It’s that time of year—the time for stinky dirty couch cushions to be cleaned. Here’s my best tip for cleaning outdoor cushions.

how to clean outdoor cushions


This is one of the outdoor cushions from the outdoor entertaining area under the pergola.

What color do you think it is?




Ummmm. Nope. In super sad cushion news. Those colors are not even CLOSE. This cushion is actually an off-white color.

Until winter happened.

These cushions sat outside in the ice and snow and rain and hail. A little forlorn. A little forgotten. They collected dirt all winter and now they look like this.

Want to see the rest of them?

Oh, good. 

Because they all look like this.

(total aside:  On second thought–maybe you shouldn’t click.  I’m not sure if you will still want to be friends.)

cleaning outdoor cushions



cleaning outdoor cushions before


cleaning outdoor cushions diy

This disgusting-icky-what-is-it-even-thinking-showing-its-face-around-here-dirt-and-grime-and-general-unkemptness.

It covered all the cushions and pillows.

Yards and yards and yards of disgustingness.

When I walked back to the pergola to add flowers to the area for summer and saw all of this? I couldn’t take it anymore. It was time for cleaning outdoor cushions. Something had to be done.  Someone had to show that mold to the door and un-invite it to the back porch.  It took a little time to figure out how to clean it, but eventually, I figured out the best tip.


Here’s a little video I made of the entire process (you can find TONS more short little inspirational videos if you follow along with me on my YouTube channel here).

cleaning outdoor cushions before space

And now?

Instead of looking like this?

cleaning outdoor cushions after


|| patio set ||

The pillows look like this.

cleaning outdoor cushions chairs

And this.

cleaning outdoor cushions ottoman

|| patio set ||

And this.

cleaning outdoor cushions patio after

 || patio set ||

Can you even believe it?

Does it even look like the same cushions?

Those are the EXACT same chairs and couch and ottoman.


|| patio set ||

Let’s back up and look at the whole porch one more time.

All the cushions.

All the chairs and couch and ottoman.

They look like they are ready for a party.


 || chair set ||

And the best part?

It only took about an hour to transform this entire space because I tried something I’d never tried before.

A power washer.

Here’s the powerwasher in action.

I’ll go through below all my best tips. But truly? They all start with this power washer.

You can see the powerwasher here.

And now?

Here are my best tips for cleaning outdoor cushions.

Let’s start with what didn’t work and what worked.

I tried unzipping the cushion covers and putting the cushions in the washer and letting the washer do all the hard work.


Except I tried it on one of the chairs and the material kind of shrunk up and when I put the cushion back into the cover, it looked all wonky and totally un-summer-like and kind of crammed into too small of a space.

Kind of like when I try my summer white jeans on for the first time after too many winter brownie sundaes.

I had to rewash it and stretch it out for it to look right again.

So instead?


Using a power washer

And that’s when I thought of the power washer.

We’ve had this power washer for years and it has a lot of power to get the job done. We sprayed them several times.

But this is what the ottoman cushion looked like after one pass-through. By using a power washer, you can remove dirt, stains, and grime in minutes. However, it’s essential to follow proper techniques and precautions to ensure optimal results without damaging the fabric. Here are just a few things I learned along the way with using a power washer on my cushions:

1. Choose the Right Pressure Setting

When using a power washer to clean outdoor cushions, it’s crucial to select the appropriate pressure setting. Start with a lower pressure setting and gradually increase it if needed. Using excessive pressure can damage the fabric or even cause it to tear. Aim for a balance between cleaning power and fabric safety. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions (or you can Google it like I did) for the recommended pressure range for your specific type of cushion material.

2. Test an Inconspicuous Area First

Before you start power washing the entire cushion, it’s wise to test the power washer on a small, inconspicuous area. This test spot will allow you to evaluate how the fabric reacts to the pressure and adjust the settings if necessary. It’s essential to ensure that the fabric doesn’t get discolored, frayed, or damaged by the power washer. If you notice any challenges during the spot testing, you might try lowering the pressure or using the method I talk about below.

3. Maintain Proper Distance and Angles

Maintaining the correct distance and angle between the power washer nozzle and the cushion surface is crucial. Holding the nozzle too close can lead to excessive pressure and potential damage. Start by maintaining a distance of about 1-2 feet (we ended up using a distance of 18″ on our cushions) and adjust as needed. Additionally, aim the nozzle at a slight angle, rather than directly perpendicular to the cushion surface. This angle will help prevent water from being forced into the cushion’s interior, which can cause mold or mildew issues.

4. Allow Sufficient Drying Time

After power washing the outdoor cushions, it’s important to allow them sufficient time to dry before using them again. This isn’t a challenge in our Texas heat. Our cushions dried in about an hour. The drying time can vary depending on the weather conditions, cushion thickness, and airflow. Ideally, place the cushions in a well-ventilated area where they can dry naturally. Avoid direct sunlight, as it may fade the fabric.


Using a mild detergent and a scrub brush

If you prefer a more hands-on approach to cleaning your outdoor cushions or don’t have access to a power washer, using a mild detergent and a scrub brush can be an excellent alternative. Guess what I ended up using?

Dawn dishwashing detergent.

The blue one.

Who knew?

I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed it into the cushions with a scrubber sponge.  It took extra elbow grease to get it into every nook and cranny and into the fibers of the cushions.  Then the cushions were sprayed and the dirt and grime just came right off.

Here are my best tips for using a detergent and a brush.

1. Choose a Suitable Detergent

I really like Dawn, but if you want to use something else, make sure to opt for a mild, non-abrasive detergent that is suitable for the fabric of your outdoor cushions. Avoid using harsh chemicals or bleach, as they can damage the fabric.

2. Perform a Patch Test

Before applying the detergent to the entire cushion, it’s super important to perform a patch test on a small, inconspicuous area. This test will help you determine how the fabric reacts to the detergent and ensure it doesn’t cause any discoloration or damage. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dilution and application.

3. Prepare the Cleaning Solution

Create a cleaning solution by diluting the mild detergent with water in a bucket. You could also add the mixture to a spray bottle for easy application. Ensure the solution is well-mixed before using. The right concentration will help break down dirt and stains without leaving a residue or harming the fabric. Start with a moderately diluted solution and adjust as needed, depending on the level of dirt and stains on your cushions.

4. Scrub Gently with a Soft Brush

Using a soft-bristle brush or a sponge, dip it into the cleaning solution and gently scrub the cushions in a circular motion. Focus on the stained or soiled areas while being mindful not to scrub too vigorously, as it may damage the fabric. Start with light pressure and increase if necessary, but always prioritize the safety of the fabric. Rinse the brush or sponge frequently in clean water to prevent spreading dirt or detergent residue.

5. Rinse Thoroughly and Air Dry

After scrubbing the cushions, it’s crucial to rinse them thoroughly to remove any detergent residue. Use a hose or a bucket of clean water to rinse the cushions, ensuring all the soap is washed away. Press down on the cushions to release excess water without wringing or twisting them, as it may distort their shape. Finally, place the cushions in a well-ventilated area to air dry completely. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can fade the fabric.

Flip the cushions occasionally to ensure even drying.

 || chair set ||

|| patio set ||


Now the cushions are so much better.

You can tell exactly what color they are now.

Everything is fluffed and decorated and straightened and cleaned and ready for a party.

And that view from the back door to the pergola?

So much better.

It looks just like summer. 🙂

PS If you have tips for cleaning cushions, I’d love to file them in my cushion-cleaning idea book. 🙂


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  1. Image for Kim Kim

    Great ideas! Such a pretty and inviting space. I used to own a drapery workroom and made many custom outdoor cushions for clients. I used outdoor fabrics which helped a great deal, but the coating only lasts so long. The upholstery cleaner is a great idea, but I follow up with a blast of outdoor Scotchgard after the fabric is thoroughly dry. It repels everything, so spills, etc. don't penetrate. It has to be applied periodically, but definitely worth it. A whisk broom used prior to sitting down will take care of the dust, etc. that tends to accumulate. I just hide it behind a watering can for easy access.

  2. Image for Deb Deb

    We have a large Suncast horizontal locker that we keep our cushions in during the winter. As soon as it's getting cold enough to not want to be out on the patio the cushions come off the furniture, get vacuumed & put away. The furniture is moved a bit closer together so we can put covers on that. We get a lot of wind here, so covering everything when its cold & rainy works well.

      1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

        I love that idea! I just don't have the space to store all those cushions. I thought they would be okay under the cover---but ummm. Nope. :)

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Deb, That's so smart! I covered mine before---but I think I didn't buy the right covers because it didn't work very well for me! I'm off to research covers now! happy day! KariAnne

  3. Image for Teresa Teresa

    You cushions look fabulous!!! You are SUMMER READY! I fill a spray bottle with 1/2 Clorox and 1/2 water and spray my cushions one side at a time letting them dry in the sun between treatments. Works GREAT even on multi colored floral cushions. Hasn't ever faded them.

  4. Image for Lorelei Lorelei

    I use a sweeper nozzle rather than pressure washer. Has less power but I like that I’m never in danger of ripping the fabric. Rinse off first, sponge wash with soapy water (I use Dawn, too), then final rinse and air dry. Your pergola area looks fabulous!

  5. Image for Cindy@CountyRoad407 Cindy@CountyRoad407

    Quick question - It looks like you power washed the covers while on the cushions. Is that correct? Just making sure. I don't want the cushion part to mold. Thanks!

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Cindy, Yes! I washed them on the cushions, but my inserts are waterproof! Make sure to lay them out in the sun to dry! Happy day! KariAnne

  6. Image for Missy Mangum Missy Mangum

    This was timely, thank you! I use blue Dawn as my laundry stain remover! It’s gotten boot polish out of new khakis and oily salad dressing out of tablecloths!

  7. Image for DBLori DBLori

    Many years ago my husband used the power washer to clean our hand me down couches. Everyone we told were like, "you did what?" The couches survived and looked brand new again. At that time they were close to 15 years old.

  8. Image for Jeanine Kesey Jeanine Kesey

    I have to store my cushions in outdoor bins or else the squirrels will tear into them and tear out the inserts to make their nests. Anyone have a solution for this? I would love to leave them out more. I have always stayed away from light colored cushions because I was not sure they could be kept clean. This info is great to know. I love the look of the cream and black cushions!

  9. Image for Rizae Rizae

    I also use a power washer on my outdoor rugs and my canvas gazebo cover. And yes blue dawn dish soap is my go to for all types of cleaning jobs! It's great on oil stains left from a car.

  10. Image for Teddee Grace Teddee Grace

    I guess it is because I've always lived in less-than-friendly climates, but I would recommend purchasing winter covers for your furniture. I'm sure they increase the life of the fabric as well as saving a lot of time and effort come spring.

  11. Image for Michele M. Michele M.

    WOW! No way! I'd have never thought to do that. What a huge difference!!! Hey KA- only tip to add to this is don't forget now that they're nice and clean to spray Scotchguard on them to protect them well. Well done, ma'am.

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