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Outdoor cushions–why some fade and others don’t

Don’t you just hate it?  You buy the cutest, brightest outdoor cushions for your patio set and before the summer is even over they’re faded with mildew stains.  Ewwww!  Who wants to sit on that?  But, they were the best that Target had to offer…

So what is the difference between a $20 cushion at a big-box store and more expensive options with Sunbrella® fabric that are available through specialty stores or custom-made?

Our local outdoor living and fireplace store, Maschino’s, recently posted this on their Facebook page and it was so helpful I just had to pass it along.

Why do some cushions fade after a year while other cushions retain their color and shape for years? Outdoor fabrics come in various grades. The least sun resistant is polyester…then solution dyed polyester…then solution dyed olefin. A fabric with tested maximum fading resistance is Sunbrella fabric made by Glen Raven Mill. Sunbrella fabric colors stay strong and vibrant, even through intense sunlight exposure and cleaning with bleach. Sunbrella fabrics are as soft and inviting as they are durable and are available in hundreds of solids, stripes and textures. Sunbrella fabrics can last two to three times longer than lesser grade fabrics. Initially all outside cushioned furniture looks good…but in a year or two, the cheaper cushions will fade and the cushions will “pancake out.”
For cleaning outdoor fabrics, Sunbrella® has some excellent tips for light cleaning and heavy cleaning for mildew and food stains


  • Treat your outdoor space like you would any other room.  Sweep the space with your eye–up, down, side-to-side.

  • Traditional outdoor patterns are OK for large cushions (ferns, tropical flowers, bright stripes, etc.), but consider using patterns you would find inside such as geometrics, argyle or  herringbone for a more refined look.

  • Anchor the conversation area with an outdoor rug

  • Use architectural elements as opportunities for more personalization… such as a candle chandelier if there is a ceiling, outdoor curtains between posts, or exterior lighting on side tables.

Several well-known companies are using Sunbrella® fabric for their outdoor cushions, such as Pottery Barn, but there are many, many more options of outdoor fabrics that are available to the trade.  Some of my favorites are below:

Terrazza/Poison Ivy by Robert Allen The color isn't so technicolor that it distracts and the pattern is awesome!
Perth/Kahlua from Kravet: Soleil I love the thought of argyle outdoors! Very sophisticated!
Papaya/Raspberry by Duralee What's hotter than orange this year? Nothing.


If you have been looking for that perfect fabric for your outdoor furniture and are unable to find “the one”, contact us for options, samples and pricing!