Designed to keep your patio furniture safe from the elements when not in use, patio furniture covers are bound to get dirty. During normal use, they will get soaked, dusty, and even snowed on. These fabrics are designed to withstand the elements, so you can wonder if they can be machine washed?
Patio furniture covers are not always machine washable. Many feature a UV-resistant coating which will be stripped by the washing machine. No matter the patio furniture cover, always avoid drying them in the dryer; instead air dry them.
Here I will go over the most common materials used to make patio furniture covers, and how each type can be cleaned.
Table of Contents
- 1 Types of Patio Furniture Covers
- 2 Can You Machine Wash Patio Furniture Covers?
- 3 What Happens if I Wash…
- 4 How to Machine Wash Patio Furniture Covers?
- 5 How to Hand Wash Patio Furniture Covers?
- 6 Related Questions
- 7 Final Thoughts
Types of Patio Furniture Covers
Patio furniture covers come in a variety of materials, but the four most common are the following: polyester, treated polyester, vinyl, and canvas. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. You can usually find out which material your cover is made of using the tag, but if it is missing, I will go over the look, feel, and characteristics of several fabrics used for outdoor furniture. Finding out which material your cover is made of is important, as it changes how it can be cleaned.
Polyester is the most common material for outdoor use on the market today. It is exceptionally durable and is not damaged easily. It is also cost-effective to make. However, polyester is not naturally waterproof and is only water resistant unless treated. If your polyester is treated, you should feel an extra layer on it, and this is not pure polyester.
Treated Polyester refers to polyester with an extra coating to discourage fading and waterproof the fabric. This material is more fragile than polyester alone because the coating can be stripped off by washing and hot temperatures. However, it is an ideal choice for places with a wet but mild climate.
Vinyl is a popular leather substitute for outdoor furniture. It is pliable and hide-like in appearance. However, it wears better than leather and maintains its color and finish without frequent cleaning. As a bonus, vinyl is waterproof and UV-resistant without any treatments and is rarely coated. Vinyl is the only fabric on this list that can be washed in warm water, however, washing it in cold water is gentler on the fabric.
Canvas is an old-school fabric for patio furniture covers and is now mostly used for hammocks and lounge chairs. However, if you do have canvas patio furniture covers, they should be a thick fabric with substantial heft to them. Canvas usually has quite a rough texture. It is also exceptionally durable, as it was designed for tarps and sails on ships. Canvas is waterproof in a strange way – when it gets wet the fibers swell, locking together, and creating a water-tight barrier. Your cover will become soaked while the object underneath will remain mostly dry.
To prevent fading and discoloration, the canvas is sometimes treated with a coating. This may make the cloth feel smoother or add some shine. This coating is far more fragile than the canvas underneath.
Polypropylene is a synthetic fabric that is designed to closely mimic fabrics like cotton. Polypropylene is often used in rustic or homey style furniture. This fabric is waterproof and UV resistant, but very prone to shrinkage.
Nylon is another fabric with high durability. It is often used to make rope and camping gear as well as outdoor furniture. It has resistant to wet and heat without coating but is prone to fading in the sun. For this reason, nylon is not recommended for uncovered patios.
Can You Machine Wash Patio Furniture Covers?
When unclear about washing something, referring to the tag is usually a smart choice. However, if you do not see a tag or the tag is unclear, then there are general rules you can follow. Most patio furniture covers can be machine washed; however, you must use special settings. In addition, a couple of fabric types will be destroyed by machine washing. Polypropylene, Nylon, and treated fabrics should not be machine-washed.
What Happens if I Wash…
If you do choose to wash a non-machine washable fabric in the washing machine, then you can expect damage.
Washing polypropylene is likely to cause shrinkage because it is not temperature resistant. Even when washing with cool water, you are likely to see size changes in the cover. Depending on how badly it shrinks, it may no longer fit your furniture.
Nylon, while great for a lot of things, is not machine washable. It is a synthetic fabric prone to melting and warping. If you look carefully at nylon rope, you will see that it is melted together on each end. When cutting nylon, you can run a flame over it to prevent fraying. All of this means that machine washing is likely to make it lose shape in some way, and I do not suggest it.
Treated fabrics are those that have a coating for added UV and water resistance. This coating is easily damaged by a washing machine. When washed, it begins to peel or flake off, compromising the look and durability of the fabric.
How to Machine Wash Patio Furniture Covers?
If your fabric is machine washable, then follow these steps to machine wash it:
- Remove the cover from the furniture.
- Turn it inside out.
- Place it in the washing machine by itself.
- Add a color-safe detergent.
- Select a delicate cycle with cold water and low agitation.
- Let the machine complete the cycle.
- Remove the cover and hang it to dry.
How to Hand Wash Patio Furniture Covers?
Hand washing is never a bad idea. no matter the material. But if you need to do a quick spot wash or your patio furniture covers are not machine washable, then handwashing is a good option.
- A sink or tub large enough for the cover
- Cold Water
- A place to hang dry the cover
Hand Washing Process:
- First, remove the cover from the furniture.
- Turn the cover inside out and set it aside.
- Fill your sink or tub with cold water.
- Add a moderate amount of detergent.
- Swish your hand in the water until some bubbles form.
- Put the cover into the water, allowing it to become soaked.
- Gently swirl it around and rub it together. *
- Empty the sink and refill it with clean water.
- Rinse the soap from the fabric
- Squeeze as much water from the cover as you can.
- Hang the cover to dry.
*Note: If your fabric is treated with a UV-resistant coating, too much scrubbing can damage it. You should avoid excessive rubbing.
Can I pre-treat stains on my patio furniture covers?
You can pre-treat stains with a small amount of soap, detergent, or commercial pre-treatment. Simply apply to the stain and allow 5-10 minutes before washing the cover normally. Avoid using clothes stain removers as you can potentially harm the cover.
Is it safe to use fabric softener on my patio furniture covers?
While you will not cause damage to your patio furniture covers by using fabric softener, it is not necessary. Fabric softener is unlikely to make much of a difference in outdoor fabrics, which are rougher by nature. Additionally, you will cause more wear and tear in the fabric over time, as this is simply what fabric softener does to fabrics. If you are looking for the scent left behind by fabric softeners, a spray of Febreze is a viable alternative.
Is it safe to use bleach on my patio furniture covers?
Colored fabrics should not be bleached, but if your patio furniture covers are white it might be an option. Most of the fabrics used to make outdoor furniture can be bleached. The only exception is treated fabrics, where the bleach is both unlikely to penetrate the fabric and might cause damage to the coating. Honestly, in my opinion I would just avoid the use of bleach on patio furniture covers as it is more likely to cause damage than do any good.
When washing patio furniture covers, it is most important to determine which fabric your cover is made from, as this will affect how you can clean it. Most fabrics used for outdoor furniture can be washed with cold water. However, you should not wash Nylon, Polypropylene, or treated fabrics. For these fabrics, spot cleaning or handwashing is ideal. Treated fabrics in particular should be handled gently, as the coating can become damaged and begin to peel.
Read my related patio furniture cover articles:
- 10 Best Waterproof Outdoor Furniture Covers for Rain
- Can You Wash Sunbrella Cushion Covers in the Washing Machine?
- The 10 Best Winter Covers for Outdoor Furniture
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.