Patio perfect: Fabric technology revolutionizes outdoor living

Susan Kiley

Summer is arriving and with it comes the desire to be outdoors. Whether hosting a backyard barbecue or simply enjoying time with family and friends, the warmer temperatures and longer days call for outdoor living. Many local residents are considering how they can make their back yard more comfortable and stylish.

Outdoor fabrics

The easiest and fastest way to give your outdoor space a facelift is through outdoor fabrics. By adding new cushions, throw pillows, umbrellas and/or awnings, homeowners can quickly refresh their outdoor furniture, adding comfort and beauty to their porch, patio, back yard or deck.

Outdoor fabrics are different from indoor fabrics in that they are completely synthetic. While indoor fabrics are made from natural materials, outdoor fabrics are solution-dyed acrylic, which is impervious to harsh outdoor conditions. With technological advancements, outdoor fabrics are as soft and comfortable as indoor fabrics but are durable and washable, as well as fade and mildew resistant.

Sunbrella is the largest outdoor fabric manufacturer and leads the industry in trends, product advancements and green practices.

In addition, during Sunbrella’s manufacturing process, UV stabilized pigments are added during the production of the fade-resistant fiber. This ensures the color is interwoven in the fabric instead of penetrating only the outer layer, which can fade over time. This process also incorporates UV protection, which is important for umbrellas and awnings.

The best part about outdoor fabrics is, through technological advancements, the options for colors, textures, and patterns are vast. From solids and stripes to jacquard and prints, today’s options are incredibly diverse.

Where to begin?

Once you decide to refresh your cushions, umbrellas, etc., look to the original outdoor furniture manufacturer to see what is available for replacement cushions and pillows. If the outdoor furniture brand or line is discontinued, custom cushions are the next option.

At Bay Breeze Patio, the Sunbrella kiosk is a great place to start. Shoppers can look, feel and compare a variety of outdoor fabric colors and styles to determine what is best suited for their style and space.

Cleaning and care

Although outdoor fabrics are created fade and mildew resistant, maintenance and cleaning are critical to extending the life of outdoor fabric and cushions. While mildew does not grow on the fabric itself, it will adhere to pollen and dirt.

Most stains can be removed from outdoor fabrics with mild soap and lukewarm water. First blot the excess stain residue. Mix mild soap and lukewarm water and remove the stain with a sponge or soft-bristle brush. Be sure to rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue and then allow the fabric to air-dry.

Unlike indoor fabrics, Sunbrella outdoor fabrics can be bleached to restore their original appearance.

If the stain is still visible, blot excess stain residue. Mix 1 cup of bleach and ¼ cup of mild soap per gallon of lukewarm water and remove the stain with a sponge or soft-bristle brush. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air-dry.

With the proper care, outdoor fabrics will provide many years of enjoyment, making the time spent outdoors more comfortable, enjoyable and attractive.

Susan Kiley is an outdoor living expert and co-owner of Bay Breeze Patio in Destin. She serves on the board of directors of the International Casual Furnishings Association and is an active member of the American Society of Interior Designers. Visit