Choosing the right outdoor furniture fabric for making, recovering or replacing your outdoor cushions

There are a number of things to consider when choosing fabric for your outdoor furniture. For the UK market it is easy to focus on the need for the fabric to be waterproof, but this is only one consideration. Think about how the fabric will be used;

Is it going to be left outdoors for the whole season? If so, the fabric needs to have excellent UV resistance meaning it won’t fade and the fibres won’t break down causing the fabric to fail and tear. Much of the outdoor furniture sold on the High Street will have limited UV resistance and it is worth using a higher specification fabric when you come to replace the faded or worn out cushions. If you are working to a limited budget look for polyester based fabrics, ideally with a UV treatment of some kind. Lighter shades are generally better because if fading does occur it won’t be as obvious. Black and Red are considered to be colours that fade more quickly.

How robust does the fabric need to be? Often Outdoor furniture fabric takes a lot more punishment than indoor fabric might. For some reason food and drink seems to find their way on to the fabrics. Higher specification fabrics like Sunbrella or Sauleda Lisos will have stain protection built in. Think about how the fabric is likely to be treated when choosing a colour, white might look great but is it practical?

Will it be regularly exposed to heavy downpours of rain? Many outdoor fabrics are water repellent rather than waterproof. If the fabric is only water repellent it would be a good idea to store it indoors when not in use. Even the higher quality outdoor upholstery fabrics tend to be water repellent rather than waterproof, if you want a fabric that can be left outside in all weathers consider a Vinyl Seating Cloth or a PU coated Acrylic Canvas.  

How will the cushion be constructed? If you are starting from scratch the ideal solution is to use reticulated foam. Reticulated foam is designed to allow water to pass through it, because of this a water repellent fabric only can be used. If the fabric does wet-out any excess liquid will pass through the foam where it will eventually come out via a ‘drain mesh’ which forms the base of the cushion. The upholstery fabric itself should dry fairly quickly in the sun or a breeze once the liquid has passed through it. If you are using a regular foam from an existing cushion you should be looking for solutions to prevent this foam getting wet as it will hold water. Either a waterproof outer fabric or a liner to cover the foam made out of a lighter weight waterproof fabric might work. Remember, air needs to escape from the foam to allow it to compress so the liner can’t be completely airtight!

Who is going to make the cushions? The majority of fabrics used for outdoor furniture should be fairly straight forward to sew using a domestic sewing machine, there are some exceptions though. The fabrics designed to be waterproof like Vinyl Seating Cloth and Pu Coated Acrylic Canvas can be a bit trickier as they are heavier and stiffer fabrics. Also, if you choose a higher specification waterproof fabric you would need to consider waterproofing the seams.

Don’t forget the thread! When sewing UV resistant or UV stable fabrics you should choose a UV resistant thread. There is little point using a regular cotton or similar, it would simply rot away well before the fabric has reached the end of its life.

If you need help choosing outdoor furniture fabric or have questions about maintaining or repairing it please contact our friendly customer services team.