cold water – in a large bucket – get the job done. Be sure to stir the mixture until the soap dissolves completely before using it.

Step 2: Brush loose dirt off the surface of the cushion

Step 3: Spray the cleaning solution of water and mild soap on the entire cushion and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes. This allows the cleaning solution to soak into the fabric and loosen the dirt.

Step 4: Use a sponge or bristle brush to clean the cushion. Dunk it in the cleaning solution and scrub the entire surface of the cushion with it, putting more emphasis on the particularly stained areas.

Keep dipping the sponge or soft brush in the solution to keep it soaked with the mixture throughout your cleaning. Carefully and thoroughly work the nooks and crannies around the cushion seams to dislodge any dirt hiding there.

Step 5: Let it sit for a further 5 minutes to allow the solution and bleach to work the fabric and loosen any stubborn stains.

Step 6: Rinse the cushion with fresh, clean water for a final wash. A new bucket of fresh water or your water hose will do. Ensure you rinse thoroughly to remove the cleaning detergent entirely. Pay more attention to the zipper area while rinsing since cleaning detergent residue can damage this area in the long run.

Step 7: Air dry the cushion. Consider tipping the wet cushion on its side, preferably with the zipper on the bottom and unzipped. Positioning the cushion this way for air drying allows it to drain better. Unzipping also ensures that all water drains more easily.

You may want to set you washed cushions out in direct sunlight to speed up the drying process.

Method 3: Removing stains and mildew

We’ve mentioned that Sunbrella is resistant to mold or mildew. That’s true. However, dirt that hangs around the surface often becomes imbedded in the fabric. This, together with moisture, creates an excellent growth medium for mold and mildew. Hence, the need to get rid of it as soon as possible.

Step 1: Prepare a solution of 1 cup of bleach and ¼ cup mild soap per gallon of water. Put the solution in a spray bottle and spray it onto the entire stained area. Allow it time to soak into the fabric.

After about 15 minutes, clean the entire surface area with a clean towel, sponge, or very soft bristle brush. If the stain is still there, reapply the cleaning solution and let it sit in the fabric, and soak a little longer before scrubbing it again. Rinse the surface thoroughly to remove all soap residue.

For oily stains, sprinkle a suitable absorbent such as corn starch first, before spot cleaning. Always let the corn starch sit on the oil-stained area for at least 10 minutes to be able to perform its work before you proceed with the cleaning.

To remove the dried corn starch, use something like a ruler or any suitable a straight-edge to scrape it away.

Step 2: Blot at the just cleaned area to soak up excess moisture. Use a dry fresh towel or sponge. Dab it at the spot, letting it soak up as much excess moisture as it can. You can also use a wet vacuum for this purpose if you have one. Then allow to air dry.

For mildew…

Create a solution of 1 cup bleach, ¼ cup soap, and a gallon of lukewarm water in a bucket. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray the entire fabric with it.

While you should focus on the affected area, it is recommended that you apply the solution to the entire surface of the cushion to avoid forming a light stain or water ring.

As with cleaning other stains, let the solution soak the fabric for about 15 minutes. Use a sponge, towel of soft-bristled brush to wipe the surface, thoroughly working the affected area to remove all the mold or mildew stains.

Rinse the cushion meticulously with fresh water and allow to air dry.

Can you use Oxiclean on Sunbrella fabric?

While OxiClean products are popular across various households, Glen Raven which manufactures Sunbrella fabrics recommends only 303® Multi-Surface Cleaner, Dawn®, or Resolve® for cleaning Sunbrella outdoor cushions.

It, therefore, helps to check for a manufacturer’s care label for the instructions provided before you proceed to clean the cushions. Ideally, you want to stay within these guidelines, lest you risk forfeiting your warranty.

Can I put Sunbrella fabric in the washing machine?

You can put some removable casings in the washing machine for cleaning. Since cushion construction may vary, be sure to consult your furniture manufacturer before removing the casing though.

Locate the zippers on your cushions. Unzip them and separate the casings from the cushions. Put the cushions aside and zip up the empty casings before machine washing.

It is important that you close all zippers first before you tuck the casings into the washing machine. Add normal amounts of mild laundry detergent. Set the machine on the delicate cycle, and wash with cold water.

In case the fabric has severe mold and/or mildew, add a cupful of bleach along with the mild laundry detergent. Once the cycle is complete, allow the fabric to air dry before replacing the casings.

How do you care for Sunbrella patio cushions? – Other methods

In addition to regular cleaning, there are a few extra ways to care for your Sunbrella outside cushions to retain their superior aesthetics for longer.

For starters, Sunbrella usually has proprietary fluorocarbon water and stain repellent when it leaves the factory. This is designed to last many years. Once you start deep cleaning your Sunbrella cushions, however, you are advised to re-treat the cushions with 303® Fabric Guard™.

Step 1: Allow the cushions to dry completely after deep cleaning

Step 2: Apply a thin, even coat of the Fabric Guard in a well-ventilated area. Ensure you read carefully and follow the instructions on the label.

Step 3: Allow the 303 fabric guard coat to dry completely, then repeat the application. Allow it to dry.

Store your Sunbrella cushions away in a sheltered place during off-seasons when you do not use them outside. This will save you the trouble of having to care for them all year long and help prolong their life.

Do’s and Don’ts while cleaning Sunbrella outdoor cushions?

As with many areas of life, there are a few house rules for the care and maintenance of your outdoor cushions.

The Do’s

  • Do protect your eyes as well as other nearby fabrics when cleaning the cushions with bleach.
  • Clean the entire surface area of the cushion and not just the stained spot to avoid the appearance of unsightly rings in your Sunbrella fabric,
  • Do start every deep cleaning event by vacuuming or brushing dust or dirt off the cushion fabric before using a cleaning product.
  • Do use the recommended amount of soap each time you clean your Sunbrella cushions. Too much soap would be hard to wash off and the soap residue can damage the fabric.

The Don’ts

  • Do not use a machine washer or dryer on your cushions
  • Do not use a steamer or dry iron set to steam on your Sunbrella cushions.
  • Do not replace the cushions before they are completely dry – this can promote the growth of mold and mildew on the furniture.

Conclusion

As you can see, cleaning, and generally caring for your Sunbrella outdoor cushions is such a simple, straight forward task.

One thing to keep in mind here, the sooner you clean stains and spills off the fabric (based on when they occur) the easier they usually are to remove.

Remember – you can always make this guide your friend, to refer to it for clarity each time you are not sure about something.

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