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.
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?
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.)
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).
Instead of looking like this?
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The pillows look like this.
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Can you even believe it?
Does it even look like the same cushions?
Those are the EXACT same chairs and couch and ottoman.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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|| 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. 🙂