3 Things to Know about Indoor/Outdoor Fabrics - Before Making Your Choice

Not all fabrics are made alike. Some should stay inside your home while outdoor fabrics should be selected to keep your backyard furniture, patio cushions and outdoor pillows bright and mildew-free. And, some are good for both ... the trick is knowing how to use indoor/outdoor fabric properly. 

 Old World Weavers indoor/outdoor fabric

Old World Weavers create a comfy couch with plush patio cushions and outdoor pillows for backyard and porch spaces.

 1 - Consider the qualities you want before choosing your indoor/outdoor fabrics

"When selecting fabric for use indoors or out, it’s important to consider the attributes that are most important to you, as well as how it will be used," said Patrick Hawks, senior manager of research & development at Sunbrella Fabric. "An outdoor fabric should be fade-proof and able to withstand harsh weather, season after season."

Outdoor fabrics are far more durable than those designed exclusively for interior use and are treated to ensure your furniture's color will not fade, agreed Harold K. Hardesty, a blogger at TheHouseWire, a DIY decorating and organization blog. But he also points out that indoor/outdoor fabrics aren't as comfortable as those geared toward indoor use. "A vinyl couch just isn't something you want in your living room, but it's nice on a porch or patio," he added. The furniture in your living room definitely requires that comfy softer feel.

Shade is also an important component to creating a usable outdoor space - and any fabrics chosen to protect people from the sun should be able to sustain regular exposure to sun and water. "For an umbrella or awning, a canvas fabric with a flat weave is a good option because it has a very smooth texture," suggested Hawks.

 Perennial Indoor/Outdoor Fabrics

This heavy canvas from Perennials' Cabana Collections has a resin finish to keep water out. 

So before choosing fabrics for furniture, really think about how you will use the item. Outside fabric requires more durability then indoor/outdoor fabric. Be sure to choose the right one for those patio cushions and outdoor pillows that sit outside in the wind, rain and the sun. 

Stroheim and Romann- Pool House Collection with FibreGuard Technology

Perfect for outdoor and indoor spaces, the new Pool House collection from Stroheim features upholstery fabrics with FibreGuard performance technology that is fade- and UV-resistant and waterproof. 

2- Consider your lifestyle before bringing those outdoor fabrics in

Can you bring your indoor/outdoor fabrics inside? The answer is, maybe... that depends on you!

Typically, backyard furniture and patio cushions are used less than items inside your home. So while items intended for the Great Outdoors might offer more durability, you get less fluff, less bounce, less coziness. Still, outdoor fabrics are stain-resistant so they work well in high-traffic areas or in areas where children play and sometimes spill. This can be a real benefit using indoor/outdoor fabric inside. "Definitely think about how the furniture is going to be used," said Hardesty. 

He also suggested that polypropylene fabric can be versatile enough to function as an inside and outside fabric like on a covered porch, or for an item that sits in a sunlit spot near a window.  "Polypropylene fabric - or blended fabrics containing polypropylene - are often used as curtains in commercial buildings because they hold up better to sunlight, so you don't have to replace them as much." 

Such material isn't waterproof so it's not appropriate for spaces exposed to rain or snow, but it is resistant to sunlight, heat and UV rays, perfect for those bright, sunny rooms that weather can't touch. "It's very breathable, too (in fact, it's the fabric that many COVID masks are made from)," Hardesty added. "You can take a nap on it without waking up in a pool of sweat."

Perennials Sheen Queen indoor/outdoor fabric

The right fabric-like Perennials Sheen Queen-helps preserve outdoor fabric and allows easy clean-ups for when something spills.

3- Caring for outdoor fabrics

Outdoor entertaining dictates that your chairs and lounges are stain-resistant so when someone spills red wine at book club, or your friend's kids visit for the afternoon, the clean-up is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Some outdoor fabrics are strong enough that they can be cleaned with bleach without removing color. Not all materials allow rigorous cleaning, so do your research before making your final choices. If you have young children who are master mess makers, you might need something that can stand up to their talents. 

Most of the time, though, all you need to clean outdoor furniture is a mild soap and water, letting it soak into the fabric for several minutes before using a sponge or soft-bristle brush to clean it and then rinsing and air drying. If you've chosen the correct material, your item outdoor pillows, cushions, chairs ... whatever will last several happy summers full of activity.

JF Indoor/Outdoor Fabric

JF indoor/outdoor fabrics keep furniture stain-free.

Featured image: Perennials fabrics are fade-, mildew- and mold-resistant, plus you can clean them with bleach.

Sunbrella Fabrics and FibreGuard products are available on Fabrics & Home.

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