Having found the right style for a patio chair to buy, the next thing to do is to choose one with the best fabric to suit the user’s tastes and needs. Or at least, find a good material to use to reupholster a patio furniture.
One very important thing to consider is the fact that a patio chair is an outdoors chair. That means there are various elements outside that could damage it or, at least, the cushions and padding. That’s if the fabric is wrong, weak, or prone to wear and tear. Winds, moisture, and extreme weather can do that. They may affect a chair’s overall durability and performance.
Therefore, it is advised that the fabric to choose is water-resistant and waterproof (inside and out), is fade-resistant, and preferably has a polypropylene cover or something similar, if not better. (Polypropylene is a hard and tough material used in molding articles and fibers.)
First Things First
Decide between buying ready-made cushions and opting for do-it-yourself projects. The first one is definitely easy. The second is somewhere between easy and hard, depending on a person’s sewing skills, patience, and ability to commit. A relatively good skill only requires simple patterns to follow without needing much accessories and embellishments.
Tip: There are tutorials for no-sew pads and pillows online.
Anyway, when doing research, these keywords should help narrow down choices:
- indoor/outdoor fabric
- outdoor fabric
- all-weather fabric
- home decorator fabric
- waterproof fabric
- weatherproof or weather-resistant fabric
Solution-Dyed vs Printed Acrylic
There are two types of fabrics to choose from. It’s woven solution-dyed acrylic fabrics versus printed acrylic or polyester print fabrics.
Liquid acrylic and color are combined first to form fibers, which are then spun into a yarn. Their properties:
- made colorfast — dyed in a color that does not fade
- easy-to-dry but should never be put in a dryer or be dry-cleaned
- must not grow mold
Printed Acrylic or Polyester
The fabric is screen-printed. Their properties:
- dyes used resistant to fade and weather
- protected by adding water repellant guard during the final stage
- strong and durable
- resistant to: wrinkling, fading, shrinking, mold, mildew
Most outdoor fabrics are really water repellant and protected from moisture, mold, and mildew. Constant use will naturally cause wear eventually. That’s inevitable. Nevertheless, keep them away from direct sunlight especially if they are of dark and/or vibrant colors. Cover or store them away.
The Cleanability Code
When looking for fabrics, a buyer has to take into consideration how each one should be taken care of to make an upholstered furniture safe and longer-lasting. Fabrics have what is called as the Cleanability Code, which has been around since 1969.
“…the easiest way to determine the correct method for cleaning your upholstery fabric is to refer to the manufacturer’s label bearing W, S, W-S or just an X. This is important because cleaning with the wrong products can damage…and potentially even make the cleaned area look worse than before. As a matter of fact, the wrong cleaning products can cause more damage than your everyday dirt and stains.“ (The Spruce)
Upholstery Cleaning Codes:
“W” – can be cleaned with water-based cleaning agents or non-solvent cleaning products only; spot clean
“S” – must be cleaned with mild, water-free cleaning solvents (dry clean only); never apply water to it as that will cause some kind of damage; “Spot cleaning is only advised if the product is meant for home dry cleaning use.”
“S/W” or “W-S” – dry cleaning solvents and water may be used together; use solvent-based cleaner (mild solvent, upholstery shampoo, mild detergent foam); cleaning like this is rare and best left to the professionals
“X” – vacuum ONLY or simply brush gently to clean and avoid staining, shrinkage, and distortion; very, very rare but frequent on fabric blinds and shades
To be sure, test cleaning products on areas that are not noticeable.
How to Know Fabric Cleanability Code:
“Cleaning codes on your favorite couch or chair are typically found under the seat cushions (assuming they are detachable) on the platform (the part the cushions sit on). If you do not find the cleaning code on the platform, check all tags that might be attached to the piece. If you removed them upon purchase, typically, this information is available on the companies website/product page. If it’s vintage, you might try calling around to those who make their living reupholstering and they should be able to lend a hand.“ (Apartment Therapy)
It is always better safe than sorry so don’t forget to check out cleanability codes.
Fabrics for Patio Chairs
Here now is a list of fabrics to choose from:
Canvas is a plain woven fabric that comes in pre-dyed solid colors and prints. A very popular type is cotton canvas, which is generally used in many outdoor applications as it is heavy-duty and naturally durable. It doesn’t wear easily but is easy to dye. What’s more, it is relatively inexpensive.
There is sheer curtain fabric and there is heavy curtain fabric. They are available in various colors and styles. It is up to the buyer which to choose. A good advice is to use sheer fabric on some cushions and heavy fabric on others. Curtain fabric is seen as economical when it comes to outdoor use.
It is also simply called Duck. It is similar to Canvas as buying duck cloth depends on the weight and the usage. It is smoother and with a tighter weave, ergo, it is sturdier in comparison. On the other hand, it is harder to customize the design when using duck cloth. It is a bit more pricey as well.
“Marine” is the keyword. This fabric is said to be sturdy and highly weather-resistant as if the material is to be used as boat upholstery (unless that is the actual purpose). It has a tighter weave and heavier finishing than most, able to withstand rough weather conditions. But it can be a bit stiff. The buyer must decide if that is going to be a problem.
Olefin Fiber or Polypropylene
This is synthetic fiber that is often considered a plastic fiber. It is believed to be ideal by some for cushion covering and filling. What’s great is that it is mold-resistant and can hold up against any weather.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) or Vinyl
As a plastic, PVC is recyclable, which makes up for plastic being considered as not environment-friendly. As a fabric, it is strong and definitely easy to clean. The feel on the skin may not be that pleasant, though. especially during warm weather when the material can be a bit sticky. Also, because PVC is hardy, it probably would be wiser to not use it for the cushions, rather for pillows or backings.
Shower curtains can be good as cushion fabric, being water-resistant and sometimes even waterproof. Since they are bought large, they can be very economical and are often on sale, too. The best part is they come in many varieties.
It is woven polyester with a PVC coating, waterproof, fade-resistant, mold-resistant, and flame-retardant. No wonder it is found at hardware stores. The problem with Textilene mesh, though, is comfortability, or the probable lack of it. It may be “too-polyester” and/or “too-plastic” to be comfortable for use — that is relevant information that may be hard to ignore. So while purchasing (it can actually be bought by the yard), test how the fabric will feel.
As said, choosing a fabric for a patio chair is more about one’s style and comfort-level preferences. Get smart and do some research. What should be able to hold up well against the outside forces and still look and feel nice? Can it withstand being sat on regularly and for long periods of time? Will it not tear under someone with, at least, a normal enough weight?
Each of the fabrics above may work, but if the owner does not make an effort to take care of the cushions, damage may still occur. Regular and proper maintenance is the key to extend cushion life.