How to Clean Outdoor Cushions with Vinegar

Last updated on January 20th, 2022

Outdoor spaces look great when you have some clean outdoor cushions around. Whether it is a fancy patio in your backyard or a beautiful garden-cum-plants-paradise, dirt always finds a way to intrude in that space, and into your furniture. To help you keep that space fresh in an eco-friendly manner, let’s look at how to clean outdoor cushions with vinegar.

For machine wash, add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar directly to the washing machine’s fabric softener dispenser – and wash with cold water on a gentle cycle. Alternatively, put the vinegar in a spray bottle and use it as a pretreating agent. Spray it directly on the stained areas and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Then wash the cushions by machine or hand, and air dry.

The distilled white vinegar is a non-toxic and environmentally friendly acid. It is known for its effectiveness in removing a wide variety of stains from fabric naturally.

People frequently use distilled white vinegar for many purposes around the house. In this guide, we focus on how to clean outdoor cushions with vinegar.

Why use vinegar to clean outdoor cushions

Unless you resort to machine wash, you are likely to clean your outdoor cushions right outside the house.

Cleaning using chemicals with non-biodegradable qualities can impact the surrounding flora and fauna negatively. You don’t want some chemical to damage your lawn or the surrounding vegetation now, do you?

That is your first consideration.

Secondly, outdoor cushions may be designed to be resistant to various stains, including molds and mildew, but they are just not immune to the staining. They frequently get dirt on them. If this is left to stay on long enough, it can often form a great petri dish for molds and mildew.

Vinegar comes in as an ideal solution to both problems.

  1. It is ecologically friendly as it is made up of an organic compound (acetic acid with the chemical formula CH₃COOH) and water.
  2. Vinegar is highly effective in removing stains, especially molds and mildew from fabric such as outdoor cushion

In this case, we are referring to nothing other than the regular white distilled vinegar. It typically has a five percent acidity – which is quite effective as it is.

There is also the “cleaning vinegar” sold in different shops. This is a slightly stronger option boasting a greater acidity of six percent.

Both options are almost equally effective against mold and mildew, and the majority of the stains we encounter on outdoor cushions.

How effective is vinegar in cleaning outdoor cushions?

Both generic brands and name brands of vinegar have the same effectiveness in removing stains from outdoor cushions.

For any kind of outdoor cushion, you can trust vinegar to kill up to 82% of mold and mildew, thanks to its acidic property. The vinegar also helps prevent further outbreaks of mold on your outdoor cushions and furniture.

This acidic property of the vinegar makes it also a good natural cleaner against lots of other common stains.

As an acid, vinegar removes stains and cleans your outdoor cushion fabric by adding a chemical charge to the molecules of that stain. The newly charged molecules are then attracted to the positive and negative charges in water – much like magnets.

This way, stain molecules detach themselves from the fabric into the water where you can wash them away.

How to clean outdoor cushions with vinegar

Using vinegar to clean your outdoor cushions will take different approaches depending on whether you have removable cushion covers or not. Read the care label on the cushion seams to see if the manufacturer has recommended machine wash.

Removable cushion covers can be washed separately in the washing machine. Non-removable ones, on the other hand, can only be washed by hand.

Method 1: Machine wash – for cushions with no visible stains

If your cushion covers are removable, then you are in luck. Start by removing dust and loose dirt either by use of hands or using a vacuum cleaner.

For smaller cushions that can fit inside your washing machine, check if they are suitable for machine washing. If so, put them in the washing machine. This can save you the trouble of scrubbing. Not to mention that you’ll be sure the cushions are thoroughly washed inside out.

How to clean outdoor cushions with vinegar

For outdoor cushions that are too large for your washing machine, unzip the covers and separate them from the cushions. Put the cushions aside and toss the covers into the washing machine.

Add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to the washing machine’s fabric softener dispenser.

Set the machine to the recommended gentle cycle and wash with cold water.

Once the cycle is complete, air dry the cover and/or cushions before placing them back on their respective furniture.

Method 2: Pretreating and wash – for stubborn stains

Stubborn stains will require special treatment even if you are going to clean them by machine wash. Here, we will look at different pretreatment methods to use for the select few common types of stains.

  1. Dirt, grease, and other general stubborn stains

Like other homemade solutions such as baking soda and mild detergent, vinegar is quite effective in pretreating any of these stains.

Step 1: Prepare your homemade vinegar cleaning solution. Create a homemade cleaning solution by mixing one cup of vinegar and 1/4 cup of mild detergent with a gallon of warm water. After mixing well, empty the solution into a spray bottle for even distribution.

Step 2: Dust off the cushions to remove any debris that may prolong cleaning time. You can use a soft-bristled brush for this purpose or a vacuum if you have one.

Step 3: Spray the vinegar solution on all sides of the outdoor furniture, focusing more on the stained areas. With a soft brush, work the solution into the fabric and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. For more pronounced, stubborn stains, you may consider allowing more time – up to 30 minutes – for the solution to break down the dirt.

Step 4: Wipe the soiled areas of the outdoor cushions with a cellulose sponge and allow the cushions to sit for another 15 minutes. Then thoroughly rinse the cushions with a garden hose to remove all remaining dirt and the cleaning solution.

Step 5: Air dry the cushions by placing them on the ground or leaning them against a wall or a suitable object. Ensure the cushions are completely dry before replacing them.

2. Bird poop

If you have beautiful trees in your home, you can expect equally beautiful birds to visit from time to time. While these feathered friends can always be a delighting sight to watch, the excrement that they occasionally leave behind is not as pleasant. Much less so when it is left on your cushion.

To remove the bird poop from your furniture, gently scrape off the bulk of it with a straight edge or plastic tool such as a ruler.

Spray the stain with the vinegar solution ({a} above) generously and scrub with a soft brush until the stain comes off. If the stain still remains, spray more of the vinegar solution and repeat the scrubbing until it all comes off.

Then wash and rinse the whole cushion before air drying it.

3. Food stains

If some of your delicious snacks decide to stain your outdoor cushion, it should be easy to get rid of the stain.

Some food stains can be quite greasy and stubborn. To prevent them from soiling the fabric, apply generous amounts of salt on them, covering them completely.

Leave the salt there for about 10 minutes for the crystals to absorb the greases.

Brush off the salt with a dry brush. Spray the soiled spot with the vinegar solution, and clean with warm water and soap. Then leave to air dry.

4. Tree sap

If you have big trees in your garden or home, tree sap can sometimes drop on your outdoor cushions. This can be stubborn and sticky, and the longer it stays on the fabric harder it gets.

To effectively remove tree sap from your cushions, apply a small amount of hand sanitizer directly to the tree sap affected area. Be sure to use a hand sanitizer with a high percentage of alcohol for better results.

Gently rub the hand sanitizer into the fabric with a small brush such as a toothbrush. Leave it there for approximately 5 minutes to work.

After 5 minutes, wipe the whole thing clean with water and a towel or sponge.

Repeat this process if the stain is still remaining. Spray the cushion with the vinegar solution and wash. Then air-dry the cushion.

Method 3: Removing molds and mildew

If your cushions have been damp for some time, they are likely covered in mold. Fortunately, you have little to worry about if you have vinegar.

Step 1: Add regular white distilled vinegar or cleaning vinegar (undiluted) to a spray bottle and spray it on the mold.

Step 2: Let the cushion sit with the vinegar for a minimum of 1 hour before wiping and washing away the mold.

Step 3: Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with two cups of warm water. Put the solution in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray this solution onto the mold and scrub with a soft brush or scouring sponge.

Step 4: Rinse thoroughly with warm water. Then hose down the cushions to remove every trace of the detergent and vinegar before allowing them to air dry.

Does vinegar kill mildew?

The regular white distilled vinegar is a renowned mold and mildew killer. It is very effective against mold and mildew because of its acidic property that kills molds and mildew and prevents them from reemerging.

The mild acid in vinegar kills up to 82 percent of molds and mildew while helping to prevent future occurrences of the same.

This makes vinegar better than synthetic bleaches in removing molds and mildew. A synthetic bleaching agent kills only surface mold. This means you are to expect reemergence of mold stains the mold and mildew if you clean them with synthetic bleach.

To remove mold and mildew with vinegar, you can fill a spray bottle with the vinegar and spray it generously on the affected areas. Alternatively, you could soak a sponge in full-strength vinegar and apply it on the areas stained with mildew.

Let the vinegar sit on the affected fabric for a few hours to work on the stains before scrubbing it out with a soft brush or sponge.

The Do’s and Don’ts of cleaning outdoor cushions with vinegar

This section looks at those simple rules that you need to follow when using vinegar to clean outdoor cushions.

The dos

  1. Do wear long rubber gloves when cleaning outdoor cushions with vinegar to prevent any skin irritation.
  2. Do wear a protective face mask when dusting off molds from your outdoor cushions before pretreating and washing with vinegar.
  3. Do read the cleaning guide provided by the manufacturer before cleaning your outdoor cushions with vinegar.

The don’ts

  1. Don’t ingest undiluted vinegar, as the concentrated acidity could harm your mouth and digestive system.


Maintaining your outdoor cushions does not have to be complicated. However, it does require an understanding of how to use the different cleaning products available to care for your specific types of fabric and keep them clean regularly.

With the tips in this guide, cleaning your outdoor cushions with vinegar and any cleaning product should be a walk in the park.

Please let us know in the comments section if there is something we left out.

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