What is the best fabric for outdoor cushions and bean bags?

made to measure covers for outdoor bench seat

Who knew that choosing an outdoor bean bag or doing up your outdoor cushion covers could be so difficult! With a little information, it doesn’t need to be. The two main decisions you need to make involve the choice of fabric, and the colour.

If you head off to google and start to search for outdoor fabrics, one of the names you’ll come across is Sunbrella. For a long time, it was the go to name for quality and reliability. But you might not realise that Sunbrella is just the brand name for a range of fabrics – the most common one being solution dyed acrylic. Because Sunbrella has become the default name, it tends to cost a little more. And you can get the exact same fabric (100% solution dyed acrylic) from other manufacturers at a slightly cheaper price!

If you search a little more, you will also come across a fabric called Olefin. Similar to acrylic, this is a 100% solution dyed fabric. This is important as this is what keeps your covers from fading in the sun. The picture below shows the difference between a solution dyed fabric, and your normal fabric that is dyed after the fibres are made.

Explanation of solution dyed v normal fabric

It’s pretty obvious that if you want a long lasting outdoor bean bag, or outdoor furniture cushions, that you are best to choose a solution dyed fabric. So do we choose Olefin or Acrylic? Two pieces of information might guide us. Firstly, Olefin is harder wearing than acrylic. This means it will cope with more use than acrylic. Both fabrics are still great, and in reality, it’s unlikely you’ll notice much difference. So perhaps the fact that Olefin is also cheaper than acrylic will help you realise that Olefin is the best choice. It’s the reason we offer it for all our bean bags, and for our customers that want to recover their outdoor chairs and sofa’s. If you want a long lasting fabric that can cope with all sorts of weather, chlorine from your pool, sea water, and most importantly, won’t fade for a very very long time, then Olefin is your best choice.

cushion covers for modular outdoor lounge suite

Sunproof 100% solution dyed Olefin (our choice for our premium range of outdoor bean bags and outdoor cushions) also includes treatments for anti-mildew, water repellency, soil and stain repellency, and antibacterial. With all these factors, you might be forgiven for thinking that producing this fabric is bad for the environment! However, another reason we like Sunproof Olefin is that it is Oeko-Tek certified and 100% recyclable! The manufacturing of Olefin is much more environmentally friendly than most fabric production. It does not require ‘fabric baths’ which are then dumped, potentially polluting the environment. Sunproof’s facilities have been certified to ISO-14001 standard for their environmental friendliness.

Sunproof Olefin Catalogue 2018-2020
Sunproof Olefin available in a range of colours.

Hard wearing, doesn’t fade, feels great, looks great with a range of colours and patterns, where do I sign up?! Before we rush into choosing Olefin for our new bean bag or outdoor cushions, it is still relatively expensive when compared to other outdoor fabrics. If you can afford it, then Olefin is the outdoor fabric we would recommend. (To get a quote for your outdoor cushion needs, just contact us here). If you really must have 100% solution dyed acrylic, then we are happy to help out, as Sunproof also make acrylic as well. Click here to for the Olefin catalogue, or here for the Acrylic catalogue and contact us here for a quote

But what if my budget this year is a little tighter? Don’t be disappointed, there are other more affordable options. Polyester is another outdoor fabric that is regularly used. One of the key differences to be aware of with almost all polyester is that it is not solution dyed, so it will fade in time. Polyester also comes in different ‘denier’ – which is just the term for the thickness of the fibres. The higher the denier, the thicker the weaves and the more dye can be applied. This means it will last longer. How long? That’s a difficult question to answer as it all depends on the amount of sun and weather the fabric will be exposed to. Basically, the more sun and weather, the quicker it will fade. (Many people are not aware that it is not just the sun that affects everything. In modern day society, there are a large amount of pollutants in the air from our cars, our manufacturing etc. These pollutants also reduce the life of anything outside, and outdoor fabrics are no exception).

Big Kahuna Olefin Praia - Giant Red Bean Bag
Big Kahuna Olefin Praia

It all sounds a bit doom and gloom! But it’s not, if polyester is looked after, stored away when not in use, and the right denier of polyester is chosen for the right situation, then you will get years and years of use. Here at Resort Style Bean Bags, we offer three different polyester fabrics – two are PVC backed, which provides their water resistance, and the other is treated for water resistance. Our standard fabric is 400D and is best used indoors or in completely shaded areas. This is our most affordable fabric for bean bags and custom outdoor cushions. Our second option is a 1680D Polyester – which is what we call our commercial fabric. As the denier rating is higher, this is a thicker, harder wearing fabric, and will last longer. This is best used in areas with occasional sun. With it’s thicker weave and PVC backing, some people may not like it’s canvas type feel. That’s why we also offer a softer polyester fabric that is also suitable for areas with occasional sun. We call this fabric Resortella, and it gains it’s water resistance from a treatment, rather than an additional layer of PVC on the back. Resortella is only available for our outdoor furniture covers, not our bean bags. But if you really want a bean bag made from it, just contact us.

To summarise! Sunproof Olefin is a high performance outdoor fabric that is perfect for your outdoor bean bags and outdoor cushion covers where you want the longest life and it will be subject to the most sun and weather. Polyester can be used in situations where there is less or limited sun, or if in full sun, it can be stored away when not in use to prolong the life of your bean bag or cushion covers. So that’s one decision taken care of, now you just need to choose from our fabulous range of colours, patterns and weaves! And do you want contrast piping? To help with your colour choices, look out for our next blog….