How to Choose the Perfect Fabric for Your Outdoor Furniture

Use our handy guide to choose the right durable, weather-friendly material for your outdoor furnishings.

Preparing for the warmer months often includes a porch refresh. With sofas, lounge chairs, and fun pillows, you can create a warm-weather oasis that showcases your personality. But it's important to consider which outdoor fabrics your products will be made from before buying.

Depending on if you live in a rainy area or your porch lacks shade, you'll need to choose between water-resistant and waterproof fabrics for your pillows and cushions. Knowing the different kinds of outdoor fabrics will help you to stay within your budget, and prevent your pillows from fading in the sunlight or being ruined by rain. This quick guide will help you choose the best outdoor fabrics for your porch or patio.

outdoor seating couch pillows string lights
Photo: Jacob Fox; Stylist: Joseph Wanek

Types of Outdoor Fabric

There are various types of outdoor fabrics to use. From acrylic to polyester to vinyl, each kind has its pros and cons.

Solution-Dyed Fabric

Softer acrylic fabrics are solution-dyed, so the fibers are dyed before the yarn is created. They lean on the more expensive side and they'll resist water but are not waterproof.

Printed Fabric

For a less expensive fabric, there are cheaper acrylics or polyester versions that are printed. Since they are printed, they will fade faster.

Vinyl Fabric

The last option is vinyl fabric, which is often coated in a color or pattern. Vinyl fabric is very affordable but has limited use.

Water-Resistant vs. Waterproof Fabrics

Ever buy a piece of clothing that you thought was going to keep out rain only to find yourself soaked? When it comes to outdoor fabrics, knowing the difference between water-resistant and waterproof fabrics is essential. Waterproof refers to a fabric or material that is treated to provide a complete barrier to water. This is the highest protection level. Water-resistant refers to fabric or material that is woven to deter water but does not completely repel it. These types of fabrics have a medium protection level.

Related: 25 Colorful Backyard Decorating Ideas

blue pattered outdoor seating with decorative pillows
Nathan Kirkman

What to Look for When Shopping for Outdoor Fabric

When finding your perfect porch cushions or pillows, consider if water-resistant fabric is enough protection or not. You can find water-resistant cushions, pillows, and curtains at plenty of online and brick-and-mortar stores. Occasionally, some options might require special ordering so remember to plan ahead before spring arrives.

If DIYing pillows are an option, purchase outdoor fabric by the yard to craft your own cushions, curtains, or pillows. You can find lots of options online and might be able to order from upholstery services in your area or from fabrics stores. Remember to check if the fabric is waterproof or water-resistant before adding it to your cart.

scrubbing outdoor pillow with brush
Photo: Jacob Fox; Stylist: Joseph Wanek

How to Care for Outdoor Fabrics

Most outdoor fabric is water-resistant but not waterproof. Water-resistant fabrics can be used on uncovered decks and patios, but cushions will need to be propped on their sides to dry after a good rain. Waterproof fabrics handle rainy climates or wet environments best but are not as soft to the touch. Waterproof fabrics typically come in fewer patterns.

If spills happen, clean thoroughly as promptly as possible. Scrub with mild soap and warm water into the stain and let dry thoroughly. In general, wash, but don't dry outdoor fabrics.

Some outdoor fabrics fade faster from sunlight than others. The fabric composition will determine the amount of fading. The more acrylic in the fabric generally means more hours in the sun without a noticeable change.

Updated by
Kaylei Fear
headshot, kaylei fear

Kaylei Fear is a digital editorial apprentice for Better Homes & Gardens where she covers the home category. A junior at Iowa State University, she is pursuing a B.A. in public relations, with minors in environmental studies and fashion, culture, history, and social justice.

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