Tonawanda News

August 1, 2013

DESIGNS BY DANA: Outdoor fabrics are long-lasting

By Dana Longfritz
The Tonawanda News

Question: What can you tell me about the outdoor fabrics that I hear so much about lately? Can you really leave them out in the weather?

Answer: Outdoor fabrics (such as Sunbrella) have been around for many years. They were mainly used on boats, awnings and for some pre-fabricated outdoor cushions. The manufacturers have now broadened their selections and their market, which is why the general public is hearing more about them.

Outdoor fabrics are now available for purchase by any consumer and can be found at almost any retail store that sells fabrics of any kind. There are a large number of styles, colors, patterns and weights to choose from as well as some that are geared more for indoor use. All of these fabrics are highly durable, completely fade-resistant and repel moisture. When properly cared for outdoor material is virtually indestructible.

Yes, you can leave these fabrics outside in almost any weather and they will hold up great (again, with proper care). As hard as it is to believe, the sun will not fade them and the rain will not hurt them. 

The key to maintaining this type of material is to keep it clean. Although the fabric resists mildew, it can still grow on any dirt that has accumulated on the surface of the fabric. Once the mildew begins to grow it can break down the fabric fibers. Keeping the material free of dirt will keep it free from mildew.

Clients are constantly telling me that their outdoor cushions or awnings have become faded and stained. I guarantee that that happened due to the fabric becoming soiled or dirty (even if not visibly) and then that soil grew mold. The mold becomes visible as black spots that people think are stains. In time this mold will break down the fabric causing it to look faded and eventually deteriorating the fabric fibers altogether.

Wipe up any spills that get on your material as soon as you can and rinse the area off. Periodically hose down your fabric to keep it free of dust and dirt. Remember, this fabric will not absorb water so it’s okay to hose away and the surface will air dry quickly. Mixing a little bleach with your water won’t hurt it either as the material is fade resistant. The bleach will kill any mildew that may be starting to take hold.

I find the softer versions of outdoor fabrics to be great for indoor use as well. They are perfect for households with children and pets. Toss removable covers in a cold water wash and hang to dry.

What could be easier ?

It seems that it’s very hard for people to believe that this fabric is so tough and that it really can stay outside — within reason — but if you do take the time to care for it, it will take care of you for many, many years.

Dana Longfritz is the owner of Interiors by Dana. You can e-mail your design questions to her at or contact her at M. Carter Decor 434-2159.