Choosing a Fabric for Outdoor Furniture
Most good quality outdoor furniture or garden seats are made with fabrics that are designed to resist the weather and frequent hard use. Fabric makers work hard to research and develop materials that are hard wearing and will stand up to the harsh rigours of being used in the garden, be it children playing on them, pets and visitors making a mess or the rain, sun, cold and heat always attacking the textile.
However with harsh use and with seating and chairs being left outside in the elements, fabrics can and do have a shortened lifespan if not correctly cared for.
There are many different garden furniture fabrics and coverings available for DIY repairs or for having upholstery refurbished through a service such as we provide at The Foam Shop. Below we will run through some of the materials that can be used on Garden Furniture or outdoor seating.
Vinyl is a great choice for outdoor furniture coverings; it is hardwearing, easy to clean and has a surface that dirt and spills do not easily adhere to. An added bonus of a vinyl covering is that it’s very water resistant so you won’t be left with a soggy seat if you accidentally leave the furniture out overnight on a spring evening after the barbeque.
Vinyl can be damaged by the UV rays in the sun, which can cause it to crack and craze after a few years, as the light attacks the chemical structure of the plastics. Vinyl coverings are probably best used under an awning, in a conservatory or under some form of cover that stops them from being continuously used in the sun.
Fabrics that are weaved out of 100% cotton can also be used for outdoor upholstery and garden furniture. Like vinyl, cotton based textiles should be kept out of the sun as the dyes can fade and the weave structure can be broken down by UV rays, which then weaken the cotton fibres leading to tears and patches of wear. Cotton can be a great choice if you want something beautiful to look at and is available in many colours and patterns.
It is a good idea to treat cotton based fabrics with a protective coating or spray so spills do not end up staining and dirt is more easily sponged off.
Nylon is a ubiquitous material that has been with us for a long time; famous for being used to make stockings it also makes a good choice of covering for garden and outdoor furniture. As Nylon is an artificial fabric it is very strong and great for use with a house full of toddlers or households that have pets.
Nylon is also very weather resistant and is not easily attacked by continuous sunlight or rain so is ideal for outdoor use. It won’t get waterlogged as the rain just runs of it which is why a lot of waterproof clothing is made from it.
Nylon is also available in a vast range of colours and patterns so there is bound to be something available that will suit your decor or style of garden.
Polyester and cotton blends, although ok for occasional use outside, should not be used in bright sunlight or wet conditions as they are easily attacked by elements. It’s probably better to use this fabric in a conservatory or summer house.
These fabrics can fade a bit in strong sunlight and it’s a good idea to apply a protective coating to prolong the life. We have a Scotchgard spray available in store and online for this job.
Thick plastic based fabrics are great looking but are hard to sew and the stitches can pull which causes the whole thing to fall apart literally at the seams. A good choice for occasional use to make areas look bright but plastic coverings will not hold up to much abuse. It’s probably best to use some form of adhesive on plastic coverings.
Sailcloth is a hardwearing material made to withstand the rigours of sailing and a marine environment. It comes in many different fibres which are generally synthetic (Dacron and Nylon) or a laminate cloth. Due to what sailcloth is made for it can make a great fabric for use in making outdoor furniture cushions and can last a long time. It is available in many sizes and colours and the great thing is that it can be printed with a wide range of custom designs so you can have a truly unique set of garden furniture.
Chenille is a hard wearing fuzzy yarn or fabric. It is quite thick and luxurious and can be made of cotton, rayon or acrylic fibres. It can be weakened by sunlight in as little as five years, especially if its Rayon based, so most fabric makers use acrylic or olefin. There are treated outdoor use Chenille fabrics available which have been made to work outside and it’s a great choice for a soft and beautiful look. Outdoor Chenille is durable, anti bacterial and stain resistant and has been used on boats and cars. Chenille should be cleaned by a specialist if there are any stains but for everyday cleaning a soft brush and vacuum is the ideal way.
Although Chenille is hard wearing and robust it will only be as good as the construction it’s covering so it’s best to use it on high quality furniture
Choosing fabrics for outdoor use
Whatever fabric you choose to repair or recover your outdoor furniture with you should be aware that you should care for it as the weather is good at attacking all kinds of textiles even if they are made for outdoor use. Sun, Wind, Rain, Dust, Sleet, Hail or Snow can make furniture useless in a few short years if it’s not properly cared for. It’s always good practise to bring your furniture in during the winter months and limit its exposure to strong sunlight. Outdoor furniture is always going to be in a much harsher environment than your living room sofa so you should expect it to not last as long.
By caring for your outdoor furniture and its fabric and removing it from overly harsh weather you can prolong its life and enjoy it for many years.
If you would like advice or need a repair on your outdoor furniture or conservatory seating call Roy or Maxine at The Foam Shop on 0800 521 641