Last updated on May 8th, 2023
If you don’t make it a habit to bring in your cushions when you’re not using them, you might have to deal with mold stains sooner or later. Mold and mildew are the bane of outdoor cushions, especially if you live in a humid area. They thrive in dark and damp places and make your cushions look musty unsightly, and impact your health. For this reason, it’s important to know how to get mold and mildew out of outdoor cushions.
There are several ways to remove mold from your patio furniture cushions. These include the use of organic cleaners like white vinegar or baking soda, pressure washing, bleaching, and so on. We will look at each method in greater detail.
You will also learn various ways to keep cushions dry and prevent mold and mildew growth. There’s a lot to cover in this guide. Let’s delve straight in!
Understanding Mold and Its Impact on Cushions
Just to be clear – mold DON’T feed on cushions. If this is the case, why then do your cushions become moldy?
Well, there are two main causes of mold – dampness and high humidity. When cushions don’t get enough air flow, they become damp and become a breeding ground for mold. Mold also feeds on the dirt, dust, and pollen that gets trapped within the fibers of the cushion fabric.
It doesn’t take long for mold to spread, especially if you don’t get rid of them on time.
So, the key to maintaining mold-free cushions is to keep your pads and cushions clean. This usually involves keeping a regular cleaning schedule where you clean outdoor cushions thoroughly at least once every six months.
However, if your cushions are already stained, you still have time to remove them before more damage is done.
Allowing molds to thrive doesn’t only make your cushions look unsightly but can also lead to many health problems, including migraines, allergic reactions, respiratory illnesses, and inflammation of the joints.
Understanding Mildew and Its Impact on Cushions
Like mold, mildew thrives anywhere there is moisture. So, you will commonly find them in bathrooms, toilets, sinks, pantries, outdoor wood furniture, etc. As living organisms, they can quickly multiply and spread.
On outdoor cushions, you may notice it after a brief period of consistent rainfall. It usually appears on the underside, that is warm, dark, and damp.
A very peculiar sign that your cushion has been infested with mildew is when you notice yellow or brown patches on the fabric. Some mildew spores can also have white or black color. Like mold, they eat into the cushion fabric, weakening the construction over time and affecting the quality. This is why you need to act fast whenever you notice it.
Besides degrading your cushions, mildew can also impact your health. It can cause respiratory problems such as sneezing, a running nose, among others.
Mold vs Mildew – What’s the difference?
Both mold and mildew thrive on damp surfaces. The major difference between them lies in their color, form, and texture.
Technically, mildew is mold, specifically, a certain species of mold, while mold, on the other hand, refers to all kinds of micro fungi.
Starting with texture, mold has a slimy or fuzzy texture, while mildew feels fluffy or powdery (powdery dots). In terms of color, mold tends to appear green or black, while mildew can be white, brown, yellow, or even gray.
As earlier indicated, both mold and mildew flourish on high moisture surfaces. As a result, you will find them underneath cushions.
Why Did My Patio Cushions Form Mildew?
The number one reason why cushions form mildew is moisture. If your cushions get perpetually rained on, then it’s likely to get mildew.
But water is not the only condition that encourages mold growth. Other conditions include air and a food source such as organic materials like cotton.
For the same reason, cushions located near the poolside will be more vulnerable to mildew. This is because the air in the area is usually more humid, and people lay over the cushions with wet bodies.
What are the signs that Your Cushions Have Mold or Mildew
If you see these signs, then there’s a huge chance your cushion is infested with mold or mildew.
As described above, mold and mildew are easy to spot on fabric from their color. These include colors such as green, black, brown, white, yellow, gray, or brown. Seeing any of these colors on your cushion is usually an indication that it has mold or mildew.
In addition to color, you can also spot mold and mildew by their texture. If you notice any velvety or fuzzy growth, then it’s likely mold. Likewise, if the growth is hairy, powdery, or fluffy, then it’s likely mildew.
If your cushions suddenly start smelling musty or earthy, especially after a period of consistent rain, then watch out; mold might be lurking around.
Unfortunately, many homeowners won’t notice these signs until they start feeling the impact of the mold on their health.
If you notice any of the signs above, follow any of the methods described in a later section to get rid of the mold or mildew stain.
How will mold or mildew damage outdoor cushions?
Outdoor cushions are exposed to the elements, so it’s not uncommon for them to get wet. Molds and mildew flourish in damp, warm, and low-light conditions, so they will likely grow on your cushion if it has moisture.
When mold is allowed to grow, it can cause serious damage to your cushions. Besides leaving a musty odor and discoloring the cushion fabric, it can eat into the foam material until it falls into pieces.
This is why it’s important to remove it as soon as you notice it. Allowing it to take root will only weaken or ruin your cushion.
In addition to the damage mold causes to outdoor cushions, it can also cause health problems.
How to get mold and mildew out of outdoor cushions?
Follow the methods below to get mold or mildew out of your outdoor cushion.
White vinegar is one of the best organic treatments for mold and mildew. And it’s readily available in the home. It doesn’t work every time, especially for severe mold stains. However, it’s great to try, especially if you don’t want to use bleach.
It can be used to both kill and prevent mold while also removing the musty odors. Follow the steps below:
- Get a spray bottle and pour distilled white vinegar into it.
- Spray it over the mold or mildew stain. Pay attention to all sides.
- Then, wait for at least an hour for the vinegar to penetrate the cushion.
- Next, soak a sponge or scrub brush in soapy water (mild soap or laundry detergent plus warm water).
- Scrub the affected area, then wipe the area with a clean damp cloth or paper towel.
- Finally, air out each cushion outdoors and make sure the weather is not humid.
This method can be more effective than vinegar, especially if the mildew has penetrated deeply. Of course, it only applies if you own a pressure washer – you can borrow or rent one.
However, you must be careful not to damage your cushion with all that pressure. Not all outdoor cushions should be washed with a pressure washer
- Follow the steps below to use a pressure washer correctly.
- Connect the washer to an external water source. Then choose the lowest setting for the PSI.
- Now, pour some cleaner into the soap reservoir of the machine and connect the soap tip. Again, if possible, choose the lowest pressure setting.
- Next, lay out the cushions on your deck, driveway, or any dry surface.
- Stand two feet away from the cushions and soak them with water only.
- Now, move the wand horizontally, sweeping from right to left, to apply the cleaner. As you do this, suds will be created.
- Then, allow the soap to sit for three minutes so it can soak into the fabric. You must not allow the soap to dry.
Now, scrub off the mold or mildew with a brush. Then, get rid of any soap residue by rinsing the cushions with water.
Finally, wring out each cushion and air dry it, ideally on a sunny day. Don’t use the cushions until they are completely dry.
For patio furniture cushions that are heavily infested by mold, you will need something with deeper cleaning action. Most people normally choose bleach.
Chlorine bleach can remove mildew very fast. However, it’s highly corrosive and so should be used in a small amount. You should also be worried about the toxicity and its potential to ruin your cushion foam and the fabric’s color.
So before using bleach, check the label of the cushion and make sure it’s bleach-safe.
Start by mixing a half cup of bleach with a gallon of water to dilute it. Use a spray bottle for this.
Now, spray the mildew stain with the mixture.
As earlier indicated, bleach acts very fast. So, without wasting any time, begin scrubbing off the area with a soft brush.
Rinse with a clean damp towel and allow to air dry.
Optional: Once you’ve removed the stain, you can wash the cushion with soap to get rid of the bleach smell. Then rinse with clean water and dry properly before using it again.
Note: Before using bleach, we advise trying vinegar and other methods.
It’s worth noting that even though bleach is a rigorous solution, it may not keep mildew away for a long time.
If you’re worried regular bleach will ruin your cushion fabric, you can try oxygen bleach.
Oxygen bleach doesn’t contain harsh chemicals and is eco-friendly. Unlike chlorine bleach, it’s non-corrosive and thus gentler on your fabric. It usually comes as a washing powder and has antifungal properties.
It gives off oxygen ions, which is why it’s called oxygen bleach or oxy bleach.
To use oxygen bleach, pour a quarter scoop of the powder into 2 cups of warm water. Leave it for ten minutes; then wipe, and air dry the cushions to prevent future occurrence.
Baking soda might not be as strong as chlorine bleach, but it’s safe to use and non-hazardous. It can help to remove light mold and mildew stains.
Also, it’s cheap and readily available.
The process of using baking soda is very simple. Just create a paste from water and baking soda. Then apply it to the cushion. Leave it for a few minutes, then scrub gently and wipe.
To increase the effectiveness of the paste, you can also add vinegar.
Luckily, baking soda is non-toxic to kids and pets.
Salt with Lemon Juice
You can mix lemon juice and salt to create an organic mold and mildew-busting solution. This is another method we recommend if you don’t want to use any harsh chemicals.
Just mix salt and lemon just to create a paste. Then apply it to the mildew-infested area using a toothbrush or some other soft-bristled brush. Gently scrub the stain away and then leave it to dry under the sun. Try wiping out any residue with a damp sponge.
Mold and Mildew Cleaner
If you don’t want to prepare your own home cleaner, then you can purchase a commercial cleaner. There are many of these in the market, and they typically come in spray form.
They are usually very easy to use, safe for the environment, and more potent than homemade cleaners. They can penetrate deeply into cushions and remove the deepest stains, tackling the fungus from the root.
This ensures the mold doesn’t reappear after a few weeks.
Just like the homemade solution, we also have commercial organic cleaners that do not contain bleach and those that have bleach. Before choosing any product, make sure it’s something that won’t damage your cushion fabric.
Follow the instructions on the product to apply it properly.
Borax Cleaning Solution
You can also use borax to remove mold stains without disinfecting your cushions. It doesn’t only remove mold and mildew; it also neutralizes the bad smell.
In case you don’t know, borax is a mineral salt, also known as sodium borate. It is commonly featured in cleaning products and is used heavily in laundry.
However, borax is toxic and should be used with care. It can be very harmful to kids and pets, especially when ingested.
Here are the steps for using borax:
Place the cushions on a deck or any clean, leveled surface
Hose down with water to soak them.
Now, pour cold water into a bucket. To this, add one cup of borax and a bit of mild soap. Stir to mix well.
Next, apply the solution to the mold stain using a hard-bristled brush. Make sure you wear gloves.
Scrub hard, then leave it for five minutes.
Now rinse out the cleaning solution using a garden hose. Set it to the highest pressure.
Press and wring out the cushion to remove excess water. Then air dry them in a sunny place.
How do you remove black mold stains from outdoor cushions?
Bleach is commonly used to remove black mold stains from outdoor cushions. But make sure the cushion you want to bleach is actually bleachable. This is because bleach can cause discoloration of some cushion fabrics. So, endeavor to check the manufacturer’s recommendations on the cushion, or you can spot test out a small area of the fabric, such as the underside.
To clean black mold with bleach, follow the instructions already described above. Mix bleach and water and spray it on the affected area. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes (4-6 minutes), then rinse with water. If your cushions come with covers, remove them and spot treat before washing them. To be on the safe side, always check the laundry tag on each product.
Once you’re done bleaching the fabric cushions, you can treat them with vinegar to stop the mold from coming back.
7 Ways to prevent mildew on outdoor cushions
Follow the tips below to keep mildew away from your patio furniture cushions.
Keep cushions in an Airy Place
Molds grow in an area with moisture. So to keep them out, you have them maintain proper airflow wherever you place your outdoor furniture cushions.
Also, exposing the cushions to sunlight will help keep them dry. Molds bloom in dark places. So, make sure the cushions are set in a proper position, where adequate sunlight can reach them.
This doesn’t mean you should lay out the cushions in direct sunlight. The simmering heat can damage the foam material. Instead, let the cushions be placed under a shade to reduce the heat in a well ventilated area. And when the weather outside becomes too cold, it’s best to bring the cushions indoors.
Keep Cushions Indoors During Rain
Moisture is the main reason why mold and mildew take root on outdoor cushions. So, the best preventive measure is to clean outdoor cushions and keep them dry. To do this, you have to protect them from rain and snow.
Always be on the lookout for your local weather forecast. And take the cushions inside whenever you expect a downpour or high humid weather. The also applies to the winter seasons. It’s best to store cushions indoors throughout the season and bring them out again when the weather is dry.
Wherever you choose to store the cushions, make sure it’s somewhere with low humidity that gets a lot of ventilation. Deck boxes are a great example of good storage.
Wash Cushions Regularly
As earlier indicated, cleaning can also help to prevent the spread of mold and mildew. When cleaning is done regularly, it stops mildew in its track, so it doesn’t penetrate deeper into the cushions.
For lightly stained cushions, you can use dish soap and water. Feel free to apply any of the methods above.
Besides your normal regular cleaning, we also recommend spraying the cushions with vinegar to prevent the mold from coming back.
Allow Cushions to Dry Completely
When your cushions get wet or if you wash them, dry them out in the sun before putting them to use again. The heat from the sun will eliminate fungi and bacteria hanging on the cushion fabric.
Never store cushions while they are still wet, or else mold will grow on them while in storage.
Clean Mold Immediately You Notice It
Clean outdoor cushions with mold as soon as you notice it. This helps to prevent it from spreading and restore your cushions before it’s too late.
Mold and mildew grow really fast. Treating it early will stop them from taking hold of your cushions and causing further damage. Thus, the earlier you act, the better for you!
Sometimes, you don’t even need to wait till you notice a mold stain. It’s best to keep a regular cleaning schedule. This way, you won’t give the molds any chance to penetrate your cushions. We recommend cleaning the cushions at least twice every year.
Spraying with vinegar every few weeks will also help to keep mold at bay.
In addition to your cleaning appointments, wipe the cushions immediately whenever there’s a liquid spill, and allow them to air dry. In the case of accidental rain, dry the cushions completely before using them.
Invest in Cushion Covers
If you don’t want to bring your cushions inside, then investing in outdoor furniture cushion covers would make perfect sense. For people living in humid areas, this can be very helpful in keeping the cushions dry and preventing mold and mildew.
Make sure to choose cushions that are waterproof. If your existing covers are infested with mold, replace each one with a new cushion cover that is mold resistant. Such covers usually don’t require frequent cleaning.
Waterproof the Cushions
Many outdoor cushions are usually water-resistant, which means they can take a little shower from time to time. But this is not always enough. You can add an extra layer of protection by covering the cushions, or you can waterproof them.
Waterproofing helps to seal the cushion fabric and protect it from mildew. You will need a good waterproof spray for this.
FAQs – How to remove mold and mildew from outdoor cushions
Does mildew turn into mold
Yes, mildew can turn into mold. In fact, mold stems from mildew and can grow into a fully formed fungus if allowed to thrive. Unfortunately, mold will continue to grow in damp areas. This is why it’s extremely important to keep your cushions dry.
Can you leave patio cushions outside in winter?
Yes, you can, but it’s usually better to take the cushions inside the house. If you do decide to leave them outside all winter, make sure you cover them. Invest in durable waterproof, mildew-resistant outdoor covers.
What kills mildew on outdoor fabric?
Usually, a little bleach can remove the toughest mildew stain. However, bleach is toxic and must be used with care. A safer and more eco-friendly option is white vinegar, but it may not always work.
How do you get green algae off outdoor cushions?
Removing mildew and green algae from outdoor furniture cushions is fairly straightforward. Start by cleaning the stain with soapy water (add a teaspoon of dish soap to three cups of warm water). If you don’t want to use soapy water, you can apply white vinegar to the affected area. Add the vinegar solution to a spray bottle and spray it on the stain. Then scrub it out with a sponge.
Does vinegar remove mildew?
Yes, vinegar is a cheap, safe, and natural mildew remover. Specifically, white vinegar contains about 5-8% acetic acid and has antibacterial, antifungal, and disinfecting properties. Studies show that it can kill over 80% of mold species, including mildew and black mold. The usual way to use it is to spray it on the mildew region and leave it to penetrate for an hour; then, use a sponge or towel to wipe it.
What is the difference between mildew and mold?
One of the easiest ways to distinguish between mold and mildew is their color. While mold typically appears dark (black) or greenish, mildew is usually whitish, yellowish, or gray in color.
Can I leave vinegar on mold overnight?
Yes, you can, but you don’t have to wait that long. Normally, when you spray vinegar on a surface, it will take a little time to penetrate and break the mold. This usually takes about 1-2 hours or more, depending on the severity of the stain. After waiting, you can scrub the mold off and wipe down the area.
Should I Use Bleach To Clean Up Mold?
Bleach is a great way to disinfect mold-stained patio furniture cushions. However, it is not the safest substance to work with, and it can ruin the color of your cushion fabric. Our recommendation is to use bleach occasionally or when you need to remove a stubborn mold stain. Also, make sure the fabric is bleachable to avoid any discoloration. Wear your gloves when working with bleach.
Does OxiClean work on outdoor cushions?
Yes, OxiClean works on outdoor cushions. It is commonly used to remove tough stains and bad odor so as to give patio cushions and other mesh furniture a new look. These stains could be from fruits, bird droppings, blood, sap, etc. OxiClean works by emulsifying the stains, making it easier to clean off. The main ingredients include polymers, surfactants, sodium carbonate, and sodium percarbonate.
Getting rid of mold and mildew doesn’t have to be a hassle. With the methods described above and a bit of elbow grease, you should get your cushions looking normal again.
Ultimately, regular care and cleaning is the surest way to keep mold off your furniture and outdoor space. So, pay attention to the preventive measures discussed above.
Let us know if you have any more questions about removing mold and mildew on patio cushions. Till then, happy cleaning.