The Definitive Guide to Choosing Outdoor Textiles
If you are looking to turn your outdoor living area into a place to relax and enjoy, then it is highly recommended that you invest in some decent outdoor textiles. They can be used in a variety of ways including as upholstery, drapery and even wall coverings. You can find these types of fabrics in an assortment of colours, patterns and textures.
Having the right type of fabrics can mean the difference between a comfortable space and an uncomfortable one. While there are many types of fabric on the market, we'll focus specifically on what fabric is good for outdoors, how they’re made, and how to care for outdoor furnishings with fabrics – even fabric sofas.
What is outdoor fabric made of?
The fabric you choose can make a massive difference to your outdoor living space. Let's start by saying that fabric choice is the most important factor in creating an outdoor space. If you want to create a beautiful living room that makes you feel comfortable and happy, your choice of furniture will make all the difference.
The same goes for your garden! You might think that cushions and blankets are just as decorative as they are practical—but they have so much more potential than that! The kind of fabric you choose can make a massive difference to your outdoor living space, whether it's adding colour or texture or even creating privacy where there was none before.
One of the most common questions we get asked is: what is outdoor fabric made of?
The two primary types of outdoor fabrics are woven and non-woven. We'll take a closer look at each below:
- Woven fabrics have been woven on large looms that create a tight bond between individual yarns. Woven fabrics are strong and make great upholstery because they're durable and easy to clean.
- Non-woven fabrics don't have as much strength as woven fabrics, but they're easier to clean because they don't have any spaces between threads. Examples include vinyl and polyester mesh.
Water resistance and outdoor furniture fabrics
We’ve found that consumers are often confused between the terms ‘waterproof’ and ‘water resistant’, so we’re going to clear that up right now.
First off, does ‘outdoor fabric’ necessarily also mean that the fabric is waterproof or water resistant? Not necessarily. This is because ‘outdoor’ refers to fabrics that can withstand exposure to the elements outside, whether that’s rain or sun, or both, and is made from durable materials that are resistant to fading, water, mould, and mildew.
It doesn’t necessarily mean “waterproof” or “water-resistant” though – those terms are often used interchangeably with each other (or not at all), yet they mean different things entirely! If you want your outdoor furniture and other items to remain safe in the rain, it is important that you understand the difference between water-resistant and waterproof fabrics.
Waterproof items completely block the penetration of water through their fabric or material. Water-resistantfabric or material has a medium protection level, meaning that it will not completely repel water but is woven to deter it. Read more: Water repellent, water resistant and waterproof textiles: the facts
Outdoor fabrics don't have to be 100% waterproof since they're not exposed to rain or snow all year round. However, they do need to be able to resist moisture in the air and stay strong despite repeated exposure to UV rays from sunlight.
How Durable is Outdoor Fabric?
Some outdoor fabrics are more durable than others. This means that they can withstand harsher weather conditions, such as rain and snow. These fabrics typically won't fray or tear as easily as other fabrics.
It's important to remember that all fabrics can fray in some way or another. With the right care, however, you can make sure that your outdoor fabric lasts as long as possible.
Fraying is normal for some types of outdoor fabrics, such as cotton canvas or denim, because these fabrics don't have any treatment applied to them to prevent fraying. You'll want to keep this in mind when choosing your project fabrics so that you're not disappointed in the finished product! Fitting is also important with these types of fabrics because they will stretch out over time with wear and tear — especially if they're made from natural fibres like cotton or linen which are known for their elasticity.
Different types of upholstery and drapery fabric that are perfect for outdoor use
When choosing the right fabric for your outdoor space, there are many things to consider. The type of fabric you choose will depend on how it will be used, how much sunlight it receives, and what kind of weather conditions it will face.
Outdoor textiles come in many different types, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
There are many kinds of outdoor fabrics, including acrylics, polyesters, and vinyl. Here are some basics:
- Solution-Dyed Fabric. Softer acrylic fabrics are dyed by immersing the fibre in a coloured solution as opposed to being dyed after they're woven together. They're more expensive than other types of acrylic fabric and won't be completely waterproof.
- Printed Fabric. For less money, you can purchase a polyester or acrylic fabric that has been printed. Printed fabrics fade faster than woven ones because the colour is impregnated into the fibres with dye instead of being part of their chemical composition.
- Vinyl Fabric.Vinyl fabric, which is often coated in a colour or pattern, is an affordable option but has limited use.
Outdoor fabrics that stand up to ultraviolet rays
Ultraviolet rays (UV) are one of the causes of fading because they can break down chemical bonds and fade the colour in an object. Other major contributors to fading include visible light and solar heat. There are three different kinds of light: ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared.
Fabrics made to withstand UV rays are easier to clean and last longer than those that don’t. UV protection is really important, especially if you’re using outdoor curtains for protection against light and heat. They are a stylish yet practical addition to your outdoor space, whether you want to shield yourself from the sun, or control the temperature in your porch, outdoor gazebo, or pergola.
But how exactly are fabrics protected against fading, even after prolonged exposure to UV rays?
UV rays can fade fabrics, so many of the treatments used on outdoor textiles are designed specifically to block or reflect them. The idea of colourfastness is broad once you look at it because colour can fade out of fabrics in so many different ways if they haven’t been engineered properly!
From rubbing through general wear and tear, to washing, ironing and light exposure: the colours in fabrics must be able to withstand them all.
Our extensive colour fastness testing is an essential part of the production of all FibreGuard fabrics: the vibrant colours and colour durability are two of the key FibreGuard characteristics that our customers love most. The tests are:
- Colour fastness to rubbing (standard: ISO 105-X12)
- Colour fastness to light (CFL) (standard ISO 105-B02)
- Colour fastness to water (standard ISO 105-E01)
- Colour fastness to washing (standard ISO 105-C0)
- Colour fastness to dry cleaning (standard ISO 105-D01)
FibreGuard Outdoor fabrics come in a wide range of colours and designs so you can easily match them to your existing décor or create something unique that suits your needs perfectly. We’ve engineered them rigorously to ensure the most robust colourfast to light-resistant results. The colourfast-to-light properties in our easy clean fabrics mean that their vibrant colours have been developed in such a way that they will not fade or be washed out, even after prolonged exposure to daylight in all seasons.
Explore our in-depth look at colourfastness and FibreGuard Outdoor fabrics here on our blog: 5 colourfastness tests that secure FibreGuard fabrics’ optimal fade protection
Mould, mildew, and outdoor textiles
Mould and mildew can be really bad for your outdoor fabrics and furniture but there are ways to make sure it doesn't gain a foothold. Outdoor textiles can be prone to mould growth and mildew. This is because they are exposed to moisture from rain and other sources, as well as being in contact with the ground, which increases the risk of fungal growth.
Mould and mildew like moisture – they thrive on it. If there is too much moisture in the air, then mould and mildew can quickly grow on fabrics. This can be a real problem if you have an outdoor sofa or sofa bed which you use regularly. Most of us have experienced this at some point, but there are steps that can be taken to avoid it happening again.
Causes of fungal growth on outdoor furniture
There are two main causes of mould growing on fabric: dampness combined with sunlight. When materials become wet, they begin to rot from within, creating perfect conditions for mould to grow. Sunlight also makes it easier for mould to thrive as it provides the fuel (UV rays) that they need to survive. The first line of defence against mould is also sunlight. Sunlight can naturally bleach any mould spores present in the fabric, so all you need to do is leave them in direct sunlight for a few hours or days and they'll disappear.
The key thing to remember here is that this doesn’t just apply to outdoor fabrics; if your indoor furniture is also made from natural materials (wooden tables, leather chairs etc.), then these can also become susceptible to mould growth if not taken care of properly!
Therefore, outdoor fabrics need anti-microbial and anti-bacterial attributes
Our FibreGuard Outdoor ranges are designed to resist bad odours, mould and mildew. This is because they're exposed to the elements - rain, sun, wind and snow - which can encourage bacterial growth if not treated correctly.
We recommend using anti-microbial or anti-bacterial options, such as FibreGuard Outdoor, for your outdoor furniture because these materials will stop mould from forming on hard-to-clean surfaces (such as seating).
These properties can help prevent mould from growing on your outdoor cushions, furniture, and rugs. They also make the fabric less hospitable for bacteria that cause bad odours, meaning you don't have to wash your outdoor textiles as often.
A handy guide to outdoor fabric maintenance
Being outdoors is fun, but it can also be hard on your outdoor fabrics. If you want your textiles to last as long as possible, you should regularly clean them.
The first thing you should do is ensure that the fabric or cushioning on your furniture is suitable for outdoor use. It's also important to be careful about where you position your furniture – avoid placing it directly next to trees or bushes where leaves can fall on it.
Ensure that your furniture gets spot cleaned regularly so that mould doesn't have time to form on its surface. When dirt and grime build up on your outdoor textiles, they become less effective at protecting you from UV rays or other elements of nature.
By removing these contaminants before they get embedded into your fabrics, you're extending their lifespan by keeping them in better condition for longer periods of time. How often should I clean my fabrics? For most fabrics that are designed for high-traffic areas such as porches or patios—including our FibreGuard Outdoor collection—you should spot clean them once or twice per year at the very least.
If you spot mould or mildew appearing on your fabric, try cleaning it off straightaway with warm water before it has time to set in.
Covering your furniture: If you're planning on leaving your outdoor furniture out overnight or during bad weather, cover them up! If you don't cover them up and leave them out in the rain or snow, they could get ruined by water damage or get covered in mould which could lead to breakouts of skin infections or allergies if anyone touches them. Also, pro tip: don't store anything wet!
If you must clean your textiles, consider the following:
- Don’t use any sort of chemical products on your textiles. Generally speaking, water and mild soap will do just fine (and they’ll also ensure that they stay good as new).
- If there is buildup on your textiles (i.e., sunscreen or oil), try rubbing with a damp cloth first before applying any soap; this will help prevent damage during washing processes.
- Storage/Cleaning: While it may seem counterintuitive at first glance (don't we want our stuff out in the open?) storing outdoor fabrics inside when they're not being used will extend their lifespan by several years. This can be done by rolling up furniture cushions or hanging them from hooks above head height—just don't store anything wet!
Conclusion: The right fabric is the key to keeping your outdoor space looking great.
You can choose from a variety of materials, and there is a variety of characteristics you need to know before you outfit your space.
Whether you're looking for contract outdoor fabric to reupholster patio furniture in commercial spaces, or simply want to make an easy, no-sew patio pillow for your own home, the project will require material made specifically for outdoor use.
You should always research and assess your needs before ordering anything online or impulsively buying fabric. Imagine making (or commissioning) a set of carefully upholstered garden cushions, only to watch them fade and fall apart in a matter of months—because you chose the wrong type of fabric.
Are you interested in taking style outdoors with FibreGuard Outdoor performance fabrics this season? Get in touch with us for region-specific contract information tailored to your needs.