How To Clean Outdoor Cushions

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Keep your outdoor cushions feeling fresh with these smart and easy cleaning methods.

Outdoor cushions add a pop of patio décor to porches and decks. Typically made to withstand moisture and UV rays, a little tender loving care and routine cleaning will keep them in top shape.

Protecting outdoor furniture and cushions mean they’ll last longer, saving you money while keeping items out of the landfill. With a few simple supplies, this how-to-clean outdoor cushions guide will keep them shining all season long.

Preparation

Before you start cleaning, do some prep work to ensure success:

  • Check for a care tag on your cushions and follow instructions from the manufacturer. No care tag? Search the manufacturer’s name online and see if the company has care information on its website.

  • Test cleaners or treatments on a small patch of fabric to ensure the solution won’t damage it.

  • Designate a spot in your yard where you can safely clean cushions and not damage plants with runoff from cleaning agents. (Pro tip: Lay down a tarp to keep cushions from getting dirty in damp or muddy areas.)

How To Clean Outdoor Cushions

Tools and supplies

  • Mild soap: Mix your own cleaning solution with mild soap and water. We like these gentle options from Woolite and Seventh Generation.
  • Bristle brush: Use a sponge or gentle bristle brush to apply the cleaning solution to cushions. We like this three-pack of bristle brushes with sizes for detailing and cleaning large areas.
  • Garden hose attachment: Lightly rinse the cushions after cleaning with the soapy solution. Add this garden hose attachment with low-pressure settings for thorough yet gentle rinsing.
  • Bleach: To remove mold and mildew stains, mix bleach with your soap and water cleaning solution. Apply to fabric with a spray bottle for optimal results. (Pro tip: If your cushion care tag says no bleach, try a bleach-free mold and mildew stain remover).
  • Grease stain remover (optional): For greasy stains, pretreat outdoor cushions with a degreaser. Use a soft-bristle brush to gently rub it into the fabric.

Depending on what type of cleaning your cushions need, here’s what to do:

Routine cleaning for outdoor cushions

The team at outdoor furniture company Frontgate recommends this simple method for routine patio furniture cleaning:

  1. Brush off loose dirt.
  2. Mix a cleaning solution of 1/4-cup mild soap per gallon of lukewarm water.
  3. Apply the mixture to the cushions with a sponge or a soft-bristle brush.
  4. Let the soapy water soak into the fabric.
  5. Rinse thoroughly with a garden hose on a low-pressure setting to remove soap.
  6. Allow fabric to air dry.

Pro tip: If your cushions come with removable covers, soak those in the cleaning solution. Then sponge or brush gently if needed, rinse with clean water and let air dry.

Dog on Outdoor Cushion with Pet StainImage Source/Getty Images

Heavy duty cleaning for soiled outdoor cushions

For a deep clean, Sunbrella Director of Technical Services Alan Rampey recommends 303 Multi-Surface Cleaner, formulated for water-safe synthetic, natural and delicate fabrics.

Mildew can appear on cushions and requires adding bleach to the cleaning process. Always test bleach on a hidden spot before doing a full clean, and protect your clothes from bleach splashes.

“Become familiar with the limitations of your outdoor fabrics, and don’t use anything too harsh for your textiles,” Rampey says. “Sunbrella fabrics of all colors can stand up to cleaning with bleach, but other fabrics may fade with bleach use.”

The Frontgate team suggests this step-by-step method:

  1. Mix a solution of one cup bleach and 1/4-cup mild soap per gallon of water.
  2. Apply to the cushion with a spray bottle and allow it to soak into the fabric for 15 minutes.
  3. Blot stains with the solution using a sponge or clean towel, or gently brush with a soft-bristle brush.
  4. Rinse thoroughly with a garden hose on a low-pressure setting to remove the cleaning solution.
  5. Allow fabric to air dry.

Stain and spot treating outdoor cushions

Just like indoor upholstery, stains happen on outdoor furniture too, whether from food, dirt or grease. “The sooner you treat the stain, the better,” Rampey says.

Most liquid stains like milk or red wine, he says, can be treated with a simple solution of mild soap and water:

  1. Blot the stain with a clean, dry cloth.
  2. Mix a drop of mild soap with water and spray the solution onto the stain.
  3. Use a sponge or soft-bristle brush to clean the entire surface area, not just the visible stain. Rinse with a garden hose on a low-pressure setting to remove the cleaning solution.
  4. Let the fabric air dry.

For greasy stains, Rampey says to pretreat the fabric with a strong degreaser for 30 minutes to an hour. Be sure to keep the fabric wet. Use a sponge or soft-bristle brush to clean the entire surface. Finish by rinsing with a garden hose on a low-pressure setting until the solution is gone. Let the fabric air dry.

You can also use corn starch to absorb oily spills, Rampey says. Sprinkle corn starch on the spot and let it absorb the oil from the fabric. Remove the excess corn starch with a straight edge and clean it away with soap and water. Rinse with clean water until all the soap is gone. Let the cushions air dry.

How To Keep Outdoor Cushions Clean

Store outdoor patio cushions and furniture under water-repellent covers when they’re not in use to prolong their life and keep them clean.

The Frontgate team says after a heavy rain, if the cushion covers have a zipper, open it and stand the cushions on one end with the open zipper or seam side down. This drains the water and expedites drying. Let the cushion interior dry completely before using it again.

If you notice your cushions looking a little tired after repeated cleanings and years of use, Frontgate recommends refreshing them with a re-treatment agent like 303 Fabric Guard. This spray-on solution restores the water-and stain-repelling properties of outdoor fabrics.

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Alicia Chilton
Alicia Chilton is an experienced writer and editor, based in Des Moines, Iowa. After spending several years as a digital editor for Better Homes and Gardens, covering all manner of topics related to home, Alicia took her writing and editorial skills into the marketing and communications world, where she has tapped into the power of storytelling to connect audiences to brands in the gardening and nonprofit spheres.
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As Associate Shopping Editor, Madi is an expert at helping The Family Handyman readers find everyday household products to level up their life. She covers everything from Instagram-famous products to the internet’s best deals and discounts. When she’s not deep in a story, you can find her honing her at-home mixology skills and scouring TikTok for the next trendy product.