Outdoor Upholstery Care: How to Clean Patio Furniture Cushions and Canvases

Outdoor Upholstery Care: How to Clean Patio Furniture Cushions and Canvases

It’s the middle of July — halfway through the summer — and your once-pristine patio furniture is looking like it has seen better days. There have been a few heavy rainstorms throughout the first half of the summer and you can tell your furniture upholstery could use a thorough cleaning. Or perhaps it’s the end of summer and you are trying to clean your furniture before storing it for the winter. Either way, bottom line is that you need clean patio furniture immediately.

Aside from proper furniture upkeep, clean patio furniture can help a once struggling patio look fresh as new. So before throwing your next Sunday Funday soiree, check out these quick tips that will give your patio furniture some pep in its step.


Cleaning outdoor cushions is relatively easy with the help of one simple homemade solution. In a squirt bottle, combine one tablespoon of Borax, one teaspoon of detergent and one quart of water. Spray the solution on both sides of the cushions then let it sit out for 15 minutes. Wash the chemicals off with a hose that has strong water pressure. Once it’s almost dry, spray with a fabric protectant. In between cleanings, cushions can either be brushed off, shaken or vacuumed to remove any dirt or dust accumulation.

You’re probably pretty curious what Borax is at this point. It’s actually an extremely versatile cleaning product that can be used for different purposes around the house. Aside from cleaning outdoor seat cushions, it can help unclog drains, remove urine stains, make clothing flame retardant, kill weeds and even make silly putty! If you’re conscious about the environment, or wondering how something that kills weeds could also be safe in a silly putty made for kids, don’t worry. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral called sodium borate. It doesn’t harm the environment and cannot be absorbed through the skin or cause cancer. Obviously, however, it’s not edible!

Cushions protection

Canvas Seats

Here’s the great thing about canvas: if it can be removed from the furniture, it can be machine washed! Make sure to check on the tag to learn how it should be laundered (water temperature, etc.). If you removed the tag for appearances, a good rule of thumb is to wash it on the gentle cycle with mild detergent. Once it has been washed, put it back on the piece of furniture while it is still damp so it retains its original shape.

If the canvas isn’t able to be removed from the furniture, or is a seatback, invest in a bar of Fels-Naptha soap and a medium-bristle scrub brush. After rubbing some soap into the bristles of the brush, scrub the canvas. Since canvas is relatively heavy-duty, make sure to scrub hard enough that the soap lathers on the surface of the fabric. Since this is literally just a soap, it simply needs to be washed off with water. Like with the cushions, we recommend spraying the canvas with a fabric protector once it is clean.

Fels-Naptha works great for canvas, and specifically, canvas awnings. This is because it not only removes dirt and dust, but also removes bird droppings and some stains! It is also a great product to keep around the house in general (especially if you have adventuresome children!). The soap is considered an at-home remedy for poison oak, poison ivy and other oil-based skin irritants. It’s also common to find Fels-Naptha on the ingredient list for DIY laundry detergent.

Outdoor upholstery maintenance

While cleaning patio furniture upholstery is important, taking time to check furniture on a day-to-day basis is equally vital in keeping your cushions and canvas’ clean. Accidental spills should be blotted immediately. Stains that arise should be treated, with Guardsman stain and odor remover, right when they happen — not just at the end of the season. And after a summer storm, make sure to turn cushions sideways to speed up the drying process. This will help prevent mildew and mold from growing in the areas of the cushions that don’t receive fresh air. Turning a cushion on its side allows fresh air to hit every part of the fabric, leaving it mold, mildew and odor free!

With these helpful tips and tricks, your clean patio furniture will keep that “fresh from the store” look that only Martha Stewart seems able to attain.

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