How to Clean Outdoor Cushions

Written by Neighbor Editorial Team | @neighboroutdoor | Opens in a new window. |

From treating stains to removing mold & mildew, here's how to keep your outdoor cushions looking good for the long haul.

How to Clean Outdoor Cushions

If your idea of a weekend well-spent includes lounging with friends and family in the comfort of your outdoor space, it's important to know how to clean and care for your outdoor cushions. Cleaning your outdoor cushions keeps them new and fresh and is easy to do with the right tools, techniques, and cleaning supplies. 

If you can, invest in a custom patio furniture cover to keep your cushions safe from the elements (namely sun, rain, dust, bird droppings, and fallen leaves). Then, learn to treat stains and spills as they happen. Depending on the material and design of your cushions, you might even be able to toss them right in the washing machine! 

Ready to enjoy your newly decorated outdoor space without the stress of getting your furniture dirty and stained? Us too! Here's everything you need to know about how to clean your outdoor cushions. 

How outdoor cushions get dirty

Melting ice cream, muddy paws, and red wine: Some of the best things about summertime are also the messiest. Also, it's the outdoors. Anything can happen in nature. You're probably expecting rain, sun, snow, grime, dirt, and dust to mess with your furniture, but things like debris from your neighbor's tree, mold and mildew, and bird droppings can cause just as many problems when it comes to keeping your cushions clean. While you can't control Mother Nature, to keep cushions looking as new as the day you bought them, you can get to know your fabric, learn how to treat stains as they happen, and have a cleaning kit ready. No matter where you live, you can keep your cushions in good shape year-round. The best outdoor cushions are water-resistant and machine-washable, but tough stains require more specific cleaning methods and products. 

How to clean outdoor cushions

Cleaning supplies for outdoor cushions

Create a cleaning toolkit

The easiest way to keep your patio cushions clean all year long is to keep a few cleaning tools and products on hand. This way, everything you need will be easy to grab, and you can clean up a spill as soon as it happens. The good news is, you don't need to shop for anything expensive. At the Neighbor showroom, we keep a furniture cleanup kit on-hand for our sample furniture that includes our handheld vacuum cleaner (using the upholstery attachment), a bristle brush, mild dish soap, a bucket, a spray bottle, and a few soft sponges. Although you may be tempted, we do not recommend that you use a pressure washer to clean your outdoor cushions as this can damage the fabric irreversibly.

A soft all-purpose bristle scrub brush can help prevent fabric stains if you use it to brush dirt, loose debris, and dust off your outdoor cushion covers before it becomes embedded in the fabric. Similarly, a handheld vacuum with a crevice or upholstery nozzle is perfect for quick cleanups. It's always better to wipe up spills quickly and treat stains as they happen to keep your cushions in top shape. Keep your cleanup kit in a dry, temperate spot away from kids and pets. 

Get to know your fabric

Outdoor furniture is typically durable and water-resistant. But certain fabrics won't perform as well as others outdoors. Like our Sunbrella fabric pillows, the best outdoor cushions are kid and pet-friendly and won't get ruined in the rain. If you're shopping for pillows for your outdoor furniture, stay away from the ones meant for indoors, they'll get destroyed fast. Outdoor fabrics like Sunbrella are known for being durable, water-resistant, and mold and mildew-resistant. Neighbor cushion covers are also machine washable. Check the care instructions that came with your furniture to ensure specific cleaning solutions like bleach are safe to use. Keep in mind UV damage can harm fabric as much as rain, and not all outdoor cushions are fade-proof. Fixing fading on your sofa fabric is almost impossible, so prevention is key.

How to remove tough stains on outdoor cushions

A simple cleaning solution of warm water and dish soap will eliminate most outdoor upholstery stains and spills. To lift tougher stains, however, you might need to add white vinegar, borax, or bleach. If you need to absorb something like grease, sunscreen, or salad dressing, apply cornstarch to soak it up before washing. 

For mold and mildew:

  • Combine 1 cup bleach per gallon of lukewarm water into a spray bottle.
  • Spray on and let the solution soak into the fabric for 15 minutes.
  • Use a sponge or soft bristle brush to agitate the stain lightly.
  • After spot treating a stain, remember to rinse the whole cushion (not just where the spill was) to remove all soap residue and avoid water spots. 
  • Air dry. 

For red wine:

  • Try a solution of one-fourth cup dish soap, one-third cup white vinegar, and one-half cup hydrogen peroxide per gallon of warm water. 

If you own Neighbor cushions or have Sunbrella fabric and want to know how to remove a specific stain, refer to the Sunbrella cleaning guide.

Deep clean annually

Once or twice a year, refresh your outdoor patio cushions with a deep cleaning. It's best if you can thoroughly wash your cushions before you store them for the off-season and then again before warm weather arrives. Think of it as a spring refresh and autumn cleanup. If you can, remove your cushion covers from the foam core and toss them in the washing machine. Close all zippers and wash in cold water on a delicate cycle with mild laundry detergent. You can also add bleach if it's safe to do so. Skip the dryer, as it may pill or shrink the fabric. Air dry your cushions outdoors where they can be laid flat. If your cushions are not machine washable, you can give them a deep clean with the bleach and soap solution mentioned above. Again, rinse thoroughly, squeeze out any excess water and air dry. You don't want to store damp cushions. 

Tips on how to protect your outdoor cushions

303 Fabric Guard water sealant

Use a water sealant

The best way to check to see if the fabric is water repellent is to pour some clean water on the cushion, and if it beads up and rolls around, it is still repellent. If the water soaks into your cushions, we recommend using a water sealant like 303 Fabric Guard. Be sure to cover both sides of the cushions with a water sealant. It is best practice to apply your water sealant every year, but you can do it as often as you like. We love the Neighbor Sunbrella fabric cushions because they arrive water-resistant and usually stay that way for about three years.

Rotate your cushions

Furniture wear and tear is inevitable, especially with outdoor upholstery. To prevent discoloration, dirt, or scuffs from building up in the same spots, rotate and flip your cushions throughout the season. Rotating your cushions is a must if part of your sofa or chair gets more direct sunlight or your dog has a favorite spot. Set a reminder in your phone once a month so you won't forget and get your kids involved. 

Invest in a furniture cover

Like parking a car in the garage, the best way to keep your furniture clean is to keep it out of the elements whenever you can. A protective cover might seem like an expensive add-on, but it's an investment we think is worth it to keep your furniture and cushions looking newer, longer. Plus, it's a whole lot easier than frantically hauling your pillows indoors when you see an oncoming storm. At Neighbor, we've partnered with The Cover Store for custom covers that fit our teak outdoor furniture. 

In all, keeping your cushions clean is time well-spent. It can make your furniture last longer and look fresh year-round. With Neighbor furniture, you can trust that your cushions will last a long time. Our covers are made with 100% solution-dyed acrylic from Sunbrella and are machine-washable and safe to use with bleach. The fabrics are available in 6 colors. In general, our teak outdoor furniture collection can withstand the forces of nature. We use marine-grade hardware, durable teak wood, and industry-leading fabric. Plus, our outdoor cushion covers are protected by Sunbrella's 5-year outdoor fabric warranty if something does go wrong.

For more outdoor cleaning tips, follow Neighbor on social media @neighboroutdoor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can waterproof outdoor cushions be washed?

Yes, waterproof outdoor cushions can typically be washed (but always check the care label). To clean them, use mild soap and water, gently scrub the surface, and rinse thoroughly. Ensure they are completely dry before storing to prevent mold and mildew growth.

Can you use baking soda to clean outdoor cushions?

Baking soda can be used to clean outdoor cushions effectively. Sprinkle baking soda on the cushions, let it sit for a while to absorb odors and stains, then brush or vacuum it off before washing with mild soap and water.

How do you keep outdoor cushions fresh?

Store outdoor cushions in a dry, well-ventilated area when not in use, use furniture covers or protectors, and regularly clean them to prevent dirt and grime buildup.

What kills mildew on outdoor cushions?

Mildew on outdoor cushions can be eliminated by spraying a mix of bleach and water in a 1:16 ratio, scrubbing the affected area, and then rinsing thoroughly. Ensure the cushions are completely dry before storing them to prevent future mildew growth.

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