Originally Published on July 27, 2022. Last Updated on October 11, 2023.
You may not realize it, but your outdoor cushions and pillows have to withstand a lot. Direct sunlight, pouring rain, dirt and dust, wine spills, greasy sunblock splatters, and the list goes on and on. While they’re constructed out of fabric made to endure harsh outdoor conditions, your cushions are still susceptible to stains and damage — especially if they’re left out during winter or a rainstorm.
We’ve put together a how-to guide below to help you clean up your cushions based on different types of stains and damage.
How to Clean Spills & Bird Droppings
Did you accidentally spill your glass of red wine? Or maybe a bird left you a special surprise on your outdoor pillow? Don’t fret! You can treat these types of stains with a spot clean. Remove these stains by following the steps below:
Steps for Removing Spills and Bird Droppings
- Create a cleaning solution with one teaspoon of Borax, one teaspoon of mild dish soap, and one quart of warm water. Pour the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well to mix.
- Spray the solution directly onto the stain and allow it soak for a few minutes.
- Use a clean cloth to work the solution into the stain.
- Let it stand for 10–15 minutes.
- Rinse away all the soap residue with a garden hose.
- Allow the cushion to air dry on its side.
- For bird droppings, clean off as much of the stain as possible with a microfiber cloth before spot cleaning. Make sure not to rub it deeper into the fabric.
- For spills, time is of the essence, so clean them up as soon as possible.
How to Clean Oil-Based Stains
Whether it’s from sunscreen, bug spray, or food, oils can make their way onto outdoor cushions and pillows. These oils can also attract more dirt and grime. Don’t worry, though! You can remove these stains with a dry absorbent powder like cornstarch or baking soda. Follow these steps to tidy up your cushions.
Steps for Removing Oil Stains
- Blot any excess oil with a microfiber cloth.
- Apply cornstarch or baking soda onto the stain.
- Allow the powder to stand for 10-15 minutes.
- Use a straight edge like a ruler to scrape off the powder.
- Reapply powder if needed.
- If a mark remains, blot the spot with a natural cleaning solution and a damp microfiber cloth.
How to Remove Mold & Mildew
While some fabrics like solution-dyed acrylic don’t promote mold and mildew growth, it still might show up on dirt and other foreign substances that aren’t removed from the fabric. If you see grime on your cushions, follow these simple steps, and you’ll have your all-weather outdoor cushions looking as good as new.
Steps for Removing Mold and Mildew
- Use a dry cloth to remove as much mold and mildew as possible. Afterward, vacuum or shake your cushions to remove any remaining debris.
- Mix one cup of Borax into four cups of warm water. You can also try hydrogen peroxide instead of Borax.
- With a spray bottle or sponge, generously apply the solution to the cushion.
- Allow the solution to soak for 15–30 minutes.
- Use a microfiber cloth to blot out the stain.
- Use a garden hose rinse off all the solution.
- Allow your cushion to air dry. Put the cushion on its side for quicker drying.
How to Deep Clean Outdoor Cushions
It’s always recommended to deep clean your cushions before storing them for the winter. Once spring rolls around, all you need to do is dust them off and place them on your outdoor furniture. Here’s how to deep clean your cushions.
Steps for Deep Cleaning
Prepare a solution of ¼ cup of mild soap and one cup of bleach per gallon of lukewarm water. Laundry detergent can work, too, but use less of it.
- Before using your homemade solution, grab your garden hose and rinse off your cushion to remove any loose dirt, dust, or debris.
- Grab a clean sponge or cloth, dip it in your solution, and scrub down the cushion.
- Let your cushion sit for about 5–10 minutes so that the solution can soak into the fabric and deep clean your cushion effectively.
- Rinse thoroughly to remove all the soapy residue. If applicable, be sure to rinse the zipper area because the cleaning solution can damage it.
- Let your cushion air dry on its side with the zipper area on the bottom. It usually dries better and faster by doing it this way.
- Not all fabric materials can handle bleach. Always test cleaning solutions on a small section of fabric first to ensure it’s safe for your cushions.
- Try undistilled white vinegar if you want a natural alternative to bleach.
Can I Fix My Cushions if They’re Faded?
Most outdoor cushions and pillows made of durable fabrics are UV resistant. But no matter how tough the fabric is, it can fade over time when exposed to direct sunlight. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about it once the material starts to fade.
There are a few ways to increase the color lifespan of your cushions for at least five years. When not in use, bring your cushions inside, place them in a storage bag, or put them in the shade. If you have some pillows that are always exposed to the sun and others that are in the shade, rotate them around to equalize their sun exposure.
Can I Reverse Water Damage?
Like fading, you can’t fix water damage. If your cushions and pillows get drenched from a storm, you need to dry them properly. Plus, the sooner you dry them, the less risk for mold and mildew.
If your cushions have covers, unzip them and drain out the water. Put the cushions on their sides so they can dry quicker. If it’s still wet outside, bring your cushions and pillows inside and blow dry them.
The Bottom Line
We get it. Accidents happen. Maybe you spilled some wine, or your kids got a little too messy with their food. Whatever the case may be, the best way to keep your cushions and pillows looking great is to take proper precautions.
Use a whisk broom or vacuum with an upholstery attachment regularly to clean up dirt, dust, and other debris. Focus on the crevices and grooves, as this will help maintain the durability of the fabric. Also, consider spraying your cushions with a fabric protector, which helps repel dirt and stains for many months.
During times like winter, when you’re not using your outdoor cushions and pillows, put them in a storage bag and bring them inside your home. When spring comes, they’ll be ready for brunches, family game nights, and other fun outdoor activities!
Do you have a particular way of cleaning your outdoor cushions and pillows? Let us know in the comments below!