Outdoor Fabric Cleaning
Keeping Up Appearances while coping with Mother Nature
Outdoor furnishings are designed to be tough enough to resist sun, moisture and temperature variations, as well as stand up to your active lifestyle. We’re good at caring for your outdoor fabrics, from cleaning Sunbrella™ fabric cushions, patio umbrellas and outdoor area carpets. For your “on the water” fabrics we also clean boat covers, bimini tops, dodgers and even sails. And, we can help them last longer with our stain-resist treatment following cleaning.
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About Outdoor Fabrics
Outdoor fabrics are typically constructed to withstand exposure to nature – the greater stress of sunlight and weather, plus interaction with animals and insects.
Outdoor fabrics include “natural” cotton or linen, or a “synthetic” nylon, acrylic or polyester, depending on the desired end use. Each reacts differently to exposure to the elements and routine care.
Cotton or Linen Canvas
Cotton or linen canvas is typically used for patio umbrellas, awnings and wind-blocking dodgers, and was formerly used for marine fabric applications and sails. Colored cotton will fade relatively quickly in areas of high light exposure, so it is commonly used in natural or bleached white colors. Cotton fabric will shrink when wet, so it is usually fastened to a framework if dimensional stability is desired. Most cotton canvas fabric is treated with a waterproofing agent that will “weather away” in time.
Cotton can also be susceptible to molds and mildew if it is stored wet or if the fabric is against any material that will trap moisture, preventing it from drying quickly. What looks like dark soil can actually be irreversible staining caused by mildew. Mildew resistant treatments can be applied but will need periodic reapplication depending on weather exposure and use.
Although cotton and linen can be lightened by using a dilute solution of chlorine bleach, this can also degrade the strength of the fiber and shorten the life of the fabric. Bleaching will not remove staining damage caused by mildew.
Synthetic fibers are naturally resistant to color loss, mildew and insects. However, mildew allowed to grow on surface soil can permanently damage a synthetic fabric. All outdoor synthetics have stabilizers added to resist the effect of ultraviolet light, but will weaken – and lighter colors will yellow – with prolonged exposure to direct sunlight and heat.
Acrylic and polyester fabrics tend to be the most popular fabrics used for boat covers, awnings, and outdoor furnishings. Outdoor nylon is most likely to be used to make wear-resistant gear bags and outdoor apparel. All can be treated with a fluorochemical stain and water resistant product, or top-coated with vinyl.
Although a very dilute bleach solution is sometimes recommended by fabric manufacturers for home cleaning of synthetic fabrics, a higher than recommended solution strength can cause rapid yellowing in the following months. Vinyl coatings that crack or peel must be replaced, but stain and water resistant protectants can be reapplied.
The best way to extend the life of an outdoor fabric is to keep it clean and periodically re-apply the protective coating.
What's Special About Outdoor Fabrics?
Today, most outdoor fabric is made of a synthetic material designed to be resistant to sun fading. Closed-cell foams are used for cushion interiors so a little rain won’t hurt. They’re tough enough to stand up to both the weather and the more aggressive use that comes with outdoor exposure.
Still, the effects of sun, contaminants in the air, “friendly droppings” and even moss and fungi can significantly shorten the life of these materials. As tough as they are, using inappropriate cleaning procedures can result in fabric shrinkage. The use of the correct fabric protectant is also critical, as the wrong choice can do more harm than good and may void the fabric’s warranty.
At D. A. Burns, we work directly with leading carpet and fabric manufacturers, so our technicians are always up-to-date with the best practices and procedures needed to care for your furnishings.
What Does UV Stabilized Mean?
Almost everything is affected by exposure to light, with the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum being the primary culprit of color fading, weakening of cotton and the oxidizing of synthetic fabric plasticizers. For outdoor use, synthetic fabrics have a component built-in to protect them against the effects of UV exposure, making them superior to the cotton that was once used for boat covers and patio awnings. Nothing lasts forever, but synthetic fabrics that are “UV stabilized” will last longer when put to exterior use.
That’s why we use “UV stabilized” thread whenever we apply a Sunbrella™ binding to a carpet. Contrary to common industry practice, D. A. Burns stands behind our work – and materials. Longevity of your carpet investment is important to us … and, we want to clean the carpets we fabricate so they provide you continued enjoyment for many seasons.
D. A. Burns Outdoor Cushion Cleaning & Winter Storage Service
Outdoor Fabric Protector
When fabrics are left outdoors and exposed to the elements, they can lose their water and stain repellency. A post-cleaning application of our outdoor fabric protector will restore the fabric’s water repellency, soil resistance and provide stain protection.
Suitable outdoor fabrics for this protection include outdoor cushions, patio umbrella and all types of marine fabric applications.
Drop off your outdoor furnishings and fabrics at our Seattle or Bellevue locations and receive a 20% "cash and carry" discount or schedule our pickup and delivery service.
The turn-around time for our in-plant cleaning of outdoor fabrics is typically 1-2 weeks.
D. A. Burns on-location technicians service Seattle, Bellevue and the surrounding areas (view map of our service area). For questions or to schedule an appointment, call (206) 782-2268 or use our online scheduling form to request an appointment.
"Since you cleaned my boat covers, my moorage neighbors are much friendlier. Thanks, great job!"
"My outdoor cushions look like new. What a difference. And I didn't know you could also clean my patio umbrella."