Outdoor Fabric Buying Guide

When choosing the best patio furniture for your backyard entertaining, poolside cabana or front porch lounge, the right fabric plays an important role in creating an eye-catching comfortable and easy-to-maintain outdoor oasis. Here’s a quick comparison of popular outdoor fabric choices, highlighting their benefits and potential drawbacks.

Solution Dyed Acrylic

Benefits

  • Fibers dipped in liquid acrylic solution before being spun into yarn.
  • Dipping process ensures full pigment coverage and fade resistance as well as moisture resistance.
  • Breathable- ideal for throw pillows, cushions and drapes.
  • Look for high-quality upholstery by Sunbrella for one of the most popular brands in solution dyed acrylic fabrics.

Drawbacks

  • Is more costly than other outdoor fabrics.
  • More difficult to repair than vinyl if torn.

Acrylic-Coated Polyester

Benefits

  • Fabric that is single or double-sided dipped in acrylic solution.
  • Can be 100% Polyester or a cotton/polyester blend.
  • Typically used as weather covers for patio furniture and grills.

Drawbacks

  • Fades faster than solution-dyed due to dying process.
  • More difficult to repair than vinyl if torn.

Olefin

Benefits

  • Polyethylene and Polypropylene fibers spun into strings creating lightweight, fade-resistant and wear resistant fabrics.
  • Low moisture absorption, stain and soil resistant.
  • Easy to wash, and dry quickly.

Drawbacks

  • Flammable.
  • Less common than acrylic coated and solution dyed.

Vinyl-Coated Synthetic Fiber Mesh (PVC Mesh)

Benefits

  • Does not stretch- ideal for sling-style chairs because all weight is held in the fabric, not the chair frame.
  • MOST PVC mesh materials are made of vinyl coated polyester or acrylic yarns, but can also be made from olefins and PVC.

Drawbacks

  • Can feel plastic-y on skin.
  • Not recyclable.

Outdoor Fabric FAQ

  • Solution-Dyed Acrylic – Fade-resistant and great for pillows and cushions.
  • Acrylic-Coated Polyester – Weather-resistant and great for covers.
  • Olefin – Soil-, stain-, and weather-resistant. Easy to wash and dry.
  • Vinyl-Coated Synthetic Fiber Mesh (PVC Mesh) – Doesn’t stretch, great for sling-style chairs.

  • Most outdoor cushions and pillows are treated and designed to stand up to the elements. Look for phrases like waterproof, water-repellent and water-resistant. Waterproof fabrics or coatings won’t be penetrated by rain and water. Water-repellent and water-resistant materials allow some water in but aren’t as delicate as your couch cushions. Putting outdoor cushions away when not in use will go a long way toward preventing fading and wear-and-tear, prolonging their life.

  • Vinyl-coated synthetic fiber mesh or PVC mesh is highly durable and won’t stretch over time, making it ideal for sling-style chairs. Acrylic-coated polyester is also highly durable, due to the acrylic coating process, making it an outstanding material for grill covers and furniture covers.

  • Most outdoor fabrics are designed to stand up to all but the harshest weather conditions. Acrylic-coated polyester, olefin and PVC Mesh are highly water-resistant and make great cushions and covers. Solution-dyed acrylic is more breathable and therefore less waterproof but resists fading better than some other materials.

  • PVC mesh is great for wet climates because it doesn’t stretch and is highly resistant to mold and mildew. One drawback is that it can feel plastic-y on your skin. Olefin is another great option for wet climates. The fiber-forming process makes olefin highly resistant to deterioration from mildew, insects and weather. Try to avoid canvas and other natural materials, as they retain moisture and are susceptible to mold and mildew.

  • Due to the fiber-forming process, olefin fabrics, PVC mesh and acrylic-coated fabrics are highly resistant to deterioration from insects, rot and weather. If you prefer more natural materials, you can use an outdoor fabric seal from your local hardware store to provide extra protection from rain, UV rays and insects.

  • Most outdoor cushions and fabrics are designed to withstand the elements and can be washed easily with water or a damp cloth. Over time, they can become more heavily soiled and need to be refreshed with a more thorough cleaning. Always check the tags on your outdoor fabrics for care instructions. If cleaning tags are missing and you can’t find instructions on the manufacturer’s website, a solution consisting of warm water and a gentle detergent (like clear liquid dish soap), followed by a thorough rinsing can clean most trouble spots.

Helpful Information

Waterproof: Water cannot penetrate the surface.
Water-repellent: Water CAN penetrate the surface, just not easily.
Water-resistant: Material that has been treated to repel a certain amount of water but is less effective than water-repellant.

*Some water-repellent and water-resistant coatings wear off over time and need to be reapplied. You can purchase waterproofing sprays to help replace the coating that is lost in regular wear and tear.