made to measure covers for outdoor bench seat

How to Clean Outdoor Cushions Safely

Keeping your outdoor cushions clean can be a challenge. Not only are they exposed to rain, heat and smoke, they can also get stained by drinks, bird poo and tree sap. Dirty cushions can be embarrassing, particularly while entertaining guests. If they are too far damaged, you may need to buy new covers however, with the right methods, it may be possible to adequately clean them. With the right care, you’ll also enjoy longer life from your outdoor cushions. 

There are three ways to clean your cushions: brushing, washing and stain removal. The method you use will depend on how dirty they are. If you use them infrequently, you only need to brush them once a week to remove crumbs or dust. If you’ve had a rowdy party where wine or food was consumed (and spilled), washing and stain treatment might be required. 

But how do you clean your cushions without damaging them or making the stain worse? And what happens if you find a stain that’s old or stubborn? Our easy three-step system can help you clean your cushions quickly and safely – and ensure they stay that way all year round.

Dustpan and Brush


This is the easiest way to keep your outdoor cushions clean. All you need is a brush or whisk broom. Once or twice a week, depending on how often you use your cushions (and whether they’re placed outside or undercover), give them a good brush. This will ensure that dust, ash, dog hair and crumbs don’t get embedded in the fibres. 

If you find grey patches that can’t be dislodged by your brush, it probably means you’ve got mould. While many cushion fabrics are mould-resistant, they can still develop mould if they don’t dry quickly enough or if you live in a humid climate. To prevent this from happening, sit the cushions on their side after they get wet (either from rain or poolside use). This helps them drain faster and prevent the growth of mould or mildew. If the damage has already been done, it’s time for a wash.


Your outdoor cushions may look clean, but you’d be surprised by how much dust, dirt and pollens they absorb. This means you need to wash them regularly, but how you do this depends on your cushions. If they have removable covers, you can pop them it into the washing machine and line-dry them. However, not all outdoor cushions are machine washable, so check the cleaning instructions on the tag. Alternatively, wash them by hand with a mild detergent.

If you have cushion covers that can’t be removed, the best way to clean them is with a garden hose. But don’t be alarmed, most outdoor cushions have PVC backing, so you won’t get water seepage. To get started, you’ll need rubber/latex gloves, a garden hose with an adjustable nozzle, a firm brush, a bucket, dishwashing detergent and Borax. When you’re ready, follow these six steps:

  1. Remove the cushions and put them on a clean surface. Spray them on both sides with your garden hose until they’re damp. 
  2. Put on your gloves, then place two tablespoons of dishwashing detergent and half a cup of Borax in the bucket. Fill with water.
  3. Using a firm brush, apply the cleaning solution onto the cushions and scrub them thoroughly. Make sure you pay attention to light stains, mildew and creases. 
  4. Leave the cleaning solution on the cushions for about five minutes. 
  5. Rinse with your garden hose at the highest pressure, making sure all the soap is removed. 
  6. Let them dry in the shade, preferably against a wall that will also radiate warmth.

Stain Removal

Even if you keep your outdoor cushions spick and span, accidents do happen. Your toddler might spill some juice or a magpie may relieve itself as it swoops overhead. A full wash or hose-down may be excessive for a small stain, this is where stain removal comes in. 

The first thing you should do is treat the stain immediately. Time is your enemy when it comes to spillages! Remove any solid bits or soak up the liquid with paper towels. Next, choose a cleaning product that is appropriate for the stain. If it’s chocolate or blood, choose a product that is appropriate for this stain. If you’re not sure, a gentle laundry detergent or dishwashing liquid may do the trick. Commercial stain removal sprays can also be used, but make sure they are suitable for your fabric. 

Once you’ve decided on your cleaning product, let it soak into the stain for about 15 minutes. If the stain is deep, stubborn or old, leave it for an extra five minutes. Rinse with water until the cleaning solution has been completely removed. If you removed the cover, let it dry on a clean surface. If you’re drying the whole cushion, prop it against a wall and let it dry in the shade.

Things to Remember When Cleaning Outdoor Cushions

  • Always read the label. Different cushions have different cleaning and maintenance instructions. You don’t want to throw your cushion cover in the washing machine only to have it shrink beyond recognition. It pays to be vigilant!
  • Use gentle cleaning solutions on your outdoor cushions. Products with bleach or other corrosive chemicals may remove the water-repellent finish. We recommend Borax because it’s proven to treat mould, mildew and stubborn stains – making it perfect for outdoor cushions!
  • Don’t be impatient during the washing process. Let the cleaning solution soak in before rinsing, and allow the cushion to dry in the shade. If you’re worried that your pillows will lose their brilliant colour, choose cushions with fade- or UV-resistant fabrics.
  • Make sure your cushions are dry, clean and mould-free when you put them in storage. You don’t want to get a nasty surprise when you pull them out in summer!

Outdoor cushions can add style and comfort to any garden or patio. But if you don’t look after them, they can become a blemish in your garden and a hazard to your family. To prevent this, follow our simple maintenance rules: brush weekly, wash regularly and remove stains promptly. And don’t forget to read the cleaning instructions on the label. These simple steps will keep your outdoor cushions clean and spotless – and save you a lot of money in the long run!

before and after photos for a restored outdoor patio setting with new outdoor cushions

If you are looking for strong, durable and comfortable outdoor cushion covers, we can make cushion covers to replace your existing ones, or for new builds. They come in a broad range of colours to suit any décor. They also come in a range of fabrics to suit any environment, including our high performance Olefin outdoor fabric. Give your outdoor / patio furniture a new lease on life with new custom cushion covers – just contact us for a free no obligation quote!

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