How To Clean Patio Cushions

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

A relaxing backyard space is a desire of many homeowners, providing extra space to entertain, hang out, and eat al fresco. Outdoor furniture plays a large role in creating your oasis. However, it can look worn down if you don’t know how to clean patio cushions.

Look for patio cushions with removable, machine-washable covers that you can toss into the washing machine. For non-removable cushions, spot clean stains with a bit of dish soap, borax, and water. White vinegar is another option. During the off-season, cover your patio furniture or store cushions in a deck box or other protected area.

With proper care and regular cleanings, your patio cushions will stay fresh looking and last a long time. You likely will replace them because you want a new look rather than them becoming worn-out or damaged. Keep reading to learn the best way to keep your patio cushions clean.

What Is The Easiest Way To Clean Outdoor Cushions?

No doubt, the easiest way to keep your patio cushions looking their best is to clean them regularly. If you seek out cushions with removable, washable covers, cleaning them is a breeze. Simply remove the covers, toss them in the washing machine, and then hang them up to dry.

You can even find certain outdoor cushions that are completely washable. In other words, you can put the whole cushion in your washing machine, provided it will fit. If this is the case for your cushions, make sure to use the deep-water and bulky item cycles on your machine.

Unfortunately, many patio cushions don’t have removable covers and are not machine-washable. But don’t let these factors dissuade you from buying outdoor cushions you love. There are still many ways you can keep your patio pillows, cushions, and pads looking their best.

How Do You Clean Patio Cushions That Are Not Removable?

If you have outdoor fabrics that aren’t removable or washable, vacuum, soak, and hose them.

1. Vacuum Your Patio Cushions

Use vacuum attachments to remove any loose dirt and debris from the cushions. For tufted pillows, use a crevice tool to get into all the nooks and crannies. Vacuum both sides and the edges of your patio cushions.

2. Clean Patio Cushions With Dish Soap

Fill a bucket with warm water and add a tablespoon of dish soap. Sponge the mixture onto your cushions, adding extra on any stubborn stains. Allow the solution to sit for 15 minutes (longer for tough stains).

If the cushions have mildew stains, add ¼ cup of borax to the mixture and suds up mildewed spots. Use a gentle scrub brush to work the solution into the cushions and all stained areas.

3. Rinse The Cushions With Your Hose And Allow Them To Dry

Use a regular garden hose to rinse your outdoor cushions, making sure to remove all suds and soapy residue. Use a towel to absorb as much of the water as possible. Wrap the towel around the cushions and gently press.

Then, let the cushions dry in the sun. Propping them upright along a fence or wall allows both sides to dry well. Do not replace the cushions on the furniture until they are completely dry. It’s best to plan your cleaning project on a dry, sunny day to speed up the process.

If you let patio cushions remain wet for too long, the moisture leads to mildew and mold. If conditions are unfavorable for adequate drying, use a hair dryer to help speed up the process.

Can I Pressure Wash Patio Cushions?

Avoid using a pressure washer on your patio cushions. The more intense spray and power could potentially damage the fabric.

However, you could try a low-pressure nozzle if the cushions feature a more robust fabric. Keep the nozzle at least 18 inches from the cushion’s surface, and watch carefully to make sure the material handles it well.

Should You Use Baking Soda Or Vinegar To Clean Patio Cushions?

Baking soda and vinegar are viable options for cleaning outdoor cushions. Mix ¼ cup white vinegar with 4 cups of warm water and use a spray bottle to distribute the solution. Let it sit for 15 minutes, scrub with a soft-bristle brush, then rinse and dry.

If you use baking soda, create a paste with water and apply it to stains. Or apply it across the entire cushion to deodorize and clean. Let the paste sit for 15 minutes, rinse, then dry.

Whether using vinegar, baking soda, or a commercial cleaner, spot-test first for color fastness.

Tackling Common Outdoor Stains

Patio cushions are likely to get various stains throughout the year, including oil, tree sap, mildew, grass, and bird poop. Therefore, knowing how to get rid of them is a good idea.

Oil And Grease

Sprinkle cornstarch or baking soda on grease and oil stains immediately to absorb the stains. Scrape up the powder with a plastic spoon or credit card (something that won’t damage the fabric). Repeat as often as necessary to remove as much of the stain as possible.

Create a solution of 4 cups of water and one cup of borax and apply it with a sponge. Blot the area with a clean cloth, then rinse it well and allow the cushion to dry. If the stains are intense, let the solution sit for 15 to 30 minutes before rinsing.

Mildew And Mold

The same borax solution you used for oil and grease can also tackle mildew and mold. Apply the mixture generously to mildew and mold and the stained areas and allow to sit for 30 minutes before rinsing. Again, allow the cushions to dry completely to inhibit future mildew growth.

Tree Sap

Pick up an enzyme-based stain remover at the store to tackle sticky, stubborn tree sap. Apply it to the stain and let it sit for 15 minutes. Mix up a paste of powdered laundry detergent and water and rub it into the stain with a soft-bristle brush. (Apply after letting the stain remover sit for at least 15 minutes.)

Rinse the area with warm water, then repeat as often as necessary. Allow the fabric to dry.

Bird Poop

Bird poop on patio furniture is pretty much inevitable. If a bird decides to leave you a present on your patio cushions, let it dry. Then, use a clean cloth or sponge to wipe away as much of the mess as possible.

Mix a teaspoon of dish soap and a teaspoon of borax into one quart of warm water. Use a spray bottle to shake up the solution and apply it to the stain. Let it soak for about 10 minutes, rinse, and repeat until all the poop is gone.

Grass Stains

Tackling grass stains as soon as possible makes getting rid of them more manageable. Pre-treat the spots with laundry detergent, rubbing it in with a side-to-side motion and a soft bristle brush.

Use warm water to rinse away all the soapy residue, then apply a solution like OxiClean to soak the cushion for up to one hour. Rinse the area with warm water, and let everything dry.

Use Fabric Protector To Make Cleaning Patio Cushions Easier

One way to make cleaning outdoor cushions more manageable is to spray them with a fabric protector, like Scotchguard Water and Sun Shield. Not only does it provide defense against moisture, but it also helps decrease fading and damage from UV rays.

When you first buy your cushions, treat them with a fabric protector to provide an extra layer of defense against mildew stains, dirt, and grime. (Make sure to spot-test the product in a small, inconspicuous area first.)

Follow the directions on the label and reapply as recommended. When you clean your patio cushions, reapply the fabric protection after your cushions are entirely dry. Apply the spray to both sides of your cushions and the edges.

How Often Should You Clean Outdoor Cushions?

How often you clean your patio cushions depends on several factors. If you live somewhere with lots of humidity or frequent rain, cleaning more often is wise to prevent mildew and mold.

A good rule of thumb is to clean your cushions at least twice a year. Once at the end of the season before storing them and again when you remove them from storage.

Things To Avoid When Cleaning Patio Cushions

To take the best care of your outdoor cushions, knowing what not to do is as important as what you should do.

  • Avoid using harsh chemicals and bleach on patio cushions.
  • Use warm water for cleaning cushions, not hot water. Hot water could damage the material or shrink the fabric.
  • When not using outdoor furniture, store your cushions in a dry, well-ventilated place.
  • Don’t leave dirt on your cushions for extended periods. Regularly remove loose dirt and debris with a brush or vacuum.
  • If you have machine-washable covers, don’t use fabric softener. The product can leave a residue that creates a magnet for dirt.

A Final Look At Cleaning Patio Cushions

Many patio cushions feature machine-washable, removable covers. However, if yours don’t fit that description, you can clean them using a mixture of dish soap, borax, and water. Vacuum loose dirt, soak cushions in your DIY solution, rinse, and allow to dry.

Storing your cushions when not in use and applying fabric protectors significantly increases your outdoor cushions’ lifespan. Additionally, regular cleaning and tackling stains right away will keep patio cushions looking like new.

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Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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