Cleaning Patio Furniture Covers

May 13, 2011

patio furniture covers

Keep it clean.

Patio furniture covers get dirty. That’s kind of the point. But as Morgan Freeman said as God in Bruce Almighty, “No matter how filthy something gets, you can always clean it right up.” So, how do we clean your patio furniture covers? It depends on the material, of course. Patio furniture covers come in a several different materials, the most popular being vinyl, nylon, polypropylene, and polyester. Let’s start with vinyl.

Vinyl patio furniture covers take me back. To flannel, Nirvana and Viennetta ice cream on my birthdays. Vinyl is the grandfather of all patio furniture covers. It is basically water-proof, has great tensile strength and is pretty cheap. A decent combination. Never mind the cracking in the sun or the annoying flakes you had to clean up. Vinyl was pretty much all you had. It is also the material that usually comes with whatever you bought that you need to cover, so who can blame you? I digress. How to clean a vinyl cover? Wipe it down with soap and water. Obviously, do not machine wash it. Do not saturate the cover with water, but use a brush, pad or towel. Dry the water off. Pretty simple.

Nylon covers are becoming increasingly rare due to the high cost of the material. Nylon is one of the strongest synthetic textile materials out there. A nylon rope can last for decades, for example. You can actually machine wash your nylon cover, something you cannot do with other materials. Just make sure you don’t wash it with anything else, use cold water and use non-chlorine bleach, if any at all. Regular laundry detergent should be plenty.

Polypropylene is one of the weakest materials used for patio furniture covers, but is also the cheapest. A single-layer polypropylene cover can really only be expected to last a single season if exposed to any sunlight at all. These things will disintegrate before your eyes. With that said, no one wants a dirty patio furniture cover, even if it is a mediocre one, so feel free to clean it up. Just be sure to be careful when doing so. Use a towel or cloth. Don’t use a brush, even if it’s soft. There is a decent chance you will weaken the material and accelerate your cover’s demise. Fortunately, these covers are so cheap that replacing them is easy. Which is what most people do every year with a polypropylene cover.

Polyester has gained in popularity over the last 10 years and is now the most popular patio furniture cover material on the market. Tough, water-resistant and more rot-resistant than duck or cotton canvas, polyester covers nicely combine durability and economy in a single material. There are also varying thicknesses available, commonly measured by ounce, or the weight of a square yard of a material, or denier, basically a measurement of the thickness of the thread used to make it. 600 denier is about the thickest polyester one will find used in covers, and it will be similar in weight and feel to a backpack or reusable shopping bag. Most of these polyesters are coated with a layer of plastic, usually PVC, or acrylic material to improve UV and water-resistance. This is the rub. If your polyester cover is not coated with anything, then it is machine washable using cold water and non-chorine bleach. If it is coated, machine washing will degrade the coating and is not recommended. Nor would I suggest using a brush as this, too, can damage the coating. Similar to polypropylene, simply use a cloth and mild soap. If you have to scrub too hard, you’re probably going to degrade the coating. This is unfortunate, but its better your cover take the brunt of what the outdoors has to throw at it than the furniture piece itself. Patio furniture covers are made to be broken.


One Response to “Cleaning Patio Furniture Covers”

  1. Hi,
    I live in USA. I have patio furniture in my front yard. Thank you so much for posting this useful information on cleaning patio covers. :)))

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