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How to Clean and Scotchguard Outdoor Sunbrella Fabric Cushions

Paul is a fix-it-yourself homeowner who enjoys finding creative and cost-effective solutions to house problems he encounters.

dirt, sap and food stains on sunbrella cushion

dirt, sap and food stains on sunbrella cushion

For about the last year, our patio furniture has been left outside under a large pine tree. The Sunbrella cushions were new last year, but when we looked at them today, they were covered in dirt, sap, bird poop, and food stains from the summer. All of this dirt and grime has been baked into the cushions from the sun and soaked in through the heavy rains of the winter. To say the least, we have some very dirty cushions.

Today we decided to clean the cushions to see if we can salvage them and put them in our garage until summer. Sunbrella has pretty good instructions for cleaning the fabric.

Bucket of Sunbrella cleaning mixture

Bucket of Sunbrella cleaning mixture

Step 1: Create the Cleaning Agent for the Fabric

For a heavy or very dirty cushion, in a small bucket mix

  • One gallon of water
  • 1 cup of Oxy Clean bleach (don't use chlorine bleach with Oxy Clean)
  • 1/4 cup of dish soap

Mix it together to form a soapy and sudsy cleaning formula. Using Oxy Clean got us much better results than regular bleach.

Use a firm brush with strong bristles for scrubbing the cushions

Use a firm brush with strong bristles for scrubbing the cushions

Step 2: Soak and Scrub Cushions

If possible, remove the cushion covers before cleaning.

Brush some of the soapy water onto the Sunbrella fabric. Let it soak in and sit so the cleaning mixture can break down the dirt and stains. After fifteen minutes, dip the brush back in the cleaning solution and vigorously scrub the cushions.

If the cushions aren't coming clean, spray the fabric with Woolite Oxy cleaning spray. After spraying, let the cushions sit for a few minutes and then scrub them with a bristly brush.

Step 3: Rinse and Dry Cushions

Once the scrubbing is complete, rinse the cushions off with a hose and place them in the garage to dry.

Most of the dirt will come out easily. The stains caused by the sap will be mostly gone, but not completely. If you really want that sap gone, here are tips on how to remove sap from almost anything.

A hand-cleaned Sunbrella cushion

A hand-cleaned Sunbrella cushion

After the cushion has dried out, this is the same cushion in the first picture. It's now very clean and looks good enough to last through another season.

Step 4: Spray Cushions With Scotchguard

One last step. After the cushions are clean and dry, spray them with Scotchguard.

We have cleaned our cushions three times with this technique, and they have lasted going on five years. The final step with Scotchguard helps protect them from the morning mist and water from sprinklers and rain.

An Alternative Way to Clean Sunbrella Cushions

I've just recently tried an alternative way to scrubbing them with a cleaning solution to clean them much more quickly. I simply took a power washer and sprayed them with a 30-degree nozzle. After the cushions are washed, place them on their side and dry them in the sun.

Note: Drying the cushions out took about three days. So, if you're going to want to use the cushions, plan ahead so they're dry!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can I wash the Sunbrella cushion covers in a washer?

Answer: Yes, if you can get the covers off, you can wash in washer. Just don’t put the entire cushion in.

Question: Can you use Shout on sunbrella fabric?

Answer: Most mild detergents work well on Sunbrella fabric. Try the stain remover on a small hidden section first, but it should be fine. One thing to keep in mind is that the detergent or stain remover should be rinsed out thoroughly, so to avoid water rings and stains the entire fabric should be cleaned.

© 2010 Paul Edmondson

Comments

Dianna Smith on May 09, 2020:

Our outdoor patio cushions are made with Sunbrella. We cover it every night. I've noticed that there is black mildew building up! Is there a special treatment to kill and clean them?

Kathy on November 21, 2019:

I noticed white bird poop on my sumbrella cushions Is icy lean bleach the best?

Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on June 21, 2012:

I gave this hub a big update to help get out the nasty stains in cushions.

Tracy Monroy on June 11, 2010:

Great hub! I love Sunbrella fabric! It is much easier to clean and stays new looking for so long. I just received some new samples from FabricMaven.com of Sunbrella because I want to make some pillows for our outdoor furniture. Still deciding on the colors which is why I requested samples. Thanks!

Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on February 16, 2010:

@grillrepair - those are great tips for picking out cushions. I wish I had gone with cushion coverings that can be removed. We will also definitely scotchguard the cushions when we put them back out.

Jyoti Kothari from Jaipur on February 16, 2010:

Hi,

Nicely explained. Though I do not use these but I enjoyed your way of writing especially the last para!

Thanks,

Jyoti Kothari

gredmondson on February 16, 2010:

I have heard that bleach and detergent both lower the effectiveness of the other when they are combined. Bleach is effective at getting rid of mildew and mold. If you had neither of those, I would skip the bleach. Do your cushions have zippers? If so, I would remove them from the cushions and wash in the washer with extra detergent and extra rinses.

grillrepair from florida on February 16, 2010:

Thank you paul. I have been selling high-quality outdoor furniture for about 9 years. in my first year, when i didn't know the difference between cheap furniture and expensive furniture i contacted several sales representatives for an education. i'll never forget a rep came in and poured fruit punch and coffee on one of my floor displays. we went to lunch and came back to find the stains setting in for keeps. He took the chairs outside, sprayed them with a soap made from citrus, something cheap we had laying around and sprayed them with a hose. Later that day when the two "damaged" chairs had dried, i could not pick out the two that were left alone and the two that were "stained". I have a hundred stories since then but sunbrella is as good as it gets. I do make sure to get cushions that allow the sunbrella fabric to come off the chair, make sure the stuffing is dacron not foam and i use scotchguard. Sunbrella is the best fabrics out there -- especially down here in florida where the weather is harsh.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 16, 2010:

Very good tip for easier cleaning. Thanks.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on February 16, 2010:

Thank you for a good tip.