How To Clean Outdoor Cushions And Pillows With Household Cleaners

Say goodbye to dusty, dirty, and sometimes mildewy cushions.

outdoor cushions
Muriel Silva for Dillard's .

One of the perks of living in the South is being able to make use of your outdoor spaces almost year-round. By now, we're accustomed enough to the sultry summer heat to still enjoy cocktail hour on the porch, and any real winter chill is practically just a blip on the radar. Outdoor living isn't an afterthought down here, and for that we are known to have a porch swing or two, as well as plenty of outdoor seating and furniture upon which to perch with a spiked sweet tea mule while nibbling on dinner from the grill and visiting with loved ones.

To keep your outdoor entertaining space in tip-top shape, it's important to give those dusty, dirty, sometimes mildewy outdoor cushions a thorough cleaning each year. With a few household items and an hour of your afternoon, those outdoor cushions will be looking brand-new. Pick a sunny day (to ensure each cushion dries quickly!) and get to scrubbing.

How Often to Clean Outdoor Cushions

Some like to clean their cushions once a year, before they put them into storage for the winter. But no one likes to sit on a cushion caked with pollen, dirt and dust, or pet fur. Frequent vacuuming helps, but suctioning away dirt won't remove mold, mildew, and stains. Keep your porch or patio inviting for guests by cleaning cushions anytime conditions cause your fabric to become grimy. Here's how to do it.

Considerations Before Getting Started

Some outdoor fabrics such as Sunbrella are already coated with a water-resistant finish, though it can wear off over time. Other styles are designed with a durable fabric like polyester for indoor-outdoor use, such as these colorful pillows from the Southern Living x Nellie Howard Ossi collection at Dillard's, and are recommended for spot-cleaning. Check the manufacturers' recommendations before applying a fabric protectant spray. It's a good idea to check recommendations for cleaning products, too.

outdoor cushions

Muriel Silva for Dillard's 

What You Need

  • Water hose (with spray nozzle)
  • Bucket
  • Sponge
  • Bristled brush
  • Detergent liquid
  • Borax powder
  • Fabric protectant spray
  • Optional: pressure washer

How to Clean Outdoor Cushions With Household Cleaners

  1. Spray down the cushions: Pick a spot that isn't on grass or dirt to ensure you have the cleanest workspace (like your driveway or porch). Dampen each cushion thoroughly with the spray nozzle on your garden hose.
  2. Mix the cleaning solution: Add 3 tablespoons of laundry detergent liquid and ½ cup of Borax powder (we have been using this all-natural option) to an empty bucket and fill with water.
  3. Apply the cleaning mixture: Using a kitchen sponge, apply generous amounts of the detergent mixture to each cushion.
  4. Scrub the cushions: Using a hard-bristle brush, scrub the mixture into each surface of each cushion until good and lathered. After thoroughly scrubbing, let the cushions (still covered in the lathery detergent mixture) sit for five minutes. This lets the detergent and Borax do their job.
  5. Spray down the cushions: After five minutes of soaking, do a quick scrub-over of the cushions once more and then rinse with the spray nozzle on your garden hose. Make sure all suds and cleaning mixture is gone.
  6. Let the cushions dry: Squeeze out any excess water with your hands or a towel. Stand cushions up on their sides in the sunlight to dry thoroughly to ensure no mildew begins to form.
  7. Spray the fabric: Once the cushions are dry, spray fabric protectant on all sides of each cushion and let dry once more. This makes sure that stains and mildew are kept at bay all season long. We're loving Scotchgard's Water and Sun Shield for outdoor-specific protection.

How to Use a Pressure Washer to Clean Outdoor Cushions

If you're looking for a more powerful way to scour away stains, try using a pressure washer instead of your garden hose. Use a lower pressure and stand at a safe distance to loosen stains and dirt. Too close and you'll risk damaging the fabric.

  1. Lay the cushions on a hard surface outdoors.
  2. Put cleaning solution into pressure washer according to directions and attach a low-pressure nozzle.
  3. Spray the cushions in overlapping strokes, making sure to hit each side.
  4. Scrub with a hard-bristle brush for good measure.
  5. Rinse cushions with water from either hose or pressure washer.
  6. Let dry completely.
  7. Spray with a fabric protectant.
outdoor cushions

Muriel Silva for Dillard's 

Tips to Keep Outdoor Cushions Clean Longer

  • If your furniture is out in the open, stow cushions away or cover with an outdoor furniture cover. You can do this every night or before a rain.
  • Vacuum cushions regularly to remove dirt, hair, and pollen.
  • Reapply fabric protector every season.

Just like that, your outdoor furniture is ready for all the popsicle-licking, porch cocktail-sipping, sunset-watching fun. An afternoon spring-cleaning chore has never been more satisfying.

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