By Linda Merrill, Networx
Outdoor living is what the summer is all about, but unless you want to sit on hard wood or metal furniture, you're going to have to maintain your outdoor furniture cushions. Luckily, new technologies have brought us a slew of highly durable and stylish fabrics for outdoor use. However, highly durable doesn't necessarily mean they are completely impervious to the twin assaults of the sun and rain.
Outdoor fabrics, such as Sunbrella®, are moisture, mildew and fade resistant. Generally, this means that if you leave the cushions uncovered during a rainstorm, the rain will bead up and roll off. However, if left untended over a series of downpours, they will start to show signs of wear. It's always best to have covers available when the furniture is not in use or if a heavy downpour is expected. If the cushions are left out in the rain, as soon as it stops, shake or wipe off the cushions to remove the excess water and let them air out a bit. If you covered them, remove the covers and inspect to make sure there are no pools of standing water underneath.
Keep your cushions clean by regularly shaking off the bugs, pollen, pine needles, bird droppings and other nasty business that might find its way into the seams. Food spills should be wiped off immediately, as they may stain and will definitely attract bugs. If a stain does occur, clean with a solution of two ounces of a light liquid soap per one gallon of lukewarm water. Allow the solution to soak in a bit and then rub with a sponge or soft bristled brush and rinse with clean water. If the cushion covers are removable, you can hand wash in a solution of quarter-cup light liquid soap per gallon of lukewarm water. While the fabrics themselves are resistant to mildew, the debris and dirt that can collect is not and mildew can grow there. If there is a buildup of mildew, you can clean with a solution of a quarter-cup of bleach and a quarter-cup of liquid soap to one gallon of water. All cleaning solutions should be removed with clean water; the fabric should be allowed to air dry.
During the off-season, it's very important to store outdoor cushions and upholstery appropriately. Plastic bags seem like a quick and easy solution, but if tied or wrapped too tightly, they don't allow for airflow, which will allow mildew to develop. If you decide to purchase storage bags for your cushions, make sure that they have vents to promote a good airflow, while keeping out dirt, debris or pests of the insect or rodent variety. Store the bagged cushions in a dry environment, such as an attic or very dry basement.
By taking these relatively quick and easy steps, you will prolong the life and looks of your outdoor cushions for long term enjoyment, which is both time and money saved in the end.