Outdoor Furniture Cushion Cleaner: From Basics to Specialized Techniques

Outdoor furniture cushions add softness and style to your patio, but they can also gather dirt, debris, mildew, tree sap, bird droppings, and other stains from exposure to the elements. Cleaning these cushions is essential to keep your seating area fresh and comfortable. Understanding the right techniques and cleaners can make the task much easier, whether it’s a routine wash or dealing with specific stains. Let’s dive into outdoor furniture cushion cleaning, exploring everything from the basics to specialized techniques.

How to Clean Outdoor Furniture Cushions with Specialized Cleaner

Step-by-Step Guide

1. Vacuum Up Loose Debris: Using an upholstery attachment, vacuum over the surface of the cushion to remove loose dirt, dust, and debris. Pay special attention to seams and crevices, and be careful around buttons or other decorative elements. A soft-bristled brush can also be used to brush away grime gently.

2. Scrub with Cleaning Solution: Mix 1 tablespoon dish detergent with 1/4 cup Borax in a bucket of water. Use a brush dipped in the cleaning solution to scrub the entire surface, going back over stained areas as needed. Wait at least five minutes to allow the solution to soak.

3. Rinse Cushions Using a Garden Hose: Use a garden hose on medium-high pressure to rinse off the cushions. Be sure to rinse away all of the cleaning solution thoroughly. Avoid using a pressure washer, as this might damage the fabric.

4. Let Dry Completely: Squeeze out any excess water with your hands, then blot the fabric with a clean towel to soak up as much moisture as possible. Prop the cushions up vertically and allow them to air-dry completely. Setting them in a sunny spot can speed up the drying time.

Specialized Techniques

Cleaning with Vinegar: For a natural cleaning method, try using Vinegar. Add 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar to 4 cups warm water and pour into a spray bottle. Spray the cushions and let sit for 15 minutes. Scrub any stained areas with a soft brush, rinse with water, and let air dry.

Removing Specific Stains:

  • Grass Stains: Use a liquid detergent with stain-removing enzymes, such as Tide Heavy Duty Hygienic Clean Liquid Laundry Detergent. Scrub the stain with a soft brush and rinse with clean water.
  • Mold or Mildew: Spray undiluted distilled white Vinegar over the affected area and wait at least 10 minutes. Scrub the cushions with a brush, then clean them with a sponge dipped in water and detergent. Rinse and let air dry completely in a sunny spot.
  • Oil Stains: Sprinkle cornstarch or baking soda on the fabric, wait 15 minutes, then scrape off the powder. Repeat as needed until the stain is gone.
  • Tree Sap: Apply an enzyme-based stain remover, sprinkle powdered detergent on top to create a paste, scrub gently with a brush, and rinse with hot water.

Protecting Your Cushions

Many outdoor cushions and pillows are treated with a special coating that resists water and stains. Replenish this coating or protect untreated fabrics with a protective fabric spray like Scotchgard Water and Sun Shield, ensuring the cushions are completely clean beforehand.

Removing Mildew and Stains

Mildew is a common problem for outdoor furniture cushions, especially in damp and humid conditions. Here’s how to tackle it:

1. Create a Cleaning Solution: Mix 1 cup of Borax with 4 cups of water.

2. Apply Liberally: Use a brush or sponge to apply the mixture to the fabric, blotting with a clean microfiber cloth. For stubborn stains, allow it to soak for up to 30 minutes.

3. Rinse and Dry: Rinse the cushions thoroughly and stand them on their ends to air dry.

Alternative Method: Another solution for mildew is 1 tablespoon of bleach mixed with 1 pint of water. Test in an inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn’t discolor the fabric.

Removing Specific Stains

Outdoor cushions are prone to various stains. Here’s how to deal with some of the most common:

  • Tree Sap: Apply an enzyme-based stain remover, make a paste using powdered laundry detergent and water, rub gently with a soft-bristle brush, and rinse with hot water.
  • Bird Droppings: Let dry, wipe away as much as possible, mix dish soap, Borax, and warm water in a spray bottle, spray on the stain, soak, and rinse thoroughly.
  • Food Grease, Oil, and Condiments: Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on the spot, scrape up the powder, apply a cleaning solution of 1 cup borax with 4 cups of water, and rinse thoroughly.
  • Grass Stains: Pre-treat with liquid laundry detergent, rinse with warm water, apply a solution of 1 part oxygen bleach mixed with three parts warm water, soak for up to an hour, rinse, and dry.
  • Blood Stains: Make a stain-removing solution using Dawn dish soap, hydrogen peroxide, and cool water; apply directly to the stain, soak for about 10 minutes, and blot with a clean damp cloth.
  • Wine Stains: Dilute red wine with white wine, blot, sprinkle with baking soda or cornstarch, vacuum, mix Dawn dish soap and hydrogen peroxide, apply to the stain, stand for 20 to 30 minutes, rinse, and repeat if necessary.

Prevention and Maintenance

  • Cover Your Outdoor Furniture: Use outdoor furniture covers during winter or extended periods of non-use.
  • Clean Up Spills Promptly: The longer a stain sits, the harder it will be to remove.
  • Treat Cushions with Fabric Protectant: Many outdoor fabrics can be re-treated with water and stain repellents like 303 Fabric Guard.
  • Get Them Out of the Rain: Store cushions in a protected location during heavy rain and allow them to dry thoroughly if they get wet.

Cleaning White Outdoor Cushions

White outdoor cushions require special attention to maintain their pristine appearance. Here’s how to care for them:

Cleaning Methods

1. Vacuum: Remove loose dirt and dust using a vacuum cleaner’s upholstery attachment.

2. Remove Cushion Cases if Possible: If the covers are removable and machine washable, unzip them and follow the manufacturer’s care instructions.

3. Hand Wash if Necessary: Mix 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid in a bucket of warm water. If cushions are mildewy, add ¼ cup of Borax. Sponge the sudsy solution onto the cushions and let them soak for 15 minutes. Scrub stubborn spots with a soft brush.

4. Rinse Thoroughly: Use a garden hose to rinse off the cushions or covers. Please don’t use a pressure washer, which might damage the fabric.

5. Dry Completely: Squeeze out excess water, blot with a towel, and stand the cushion up to air dry. Choose a clean and sunny spot for drying.

Products to Use

  • Dishwashing Liquid: For general cleaning.
  • Borax: To treat mildew.
  • All-Purpose Stain Remover: Like Carbona Pro Care Outdoor Cleaner for specific stains.
  • Fabric Protector Spray: Such as Scotchgard Water & Sun Shield to resist dirt and stains.

Tips for White Cushions

  • Avoid Bleach if Not Recommended: Check the cushion’s care label for warnings against bleach.
  • Use Enzyme-Based Stain Removers for Tough Stains: Like tree sap.
  • Treat Stains Promptly: The sooner you treat a stain, the easier it will be to remove.
  • Reupholster if Necessary: No-sew ways to reupholster include using a glue gun, staples, or safety pins.
  • Prevent Fading: Use UV-resistant spray, make slipcovers, or use specially fitted outdoor furniture covers.

Washing Outdoor Cushions in Machines

Machine washing outdoor cushions can be a time-saving and efficient, but it requires understanding the cushion type, fabric, and care instructions. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

1. Check the Care Label: Ensure the cushions are machine washable. Look for specific instructions regarding temperature, cycle, and detergent.

2. Remove Cushion Covers if Possible: If the cushion covers are removable, unzip them and wash separately.

3. Pre-Treat Stains: Use a stain remover or a mixture of baking soda and water on stubborn spots.

4. Choose the Right Detergent: Use a mild liquid detergent or a specialized fabric cleaner designed for outdoor fabrics.

5. Select the Correct Cycle: A gentle or delicate cycle with cold water is typically best.

6. Rinse Thoroughly: An extra rinse cycle can help remove all detergent residues.

7. Air Dry: Allow the cushions or covers to dry completely. Avoid using a dryer as it may shrink or damage the fabric.

Tips for Machine Washing

  • Don’t Overload the Washer: Wash only two or three cushions simultaneously, depending on their size.
  • Use a Mesh Laundry Bag for Small Cushions: This helps to protect them during the wash.
  • Add Vinegar to the Rinse Cycle: A cup of white Vinegar can help remove odors and brighten colors.
  • Fluff the Cushions After Washing: This helps them retain their shape.

Alternative Cleaning Solutions Using Vinegar

Vinegar is a versatile, eco-friendly cleaner used on outdoor cushions. Here’s how:

1. Create a Vinegar Solution: Mix equal parts white Vinegar and water in a spray bottle.

2. Spray the Cushions: Spray the solution onto the cushions, paying special attention to stained or mildewed areas.

3. Scrub with a Soft Brush: Gently scrub the cushions using a soft-bristle brush.

4. Rinse Well: Rinse the cushions with a garden hose.

5. Allow to Air Dry: Stand the cushions on their ends in a sunny spot to dry.

Other Natural Cleaning Solutions

  • Baking Soda and Water: A paste made from baking soda and water can scrub away stains.
  • Lemon Juice: Mix lemon juice with salt to create a natural bleach for white cushions.
  • Castile Soap: A gentle, plant-based soap that can be used as a natural detergent.
  • Essential Oils: Adding a few drops of tea tree or lavender oil to your cleaning solution can add a pleasant fragrance and additional cleaning power.

Effectiveness of Natural Cleaners

Natural cleaners like vinegar and baking soda can be highly effective for general cleaning and stain removal. They are also environmentally friendly and free from harsh chemicals. However, specialized cleaners may be required for stubborn stains or specific fabric types.

Patio and Garden Furniture Cushion Cleaning

Patio furniture cushions are exposed to various outdoor elements, and regular cleaning is essential. Here’s a guide:

1. Vacuum or Brush Off Loose Dirt: Use a vacuum cleaner or a soft-bristle brush to remove loose debris.

2. Pre-Treat Stains: Apply a stain remover or a mixture of dish soap and water to any visible stains.

3. Wash with a Specialized Cleaner: Use a cleaner specifically designed for outdoor fabrics, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

4. Rinse Thoroughly: Rinse the cushions with a garden hose, removing all soap residue.

5. Air Dry: Allow the cushions to dry completely, preferably in the sun.

6. Apply Fabric Protectant: Consider using a fabric protectant spray to help repel future stains and water.

Cleaning Garden Furniture Cushions

Depending on the fabric and exposure to the elements, garden furniture cushions may require different care. Here’s how to clean them:

1. Shake Off Loose Debris: Shake or brush off loose dirt or leaves.

2. Spot Clean Stains: Use a cloth dipped in water and mild detergent to spot any stains.

3. Use a Garden Hose: Gently rinse the cushions with a garden hose.

4. Allow to Air Dry: Let the cushions dry completely in a sunny spot.

5. Store Properly: If possible, store the cushions in a dry, protected area when not in use.

Specialized Cleaners for Both Patio and Garden

  • 303 Multi-Surface Cleaner: Great for all types of outdoor fabrics.
  • Star Brite Outdoor Furniture Cleaner: Designed to clean vinyl, plastic, fabric, and more.
  • Simple Green Oxy Solve Total Outdoor Cleaner: A versatile cleaner that’s safe for various surfaces.

How to Clean Cushions Without Removable Covers

Cleaning outdoor cushions without removable covers can be more challenging but still manageable. Here’s how:

1. Vacuum Loose Dirt: Use a vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment to remove loose dirt and debris.

2. Mix a Cleaning Solution: Combine warm water with a mild detergent or a specialized outdoor fabric cleaner.

3. Scrub the Cushions: Pay attention to stained areas by using a soft-bristle brush or sponge to scrub the cushions.

4. Rinse Well: Rinse the cushions with a garden hose, removing all soap residue.

5. Dry Completely: Allow the cushions to air dry, standing them on their ends if possible.

6. Apply a Fabric Protectant: Consider using a fabric protectant to help repel future stains and water.

Precautions and Tools

  • Test a Small Area First: Always test the cleaning solution on a hidden area to ensure it doesn’t discolor the fabric.
  • Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Use mild detergents or specialized cleaners designed for outdoor fabrics.
  • Use the Right Tools: Soft-bristle brushes, sponges, and microfiber cloths are ideal for cleaning without damaging the fabric.

Outdoor Furniture Fabric Cleaner for Cushions

Outdoor furniture cushions come in various fabric types, requiring specific care and cleaning solutions. Here’s a breakdown:

1. Acrylic Fabrics: These are resistant to mildew and fading but should be cleaned with a mild soap solution and rinsed well.

2. Polyester Fabrics: Polyester is durable and easy to clean with mild detergent and water.

3. Vinyl Fabrics: Vinyl can be wiped down with warm water and mild dish soap.

4. Canvas Fabrics: Canvas cushions can be cleaned with a specialized canvas cleaner or mild detergent.

5. Olefin Fabrics: Olefin is known for its resistance to staining, mildew, and fading. Clean with mild soap and water.

Fabric-Specific Cleaning Solutions

  • 303 Fabric Guard: Ideal for restoring water repellency to acrylic fabrics.
  • Star Brite Fabric Cleaner & Protectant: Suitable for canvas, polyester, and coated fabrics.
  • Iosso Mold & Mildew Stain Remover: Designed for canvas and other outdoor fabrics.
  • Simple Green Oxy Solve Total Outdoor Cleaner: A versatile cleaner for various fabric types.

Methods for Fabric Cleaning

1. Spot Cleaning: Use a soft brush or cloth and a mild cleaning solution to treat specific stains.

2. Full Cleaning: Use a hose or a large bucket of water with the appropriate cleaner for a thorough cleaning.

3. Rinsing: Always rinse the fabric thoroughly to remove all soap residues.

4. Drying: Allow the cushions to air dry completely, preferably in the sun.

Using Outdoor Furniture Cushion Cleaner on Dirty Cushions

Heavily soiled cushions require deep cleaning to restore their appearance. Here’s how:

1. Vacuum or Shake Off Loose Dirt: Remove as much loose dirt as possible before washing.

2. Pre-Treat Stains: Apply a stain remover or baking soda paste and water to stubborn spots.

3. Use a Specialized Cleaner: Follow the instructions and choose a cleaner specifically designed for outdoor fabrics.

4. Scrub with a Soft-Bristle Brush: Scrub the cushions gently, paying extra attention to heavily stained areas.

5. Rinse Thoroughly: Rinse the cushions with a garden hose or in a large bucket of water.

6. Allow to Air Dry: Let the cushions dry completely in a sunny spot.

Products for Deep Cleaning

  • Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover: Effective on tough stains and safe for various fabrics.
  • Goo Gone Patio Furniture Cleaner: Designed to clean various outdoor surfaces, including cushions.
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Outdoor Pro: Useful for scrubbing away stubborn grime.

Restoration and Maintenance

  • Reapply Fabric Protectant: Consider using a fabric protectant to help repel future stains and water.
  • Regular Maintenance: Regular cleaning and prompt stain removal can prevent cushions from becoming heavily soiled.
  • Proper Storage: Store cushions in a dry, protected area when not in use to keep them clean.

Washing Outdoor Cushion Covers

Washing outdoor cushion covers separately can be an effective way to keep them looking fresh and clean. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

1. Remove the Covers: Unzip or unbutton the covers and carefully remove them from the cushions.

2. Check Care Labels: Look for specific washing instructions on the care labels.

3. Pre-Treat Stains: Use a stain remover or a mixture of baking soda and water on any visible stains.

4. Machine Wash if Possible: If the care label allows, wash the covers gently with mild detergent.

5. Hand Wash if Necessary: Hand wash the covers using a mild soap solution if machine washing is not recommended.

6. Thoroughly Rinse the covers well to remove all soap residue.

7. Air Dry: Allow the covers to air dry completely, preferably in the sun, but avoid direct sunlight if fading is a concern.

8. Reassemble: Carefully put the covers back on the cushions once dry.

Products and Tools

  • Mild Liquid Detergent: Suitable for most fabric types.
  • Stain Remover: Like Shout Advanced Stain Remover, for pre-treating stubborn stains.
  • Soft-Bristle Brush: For gentle scrubbing if hand washing.

Tips for Washing Covers

  • Avoid Bleach: Unless specifically recommended on the care label, avoid bleach as it may damage the fabric.
  • Use Cold Water: Cold water is generally gentler on fabrics.
  • Avoid the Dryer: Air drying is usually the safest option to prevent shrinking or damage.

Dry Cleaning Outdoor Cushions

Dry cleaning can be an option for outdoor cushions, especially for delicate or specialty fabrics. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Check the Care Label: Look for specific instructions regarding dry cleaning.

2. Consider Professional Dry Cleaning: If the label recommends dry cleaning, consider taking the cushions to a professional dry cleaner specializing in outdoor fabrics.

3. DIY Dry Cleaning Kits: Some home dry cleaning kits are available in your dryer, but follow the instructions carefully.

4. Pre-Treat Stains: Even if dry cleaning, pre-treating stains can enhance the results.

5. Ask About Specialized Cleaners: Some dry cleaners may offer specialized services or products for outdoor fabrics.


  • Test a Small Area First: If using a home dry cleaning kit, test on a hidden area first.
  • Follow Instructions Carefully: Whether DIY or professional, follow all care instructions to avoid damage.
  • Consider Fabric Type: Not all outdoor cushion fabrics are suitable for dry cleaning, so always check the care label.

What to Use for Outdoor Cushions

When cleaning outdoor cushions, choosing the right products and methods is essential. Here’s what experts recommend:

1. Specialized Outdoor Fabric Cleaners: Brands like 303 Multi-Surface Cleaner and Star Brite Fabric Cleaner are designed specifically for outdoor fabrics.

2. Mild Liquid Detergent: A gentle detergent can be used for most cushion fabrics.

3. Natural Solutions: White Vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice are eco-friendly options for general cleaning.

4. Stain Removers: Products like Shout Advanced Stain Remover or Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover can tackle stubborn stains.

5. Fabric Protectants: Consider using a fabric protectant like Scotchgard Water & Sun Shield to repel future stains and water.

6. Soft-Bristle Brushes and Sponges: These are ideal for gentle scrubbing without damaging the fabric.

7. Professional Services: Professional cleaning services may be the best option for delicate or specialty fabrics.

Expert Tips

  • Always Check Care Labels: Follow the specific care instructions for your cushion fabric.
  • Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Harsh chemicals can damage outdoor fabrics, so choose products carefully.
  • Regular Maintenance: Regular cleaning and prompt stain removal can keep cushions looking fresh and extend their lifespan.
  • Proper Storage: Store cushions in a dry, protected area when not in use to keep them clean.


Cleaning outdoor furniture cushions is essential to maintaining a comfortable and inviting outdoor living space. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or just starting to create your outdoor oasis, understanding the right products, methods, and expert tips can make cleaning and maintaining your cushions much more manageable. So grab your outdoor furniture cushion cleaner, roll up your sleeves, and make your outdoor space a place of comfort, style, and joy!