Stay Fresh! How to Clean Outdoor Cushions Safely

how to clean outdoor cushions

Wondering how to clean outdoor cushions? Cleaning your outdoor cushions is more important than cleaning your indoor cushions, simply because there is (usually) so much more potential in the outdoors for dust, moisture, and straight-up filth than there is inside.

But how frustrating it would be to try cleaning them, do it wrong, and leave them worse off than before. This article is all about how to clean outdoor cushions safely and thus prolong their lives–both the lives of their function and their beauty.

Broadly, there are three categories of how to clean outdoor cushions. First–and easiest–comes the cushion cover itself. If you’ve invested in removable cushion covers from Fig Leaf, they can go through your washing machine. Try it on warm, and make sure to use a mild detergent. Other types of cushions may need to be hand-washed instead. The second category of how to clean outdoor cushions is maintenance cleaning. That is, cleaning before storing, brushing them off between parties, things like that. Finally, the serious stuff–how to clean outdoor cushions when they suffer spills and stains.

A Step by Step Guide to Cleaning Outdoor Cushions

The best way to clean your outdoor cushions depends on the type of cushions you have, the recommended cleaning method, and the materials you have available. As mentioned above, some outdoor cushion covers, like ours at Fig Leaf, can be conveniently removed and washed in a washing machine on warm with a mild detergent. However, it’s important to note that many outdoor cushion covers are not machine-safe. With other types of outdoor cushions, you may have to put in a little more effort to get them sparkling clean. Before you do anything else, always read the care instructions printed on the tag.

If you determine you need to wash your cushions by hand, you’ll need the following supplies: a hose, an adjustable hose sprayer, a hard-bristle brush, a bucket, dish detergent, and borax. Once you have everything ready to go, follow these basic steps:

  1. First, spray down the cushions on a clean surface. You should spray them generously until they are damp but not completely soaked.
  2. Mix up a cleaning solution. A simple solution can be made by combining two tablespoons of dish detergent with a 1/2 cup of Borax in a bucket, then filling it with water.
  3. Lather the cleaning solution onto the cushions and scrub them down using a hard-bristle brush. Pay extra attention to any heavy stains or mildew.
  4. Let the cushions sit with the cleaning solution on them for at least five minutes.
  5. Rise the cushions with a high-pressure hose until all of the cleaning solution has been removed.
  6. Remove the moisture as best you can with your hands and then lay them out to dry, ideally in the sunshine. Prop them up on their side and lean them against a wall as they dry.

If you’re a visual learner, here’s a great video from HGTV providing an overview of the outdoor cushion cleaning process.

How to Clean Outdoor Cushions: Maintenance

In addition to regular cleaning, a little maintenance can go a long way in keeping your outdoor cushion covers in peak condition!

First, just take an old-fashioned whisk broom to your cushions once or twice a week, depending on how much you use them. This is an easy and highly-effective way to prolong the lifespan of your outdoor cushions, and it keeps them ready to be enjoyed at a moment’s notice.

Some outdoor cushion fabric is more mold-resistant than others. Some cushions, when they get wet and don’t dry out fast enough, will develop mold or mildew over time. Fortunately, there’s a trick worthy of life-hack status to help make sure all your outdoor cushions dry fast enough: stand them on their edges. An outdoor cushion will dry much faster standing on its edge, partly because more of it is exposed to the air and partly because this position helps with drainage.

Finally, once you have your preferred method(s) of how to clean outdoor cushions, make sure you do it before you put your cushions away for the winter. As SF Gate puts it, this, “…ensures a trouble-free start in the spring.” Don’t give dust, bird droppings, and spilled soda a year to get comfortable. One more wash before storage is one of the most important things to remember on how to clean outdoor cushions.

How to Clean Outdoor Cushions

Cleaning Outdoor Cushions: The Serious Stuff

When there’s something to actually clean out of your cushions, there are three basic steps, the particulars of which depend on what you’re trying to remove.

Maybe it’s a no-brainer but, just in case, it’s worth the PSA reminder that before you do anything else, you’ll want to “get the big pieces”, so to speak. That is, if someone spills a glass of wine on one of your cushions, soak up as much of the stuff as you reasonably can with normal towels or paper towels. Or if a bird rudely uses one of your cushions as its toilet, scoop or scrape off as much as possible. This will make the following steps much easier.

Once a spill is reduced to a stain or a little more, it’s time to apply a cleaning solution. The recipe you use depends on what you’re trying to remove–see this link again–but all the relevant at-home cleaning solutions have pretty basic ingredients that you probably already have on hand. Whichever solution you pick, let it soak for at least 15 minutes, more if the recipe calls for it. And if you’re ever in doubt about if it’s been long enough, give it another five minutes.

Finally, rinse, rinse, rinse. Everything may not come out right away; just keep rinsing. This is the payoff stage of the process. If, after you finish this article, someone ever asks you how to clean outdoor cushions, your first reply could not incorrectly be, “You mean before the big rinse?” Don’t stop rinsing until you’re absolutely, totally, and completely sure that every little bit of your cleaning solution is out.


How to Clean Mildew Off Outdoor Cushions

Mold and mildew thrive in moist environments and can quickly and easily spread through spores if left unaddressed. It’s nightmare for your outdoor cushions, so it’s best to prevent it from developing in the first place whenever you can. 

If you live in a rainy climate, one of the best ways to prevent mold and mildew is to invest in truly waterproof cushion covers that will hold up against mold and mildew. For example, our waterproof cushion covers are made using TheOttertex® canvas printed oxford fabric, which is 600×600 denier, and 100% polyester. With a plastic PVC backing and waterproof coating, this fabric is extremely durable and mold-resistant. 

If it’s too late to prevent mold or mildew from forming on your outdoor cushions, there are several ways to address the problem. First, try the cleaning methods outlined above. If those don’t do the trick, you may need to turn it up a notch and try pressure-washing your cushions. Borax or bleach can also help deal with stubborn mold or mildew– but these are harsh, toxic chemicals, so use them with caution! Once the mold or mildew has been washed away, be sure the cushions dry out completely, or else the problem will quickly resurface.

How to Clean Mildew Off Outdoor Cushions

How to Clean Outdoor Furniture Cushions Naturally

When cleaning outdoor cushions, it’s important to be as environmentally conscious as possible. After all, your outdoor furniture is part of your outdoor environment– and the products you use to clean your outdoor cushions can have a negative impact on your surrounding ecosystem. Many cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that aren’t biodegradable and can runoff into your garden beds, presenting serious environmental and health hazards. According to the EPA, polluted runoff is one of the biggest threats to clean water here in the United States! 

Fortunately, there are many natural cleaning solutions that are highly effective for clearing outdoor cushions. For example, Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner is made with plant-based surfactants and natural fir needle and spruce essential oils, without any synthetic dyes, fragrances, or preservatives. It’s incredibly powerful, yet mild, 100% cruelty-free, and quickly biodegradable. 

Another option is to go the DIY route and create a vinegar-based cleanser for your outdoor cushions. Distilled white vinegar is a non-toxic and environmentally friendly acid, known for its effectiveness in removing a wide variety of stains, mold, and mildew from fabric naturally. You can simply pour undiluted vinegar into a spray bottle, spray it directly onto the moldy or stained surface, let it sit for at least an hour, scrub the surface with a soft-bristled brush, and then make sure it dries completely. However, vinegar may not be an effective solution for every type of mold, so you may have to resort to trying another method or replacing your cushions. 

Tea tree oil is a well-known natural antifungal solution. Adding a few drops of tea tree essential oil to your homemade cleaning solution can help increase the effectiveness!

How to Clean Outdoor Furniture Cushions Naturally

Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Outdoor Cushions

Below, we’ll reiterate some important tips to help you avoid making any big mistakes when cleaning your outdoor cushions:

– Always read the label! If there are any specific instructions for cleaning on the label, it’s best to stick to those.
– Be careful about what cleaning solution you use, because some types of detergent and bleach-based soaps can remove the water-repellent finishes of some fabrics.
– Be sure to give the cleaning solution time to work its magic. Let it soak in!
– Although some cushions can be machine-washed, you should typically avoid drying them in a dryer.
– Make sure the cushions dry out fully after washing so they don’t develop mold or mildew.
– Don’t forget to deep clean before storing for winter!

Why Cleaning Patio Cushions is Important 

No one wants to take a seat on a moldy or muddy patio cushion! Cleaning your outdoor cushions will make your outdoor spaces much more comfortable and welcoming so that you can entertain guests and spend more time enjoying your beautiful outdoor spaces. And spending more time outdoors comes with a whole host of mental health benefits, such as reduced anxiety and depression. 

Cleaning your patio cushions regularly will also help prolong their lifespan so that you can enjoy them for years to come. Cleaning your cushions can help save you money in the long run by avoiding the need to constantly replace old, gross cushions. You can also help the environment by minimizing unnecessary waste!

Recap of How to Clean Outdoor Cushions

Once you have some outdoor cushions, it’s imperative that you know how to clean them properly. If you don’t do it, you’ll have to get rid of your cushions much sooner. If it comes to that, you may be able to save the covers–but surely we’d all rather not have to buy new cushions if we don’t have to.

Just remember, if you can remove the cushion covers, do so and wash them according to the instructions on their tags. Often this means you can run them through the laundry, but not always. Investing in high-quality, removable outdoor cushion covers like ours at Fig Leaf will make the whole cleaning process much easier!

Between parties and when there’s no serious stain to clean, a quick, simple whisk-brooming does well to keep them fresh.

And when the inevitable spill happens, apply the cleaning product(s) of your choice–many of which can be made at home–let it soak, and rinse until all the product is out.

If you refer back to these instructions for how to clean your outdoor cushions, you should be able to enjoy them for many years to come!