5 Tips on Shopping for Outdoor Fabrics
You need outdoor fabric that can weather your lifestyle. Here are five key things—from how it's dyed to its care instructions—to consider before you buy
Textile science has come a long way since cotton ruled the waves. And while soft, breathable cotton still has many fans, the latest man-made fabrics do a better job of standing up to sun and rain—and ketchup. The stiffest and sturdiest are destined for awnings and patio umbrellas, while those with more drape are best for pillows, cushions, and curtains. Along with the plasticky feel once associated with man-made fibers, a number of outdoor fabrics have shed their sober, functional color palette in favor of exuberant stripes, patterns, and brights. None are 100 percent sun-, water-, and kid-proof, but many come close. Before stitching up or purchasing pillows, cushions, or curtains, check out these five material differences.
Pillows made by Les Toiles du Soleil from custom Sunbrella fabric.
Acrylics wick away water, thus resisting mold or mildew, and fight off oily stains more effectively than most polyesters. Over the long run, a well-made acrylic is also more durable than other synthetics.
A plain, flat, canvas-like weave will best resist abrasion. Chenilles collect dust, but the best ones also hide small snags caused by pets.
Long-lasting, fade-resistant outdoor fabrics are solution-dyed (the spun fibers are dyed before being woven). An easy giveaway is a color or pattern that's almost equally vivid front and back.
To get a sense of the quality of the pigments, consult the manufacturer's website to see if the fabric can be cleaned with a strong bleach solution—a nice option, should mildew be left behind by, say, a soggy towel.
Look for five years, currently the gold standard. That often means the fabric will hold up much longer, even if you choose to leave it outside.