How to Clean Outdoor Cushions to Complete Your Backyard Oasis

By Hannah Twietmeyer

Outdoor furniture is made for entertaining and withstanding the elements. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s completely unaffected by the wear and tear of rain, shine, or harsh temps. It’s not cheap, either, so knowing how to protect and preserve your outdoor cushions will give you the utmost use of them all patio season long. Plus, freshly cleaned cushions are a great accent to your stained wooden deck.

When it comes to cleaning outdoor cushions, we’ve covered it all in this guide—from when in the season to clean them, how to clean them properly, and tips to keeping them looking fresh all year long.

when to clean outdoor cushions

Photo via Abbey D

When to Clean Outdoor Cushions

How often you clean your outdoor patio set is entirely up to you. Some people like to dust off their furniture weekly, while others do it seasonally, or simply whenever they get around to it.

While weekly cleaning your patio cushions is ideal for a fresh set of furniture, it’s not all that realistic for most people. Tidying up between the seasons often makes more sense and allows a full summer of use before a deep cleaning. It’s common to clean patio cushions when you take outdoor furniture apart for the winter before you put it into storage and again at the end of spring before you expect to use the cushions in summer. Of course, this is all dependent on your home’s climate year-round, and how often you make use of your outdoor furniture

how to clean outdoor cushions

Photo via  Jennifer Williams

How to Clean Outdoor Cushions

Cleaning your outdoor cushions might mean simply freshening them up for guests, or it might mean a heavy soak to remove dirt, debris, and other signs of the elements. Whatever your reason, we’ve listed a few ways that will effectively give your patio cushions the care that they need.

How to Clean Outdoor Cushions with Vinegar

If some routine cleaning maintenance is all you’re looking to accomplish, look no further than the good ol’ bottle of white vinegar you have in your pantry. 

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Dish soap
  • Scrubbing brush
  • Sponge

Step 1: Combine Water, Soap, and Vinegar

White vinegar is a household cleaning champ, with a natural acidity that’s able to dissolve tough buildups all while disinfecting (via Healthline). So, mixing it up with some warm water and dish soap should work well on those outdoor cushion covers. You’ll need some warm water (enough to clean the surface area of your cushions), half a cup of dish soap, and a few tablespoons of vinegar. Mix all of these together in a bowl or spray bottle.

Step 2: Apply Solution to Cushions and Scrub

Once you’ve concocted a cleaning solution, apply it to the areas of the cushion you want to treat. If it's just a few darkened spots, no problem, but don’t be afraid to use this vinegar solution all over to generally brighten up the fabric. Use your scrubbing brush—like a dish brush—to massage the cleaner into the fabric.

Step 3: Rinse and Dry

Once you’re satisfied with your work, rinse off your cushions with some water. You should be able to thoroughly rinse by using a water-soaked sponge to wipe off the cleaner ( Real Homes). Then, leave the cushions in the sun to dry completely.

How to Remove Mold and Mildew from Outdoor Cushions

Mold and mildew are common enemies to outdoor cushions. Even though most patio cushion fabrics are durable, fluctuation of weather can cause the growth of different types of molds. They thrive in warm and damp environments, and you’ll be able to identify them—mildew, mostly—by a musty smell and greyish color (via Cushion Factory). Luckily, this trick with Borax can help you rid your cushions of mold and mildew stains in no time. 

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Borax
  • Rubber gloves
  • Clean cloth
  • Water

Step 1: Dissolve Borax in Water

You may already use Borax as a booster to some of your household cleaners, and it will work similarly on your patio cushions. Open your container of Borax and scoop out ¼ cup. Dissolve it in about one cup of warm water.

Step 2: Treat Affected Area

After the Borax has fully dissolved, dampen a clean cloth with the liquid and rub it into the areas of your cushion covered in mold or mildew. Wear rubber gloves to avoid sensitivities to skin in case it comes into contact with mold spores.

Step 3: Wait and Rinse

After you’ve thoroughly saturated the affected area, let the solution soak into your cushions for a few hours. Then, either rinse with water and a sponge by hand or, if your cushion covers are removable, toss them in the washer with no detergent.

How to Clean Animal Droppings off Outdoor Cushions

If your patio set is outside and uncovered, the likelihood that birds or other animals may eventually stain it is unfortunately high. If you notice some unwanted signs of animals on your cushions, there’s nothing some scrubbing and detergent can’t do.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Bristled scrubbing brush
  • Warm water
  • Detergent or stain remover of choice

Step 1: Scrape Off Any Excess

Glove up your hands and grab your brush. Try your best to scrape off as much of the topical stains as you can. The more you can get off the surface of the cushions, the better. That way, when you treat the stains, the cleaning solution can dig deep into the fabric.

Step 2: Saturate and Scrub the Stains

Fully saturate the dirty areas with warm water. Spray on your detergent of choice—preferably one with strong disinfecting properties—and give it a few minutes to soak. Then, use your scrubbing brush to work the solution further into the fabric. 

Step 3: Rinse and Repeat

Thoroughly rinse the affected area with warm water. Again, if they’re removable, you can just toss them in the washer (but be sure to see if there are any washing and care instructions on a tag somewhere). If not all of the stain is lifted, repeat the scrubbing process with some more detergent and rinse with water after.

how to remove stains on outdoor cushions

Photo via Abbey D

How to Remove Stains on Outdoor Cushions

When it comes to removing set-in stains from your outdoor cushions, you have options. First, consider the stain you’re dealing with. If it’s just some dirt or dust that’s gotten a little too comfortable in the fabric, you can apply the following baking soda solution to the affected area before tossing the covers in the washing machine and that’s that. If you’re dealing with something like coffee or red wine, you might want to reach for a chemical stain remover like OxiClean.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Toothbrush
  • Washing machine
  • Detergent
  • OxiClean (if preferred)

Step 1: Create a Paste

If you choose to use baking soda in place of OxiClean for a more natural stain-fighting process, start by creating a paste. Simply mix a few tablespoons of baking soda together with some warm water until you get a solution that’s not too runny, but not cement-thick. Use less water than baking soda for the perfect consistency.

Step 2: Apply Paste to Stained Fabric

Using a toothbrush, apply generous amounts of your baking soda paste to the stained areas. Scrub it into the stain until saturated, and let sit for a half-hour. For white cushions, baking soda will whiten your stained fabrics. For colors, the solution will simply brighten them. If you’ve opted for OxiClean, all you need to do is apply the cleaner to the stained areas, and let it soak into the fabric for the product’s recommended amount of time.

Step 3: Wash as Usual

After the time is up, discard as much of the dried baking soda paste as you can before loading your cushion covers into the washing machine. For OxiClean, just leave it as is. Both pretreatment solutions can be washed on a normal cycle (or however the fabric care instructions suggest) with some detergent, and they should come out stain-free. If the stain isn’t entirely lifted, repeat steps 1-3 without letting the fabric dry—that will set the stain.

Can You Pressure Wash Outdoor Cushions?

Pressure washing outdoor cushions is an effective cleaning method for hard-to-clean furniture. If your cushions have removable covers, you might as well use a method that involves a washing machine. But if the cushions can’t be removed, a pressure-washing session should do the trick—if you own a pressure washer, of course. If you’re interested in buying one, here are our top picks for pressure washers on the market. 

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Pressure washer
  • Detergent of choice
  • Soap spray tip 
  • Rinse spray tip
  • Scrubbing brush

Step 1: Secure Your Cleaning Site

Before getting started, you’ll want to make sure that you’re cleaning in the proper space. Close any windows nearby and make sure there aren’t any electrical cords or wires exposed or lying around. Lay cushions on a flat surface, like a concrete driveway or wooden deck, away from grass and mud. 

Step 2: Prepare Pressure Washer

Pressure washers have reservoirs that you can fill with cleaning solution, and you’re going to do just that. Pour the recommended amount of cleaner into the reservoir, or run the machine’s uptake tube directly into the bottle. Connect the machine to a water source, like a garden hose, and secure the soap spray tip to the wand.

Step 3: Wash

If your pressure washer has an adjustable tip, keep it on low pressure to limit the risk of damaging fabric. Most outdoor cushions are durable and weatherproof, but pressure washers are pretty powerful tools. Turn on your pressure washer and keep the wand tip approximately two feet from the cushions, then get to work. Work in horizontal sweeping motions along the cushions, suggests Simple Green, and keep both hands on the wand as you spray the cleaning solution. 

Step 4: Let Sit and Scrub

Give the cushions a few minutes to soak up the solution. It should get to work lifting residue out of the fabric, but if there are some obvious problem areas, you can use a scrubbing brush to help remove stains by hand. 

Step 5: Rinse Cushions Thoroughly

Switch out the soap spray nozzle with the rinse tip. Use the same technique mentioned in step 3 to completely rinse the cleaning solution from the cushions. 

Step 6: Remove excess water and dry

Once you’ve finished cleaning, turn off your pressure washer. Press as much water as you can out of the cushions to speed up the drying process. Air dry completely, and you’ll be left with fresh and clean outdoor cushions. 

How to Store Outdoor Cushions

We recommend washing and thoroughly drying your outdoor cushions before you bring them in for the winter, but how you store them will make a difference in their appearance next spring. Remember—even though outdoor cushion fabric is durable, it still needs to be taken care of correctly to increase its longevity. 

According to Life Storage Blog, moisture and pests are the two main culprits leading to outdoor cushion demise. To avoid these problems, you have several options:

  • Store cushions inside. This can mean a garage, a basement, or a storage cabinet in your house. If you utilize space in your basement or garage, keep in mind that the climate in these environments will often fluctuate, which isn’t ideal, but it’s still a better alternative to leaving cushions out in the open.
  • Avoid storing cushions directly on the ground. Stacking your cushions on shelves a few feet off the ground will make them harder for pests to access. Plus, it keeps moisture from the ground from penetrating the fabric.
  • Cover your cushions for maximum protection. Keeping your cushions inside is the first step, but you’ll want to maximize protection by covering them. Make use of old blankets, a tarp, or store in air-tight plastic containers to keep clean, dry, and pest-free all winter long. Storage bags—especially water-resistant ones— are another great option.
tips for keeping outdoor cushions clean

Photo via Everyday Edits

Tips for Keeping Outdoor Cushions Clean

Aside from routine cleaning and proper storage, there are a few other things to be mindful of if you’d like to keep your outdoor cushions clean year-round:

  • Limit sunlight exposure. The sun is helpful when it comes to naturally drying water out from your cushions after rainstorms and washes, but too much sun can be harmful. We all know that UV rays can damage skin sans protection from sunscreen, but they can fade out the color in your cushions too. If you want to soak up the sun on your outdoor furniture, that’s fine, but try to keep the area covered by some shade for the days you aren’t using it. An umbrella or canopy of some sort are great, and they look nice as patio and pool decor, too.
  • Pay attention to temperature fluctuations. If you aren’t able to spot clean your outdoor cushions every week or so, try to pay attention to any changes in the climate where you live. Aside from seasons changing, keep an eye on rainfall followed by humidity. The chances of mold and mildew build-up are higher under those conditions, so you might want to wash the cushions a step ahead before they’re covered in dark, moldy spots.
  • Purchase a heavy-duty fabric protector. Up the durability of your outdoor cushions with a strong fabric protector before patio season is in full swing. Look for one that is water-resistant as well as sun repellant for maximum protection; these usually will help prevent stains, too. Even though most outdoor cushions are weatherproof in some shape or form, some extra help doesn’t hurt. 

Have an outdoor cushion cleaning routine or storage solution that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you—drop it in the comments below!

Frequently asked questions
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  1 question
  • Jutta Allert Forkel Jutta Allert Forkel on Jan 13, 2022

    What about dog hair on cushions? Our dog likes to sneak onto our outdoor couch even though she had her own bench with a cushion.

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