Outdoor Fabric Guide

FabricGuru.com Outdoor Fabric Buying Guide

Most of the outdoor fabrics that are retailed for residential usage fall into the categories that will be described below. Although the types differ in composition there are some things to remember that are common to all of them.

  • Do not dry clean.
  • Do not tumble dry. This should not be necessary since they will dry quickly.
  • Although the fabric is water resistant it is not waterproof.
  • Even though the fabrics do not promote mildew growth; mildew can grown on soils or spills that are not promptly removed.
  • The UV ratings that are given by manufacturers for these fabrics are usually given in hours of protected sun exposure. Most printed/woven polyester and printed acrylic fabrics are rated for approximately 500-750 light hours. Woven Acrylics are rated for approximately 1500 light hours or more.

Solution dyed acrylics:

The woven outdoor fabrics such as Sunbrella® fall into this category.

What is solution dyed acrylic?

Most fabrics begin with fibers that are initially colorless. The fibers are woven into yarns and the yarns are then dyed and woven into fabric. With solution dyed acrylic the coloring takes place before the yarn is ever created. A liquid acrylic solution is mixed with color and formed into a fiber. The fiber never existed without color. The fiber is then spun into a yarn that is already permeated with color. The final result is a fabric that will remain colorfast after sun exposure, wear and tear and even bleach application. It is soft, comfortable and breathable. It is water resistant and quick drying. It is not water-proof. Acrylic does not promote the growth of fungus or mildew; however mildew may grow on soils or spills that are not removed promptly from the fabric. As durable as acrylic is it should be treated as a synthetic. Do not dry clean. There should be no need to tumble dry since it will air dry quickly. Ironing is not needed. However, if you should find it necessary use the synthetic setting.

Printed Acrylic or Printed Polyester Outdoor Fabrics

The most decorative of the outdoor fabrics is also the most affordable. Acrylic is used as a base cloth for many reasons. Because of its strength, durability, resilience, resistance to wrinkling, shrinking, fading, mildew and fungus it is a great choice. In addition it dries quickly and is UV resistant. Polyester has many of the same qualities. It is strong, resistant to stretching and shrinking, resistant to chemical damage, quick drying, wrinkle resistant and is crisp and resilient when wet or dry. Printed polyester should not be used for indoor upholstery use. Both maintain printed patterns well and resist rot from outdoor elements.

The polyester or acrylic base cloths are screen printed with dyes that are resistant to fading and outdoor elements. In addition, a water repellant guard is factory applied in the final finishing process to further protect the pattern.

Fibers are synthetic and should be treated as such. Do not dry clean or tumble dry as it can break down the protective finish. The following instructions should help you keep your fabric clean without damaging it.

Dirt and debris should be brushed from the fabric regularly. It can be cleaned with a solution of ¼ cup bleach free detergent dissolved in 1 gallon warm water. Apply the solution to the entire surface, allow it to soak in and use a soft brush or sponge as needed. Rinse and allow to air dry. Spots and stains should be saturated with the solution and can be brushed or gently scrubbed with a soft brush. Rinse and repeat the process until the stain is gone.

Vinyl Coated Synthetic Fiber Mesh

PVC mesh or “sling chair” fabric

Commonly referred to as “slingable” fabric, these are the only fabric choice for sling type outdoor chair fabric replacement. The sling chair is designed so that the sling or fabric portion of the chair supports the weight of the occupant rather than the frame, so it is imperative that it be made of a strong fabric that does not stretch. The solution dyed acrylic fabric, printed polyester and printed acrylic outdoor fabrics will not work in these type chairs.

Depending on the manufacturer the composition can vary. Most often these fabrics are made of vinyl coated polyester or acrylic yarns, as well as other synthetics such as olefin and PVC. They are durable, easily cleaned, colorfast, and have superior strength. They have a high UV rating and do not promote mildew growth. They can be scrubbed, bleached and hosed without damage to the fibers or loss of color.

FabricGuru.com offers this information as a general buying guide. FabricGuru.com does not warranty any fabric.