How to Choose the Best Fabric for Outdoor Cushions & Pillows

Originally Published on July 9, 2019. Last Updated on September 1, 2023.

Learning how to choose the best fabric for outdoor cushions can be tricky because there’s a lot to know. So before you buy new cushions for your rocking chairs or throw pillows that coordinate with your patio aesthetic, brushing up on your outdoor fabric knowledge is a good idea.

This means a little legwork on your end now, but the down-the-road results are worth it. To streamline the process,  we’ve done the research for you and organized everything you need to know in this easy-to-follow fabric guide. 

Jump to Section
Why Is the Fabric So Important?
Understanding Outdoor Cushion Fabrics
Performance Fabric Options
Maintenance & Cleaning Requirements
What Is the Best Color for Outdoor Cushions?
Shop POLYWOOD Outdoor Cushions & Pillows

Why Is the Fabric So Important?

Regarding outdoor cushions and pillows, fabric is a quick, inexpensive, and easy way to add style and enhance the overall comfort in a room. And with so many colors, textures, and patterns available, you can create any aesthetic that suits you.

Understanding Outdoor Cushion Fabrics

POLYWOOD 18" Outdoor Throw Pillow and 16" Outdoor Throw Pillow in Safari Pistachio and Outdoor Lumbar Pillow in Wild Game
Featured: 18″ Outdoor Throw Pillow and 16″ Outdoor Throw Pillow in Safari Pistachio and Outdoor Lumbar Pillow in Wild Game

The most important thing to understand about performance fabric is that it’s not the same as indoor fabric. These outdoor textiles must withstand intense weather, wildlife encounters, and nature’s most unforgiving elements. 

Weather Resistance

Outdoor cushion fabrics are designed to resist fading caused by the sun’s UV rays, mold and mildew from overexposure to rain and humidity, and the fluctuating temperatures that come with the changing seasons.

Durability & Strength

Woven fabrics are the primary medium for outdoor pillows and cushions.

  • Woven fabric is made by interlacing two sets of yarn on a loom. 
  • Weave structures and yarn types influence fabric durability in different ways. The strength of the yarn affects a textile’s tensile strength, while the weave impacts stiffness and tearing strength.
  • Plain, basket, twill, and jacquard are the most common weave patterns for performance fabric.

Stain Resistance

Patio cushions must repel liquids, animal droppings, and tree sap, so manufacturers rely on stain-resistant materials such as vinyl, PVC-coated polyester, cotton, and solution-dyed acrylic.

Comfort & Aesthetics

Welting & Cording

These two terms refer to the long thin cords sewn into seams around the edges of pillows, cushions, and upholstered furniture. Both add decorative touches and increase durability, but the difference is that welting is wrapped in fabric, and cording is bare. Welt cording is typically made from polyethylene, vinyl, or cotton.

Dyed & Printed Fabrics

Here are the main differences between dyed and printed fabrics:

What is the difference between printed and dyed fabrics?

Performance Fabric Options

You have a wide selection of natural and synthetic textiles to choose from. Here is a list of the most popular performance fabric options:

Solution-Dyed Acrylics

Example: Sunbrella®

To create this synthetic material, dye is blended into a liquid acrylic solution, threads are formed and cured, then spun into yarn. Solution-dyed acrylic is mold and mildew-resistant, soft, and easy to clean. This fabric is often used in patio umbrellas, cushions, and awnings. 

Acrylic-Coated Polyester

Example: Top Gun®

This fabric is spun first and then dyed. Due to its stiffness and resistance to wrinkling and fading, acrylic-coated polyester is mostly used to make boat and car covers, outdoor curtains, and umbrella canopies.

Printed Acrylic or Polyester

Example: Ambesonne

Schemes are screen-printed onto blank polyester or acrylic fabrics using UV-resistant dyes. A water-resistant coating is applied over the print to protect it from the elements. A printed acrylic or polyester fabric is a great choice for attention-grabbing accessories such as throw pillows, curtains, tablecloths, and area rugs.

Vinyl-Coated Synthetic Fiber Mesh

Example: Phifertex® Outdoor Furniture Fabrics

This durable, open-weave mesh is more widely known as “sling fabric.” It’s made by coating polyester fibers with liquid vinyl, resulting in a soft, flexible, and durable fabric ideal for outdoor use. Cushions, upholstery, tarps, and tote bags are everyday items made from sling fabric.


Example: Revolution Fabrics

Olefin is made from a blend of ethylene and propylene fibers. Because of its high stain and UV resistance, olefin is ideal for cushion covers and fillers.

Duck Cloth

Example: Mybecca

Also known as “canvas,” this heavy-duty fabric is most often woven from cotton and linen or, less commonly, from synthetic materials. Duck cloth is used in upholstery, tents, workwear, and boat sails.


Example: James Thompson & Co., Inc.

Cotton is a natural, plant-based material that’s been in use for centuries. It’s affordable and soft but susceptible to mildew and mold if it’s not sprayed with a fabric protectant.

Maintenance & Cleaning Requirements

Performance fabrics are designed to be low maintenance, but not all materials can be cleaned in the same way. Regularly brushing off dirt and debris and spot cleaning with soapy water and a cloth are safe methods across the board, and some fabrics can even be tossed in the washing machine.*

Machine Washable**

  • Vinyl-coated synthetic fiber mesh
  • Olefin
  • Printed acrylic or polyester
  • Acrylic-coated polyester

Not Machine Washable

  • Solution-dyed acrylics
  • Duck cloth
  • Cotton

*NOTE: Only put removable fabric covers in the wachine machine. We suggest reading the manufacturer’s care instructions to see their recommended cleaning methods.

**NOTE: Even though a fabric is machine washable, it’s not a good idea to put them in the dryer. Let fabrics air-dry after laundering.

Click to Learn How to Care for POLYWOOD Pillows and Cushions

What Is the Best Color for Outdoor Cushions?

The best cushion color depends entirely on your outdoor space style, but make sure to choose a durable fabric that’s easy keep clean and will maintain its vibrancy. To jumpstart your creativity, here are our favorite performance fabric and outdoor furniture color combinations:

POLYWOOD Lumber and Fabric Color Combinations

Shop POLYWOOD Outdoor Cushions & Pillows

POLYWOOD Chaise Cushion POLYWOOD Standard Seat Cushion - 17"D x 18.5"W x 2.5"H POLYWOOD Bench Seat Cushion - 17.5"D x 55"W x 2.5"H
POLYWOOD Outdoor Lumbar Pillow
POLYWOOD 16" Outdoor Throw Pillow POLYWOOD 22" Throw Pillow

Click to Shop all POLYWOOD Cushions

Click to Shop all POLYWOOD Pillows

24 thoughts on “How to Choose the Best Fabric for Outdoor Cushions & Pillows

    1. Hi Joyce!

      Great question! The material is going to only be available as a finished good, such as a cushion or pillow. Thank you for taking the time to ask.

    2. Need to hang some material on outside of window to afternoon sun off my fridge. Would solution dyed acrylic do the trick

      1. Hi Ann!

        The solution dyed acrylic fabric will be a great option to bring relief from the sun and will be able to hold up in the exterior environment.

        Have a wonderful day!

  1. Wonderful information, thanks a lot for sharing kind of content with us. Your blog gives the best and the most interesting information about the best fabric for outdoor cushions. I wonder if we can gather such practical information about it, a great post definitely to come across.

  2. Loved your article. It really helps me narrow it down. I have one more question, which is what type of Foam is best to wrapped some of your suggestions around outdoors cushions?

    1. Hi Thomas!

      We utilize polyurethane foam for our deep seating cushions. I hope this helps!

      Great question!

  3. Pingback: Kid-Friendly Kitchen Design Tips | Planet Awesome Kid
  4. Pingback: How Do I Keep My Patio Cushions From Mildewing? -
  5. Pingback: What Is The Easiest Patio Furniture To Keep Clean? – What Blueprint

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *