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Buying and Caring Guide for Outdoor Fabrics

by Sep 27, 2020Fabrics0 comments

Reupholstering your patio furniture or creating an easy, no-sew patio pillow requires fabric specifically made for outdoor use. So before you check out all the fabrics you’ve seen online or pick-up a roll of material you fell in love with, at first sight, do some research and figure out what your project actually requires.

While those fabrics and prints may make your patio look like something straight out of Pinterest, the wrong material may not allow you to enjoy this scene for more than a few months. Here are tips for choosing the right outdoor fabric for your project, and a guide to caring for them to make them last.

Tips for Buying Outdoor Fabric

1. Assess Your Skills

Before starting your project, assess your sewing or upholstery-making skills. If you can follow sewing patterns marked as “simple” or “easy” and have the patience and determination, it’s highly likely that you can make new cushions, pads, or pillows for your outdoor furniture.

So if you have the confidence or are much inspired, go for it. To make sure you don’t get too overwhelmed and end up giving up on your project, use a pattern or instruction, and go easy on the accessories and embellishments.

2. Outdoor Fabric 101

When choosing fabric for upholstery, the general rule is to find one that can hold up to the stress of being sat upon. Look for these following terms when searching in-store or online:

  • Indoor/outdoor fabric
  • All-weather fabric
  • Home decorating fabric
  • Waterproof or weather-resistant fabric

Other options include vinyl or oilcloth, which is commonly used for tablecloths and tote bags.

3. Consider Weave and Dye

Fabrics are colored by weaving fibers into yarn and then dyeing and weaving them into the fabric. Woven acrylic fabrics fade more slowly than printed acrylic or polyester print fabrics.

Solution-Dyed Acrylic

With this type of fabric, the fibers are dyed before the yarn is made. The fibers are made from mixing liquid acrylic and color. The colored fibers are then spun into a yarn saturated with color. These fabrics are made to be colorfast after exposure to the elements and wear and tear. They are usually soft, breathable, water-resistant, quick-drying, and are not prone to molds. A word of caution, though: Solution-dyed acrylic should not be dry cleaned nor tumbled through a clothes dryer.

Printed Acrylic or Polyester

Dyes that are resistant to fade and weather are used to screen-print polyester or acrylic fabric. During the final stage of factory production, a water-repellent guard is applied to the fabric for added protection. Polyester and acrylic fabric are synthetic fabrics that are strong, durable, and resistant to wrinkling, fading, shrinking, mold, and mildew.

4. Water and Mildew Resistance

Water and Mildew Resistance
Water and mildew resistance is essential for outdoor fabrics. Outdoor fabrics should have a protective coating to protect cushions or pillows from water, moisture, mold, and mildew. Most outdoor fabrics have water repellent finish.

5. Cording and Strapping

Outdoor chairs with metal frames and thin, tubular cording or wider strapping are popular nowadays, especially in midcentury modern homes. While you can have someone re-strap or weave them, you can also do it yourself with straightforward wrapping pattern instructions that you can find online. The advantage of ordering replacement cording is that it allows you to choose from a wide selection of colors.

6. Cleaning and Maintenance

Using the wrong products to clean your outdoor fabrics can ruin that beautiful piece of furniture you’ve invested in, but knowing the fabric cleanability code will help you take good care of your upholstered furniture.
Since 1969, fabrics have carried a cleanability code. The codes will help you determine the best and safest way to clean your outdoor fabrics.

Here’s what the codes stand for:

Code “W”

This code is displayed on fabrics that require water-based cleaning agents only. The best way to clean these fabric types is by spot cleaning them using foam exclusively from water-based cleaners or non-solvent cleaning products. It is best to apply foam using a soft brush in a circular motion, and vacuum when dry to avoid damaging the fabric when cleaning it.

Code “S”

Code “S” fabrics must be cleaned using a mild water-free cleaning solvent or dry cleaning product. When washing Code “S” fabrics with these cleaning products, see to it that your room is well-ventilated and that there are no open flames that may come from fireplaces, candles, or cigarette lighters. If you’re worried about these cleaning products’ hazards, choose fabrics that don’t use this cleaning method.

Code “W-S”

On fabrics bearing Code “W-S,” water or solvent-based cleaning products like a mild solvent, upholstery shampoo, or foam from a mild detergent should be used.

Code “X”

Code “X” fabrics should only be cleaned by vacuuming or gently brushing and never using any cleaning agents like water or solvent-based products may cause the fabric surface pile to stain, shrink, or distort.

7. Fading

With constant exposure to sunlight, most fabrics will fade over time. When choosing an outdoor fabric, consider these colors and patterns: dark colors like black and navy blue fade fast, and the same goes for bright and vibrant colors.

Outdoor fabric is made to resist fading. However, it would be best if you cover or store it away from the intense rays of the sun to prevent it from fading fast. Just like humans can still get a sunburn during a cloudy day, cushions and pillows are also prone to fading even on overcast days.

8. Marine-Grade Fabric

A seat cushion on a boat must withstand sun, wind, saltwater, and whatever elements come at it— lots of wear and tear. For this reason, marine-grade fabrics were invented. These fabrics are made with a tighter weave and heavier finishing process than common outdoor fabrics. Marine-grade fabric is also stiffer and made to endure the roughest weather and conditions, so it’s the recommended material for boat upholstery, canopies, and outdoor covers.

Caring for Outdoor Fabrics

Caring for Outdoor Fabrics

Cleaning and maintaining outdoor fabric does not require intensive labor. You do not need to clean them that often, and like with most furniture, giving them a little TLC goes a long way.

One of the easiest and simplest things you can do to keep your outdoor fabrics looking good for long is to cover them up when not in use. You may also store them away in a safe, dry place if you live in an area with long cold winters and won’t be using them for several months.

While outdoor fabrics covering your slings, chairs, and pillows are usually resistant to weather and mildew, occasionally washing them will help keep them looking their best. You can refer to your manufacturer’s instructions for care, but here are some general caring and maintenance guidelines:

  • Always check the cleanability code before using any cleaning products.
  • Clean the spills immediately as they happen.
  • Machine-wash your outdoor fabrics using the gentle cycle.
  • Consider adding bleach for white items.
  • Dry them outdoors instead of in dryers.
  • When drying hammocks and chair covers, stretch back over the frame to preserve shape and prevent shrinkage.
  • During wintertime, consider storing fabric furniture indoors.

The outdoor fabric you choose for your outdoor furniture collection will make a massive difference in how long the material will last. Besides knowing the factors to consider before buying an outdoor fabric, it would also be of great help to be aware of the proper maintenance and care for these types of fabric.

After knowing all these, you are now ready to start on your project. Spandex Warehouse has a wide selection of outdoor fabrics from their upholstery fabric line. Head on to their website and find the best outdoor fabric for your project.