How To Clean Outdoor Furniture Covers

Hey there! If you’re anything like me, you love spending time outdoors in your backyard during the warmer months. Lounging on patio furniture, eating al fresco, or just relaxing in the fresh air.

But the elements can take a toll on your precious outdoor furniture. That’s why using covers is so important for protection. However, you can’t just slap them on and forget about them! Proper cleaning and care is essential to get the most out of your furniture covers.

In this handy guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about keeping your outdoor furniture covers fresh and functional. We’ll look at:

  • The different types of covers and their properties
  • Step-by-step cleaning methods for both machine and hand washing
  • Maintenance tips to extend the life of your covers
  • When it’s time to replace them for good

With just a bit of regular TLC, your outdoor furniture covers can defend your goods against rain, sun, dirt and more! Let’s dig in.

Types of Outdoor Furniture Covers

Outdoor furniture covers come in a variety of different fabrics, each with their own characteristics. The material you choose depends on factors like budget, how water/UV resistant you need them to be, etc. Let’s look at some of the most common options:


Polyester is a synthetic fabric that makes very durable and resilient furniture covers. It resists shrinking, wrinkling, and sagging. Polyester covers also feature UV resistant coatings to provide protection from the sun’s rays.

The coatings can wear off over time with repeated machine washing. But untreated polyester covers can safely be tossed in the wash. Overall an affordable, reliable outdoor cover material.


With its shiny, flexible structure, vinyl excels at repelling water and heat. It wards off mold/mildew growth and keeps pests away too.

Vinyl covers can technically go in the washing machine, but it’s best to hand wash them inside out. The vigorous motion of a machine can damage the vinyl over time.


Known for its sheer strength, nylon is one of the toughest synthetic fabric covers. It holds up well to wind, rain, sun exposure and more. Plus, nylon has natural resistances built right in to fend off rot, mildew and abrasion.

Nylon’s durable construction allows it to withstand repeated machine washings without falling apart. Definitely a heavy duty outdoor cover material.


For a basic water-resistant cover on a budget, polypropylene is a great choice. This woven fabric has a similar feel to cloth but comes at a lower price point.

On the downside, polypropylene is more prone to UV damage than other cover fabrics. So it has a shorter lifespan in harsh outdoor environments.

To clean polypropylene covers, you’ll want to use a gentle hand washing instead of machine washing. But they’ll still protect your furniture economically!

Cleaning Methods

Now that you know about outdoor cover fabrics, let’s get into the nitty gritty of keeping them clean! Proper washing is key to maintaining their function and look.

Machine Washing

If the care label states your covers are machine washable, you’re in luck! Just throw them in on the appropriate wash setting.

Be sure to double check the label for the ideal washing temperature. High heat can deteriorate certain materials. For most covers, a warm or cool gentle cycle is safest.

It’s also best to wash covers separately from other laundry. They could bleed color or get lint and hair stuck to them otherwise.

For vinyl covers especially, turn them inside out first before machine washing. This keeps the exterior vinyl layer from getting damaged.

Use a mild laundry detergent and wash on the gentle/delicate setting. Then air dry the covers fully before putting them back on your patio set.

Hand Washing

For covers that aren’t machine washable, hand washing is your best bet. This low-agitation method is gentlest on the fabrics.

Fill a bucket or tub with lukewarm water and a small amount of mild soap or detergent. Use a soft bristle brush to scrub the covers clean.

Focus on any seams or creases where dirt loves to gather. Rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove all soap.

Be sure to fully air dry the covers before putting them back on furniture. Never put wet covers onto patio items or fold them up while damp.

Other Cleaning Tips

  • During the season, occasionally brush off accumulated debris with a soft broom. This prevents heavy soiling.
  • Spot clean any bird droppings/stains as soon as possible so they don’t have time to set in.
  • Steer clear of harsh chemicals and stick to mild soap/detergent only.
  • Make sure to dry covers away from direct sun, which can degrade fabrics.
  • Check for mildew spots and treat with a mix of bleach and mild soap.

Maintenance and Care

Okay, so you know how to wash your outdoor furniture covers properly. But maintenance between cleanings is also essential for longevity.

  • Inspect covers closely every few months and clean if dirty. Don’t let grime build up!
  • Always allow covers to fully dry before placing back onto patio furniture after rain or washing.
  • Look for any mold/mildew growth, which thrives on built up moisture and dirt.
  • Don’t pile stuff like pots, tools, etc on top of covers when not in use. This can strain the fabric.
  • Seek out covers in dark colors and with waterproof coatings to better handle the elements.

With the right care, your hardworking outdoor furniture covers can keep on protecting your goods season after season!

Storing Covers

At the end of the outdoor season, properly storing your cleaned covers will help them last. Here are some tips:

  • Let covers fully air dry before storage to prevent mold growth.
  • Neatly fold or roll up covers to minimize wrinkles and creases.
  • Stash them somewhere out of direct sun and away from dirt and moisture.
  • Placing covers in a breathable storage bag also keeps dust and pests out.
  • Never pack covers away while wet or damp. Allow 1-2 days drying time first.

Proper off-season storage gives your covers a longer lifespan and keeps them ready for next year’s use!

When to Replace Covers

With frequent use and cleaning, outdoor furniture covers eventually do wear out. Here are some signs it’s time to shop for replacements:

  • Fabric has become thin, saggy, or transparent from sun and weather damage.
  • Cover is ripped, torn or otherwise unfixable with normal repairs.
  • The color has badly faded, normal cleaning can’t remove stains, or closure straps are broken.
  • Despite washing, the cover is no longer water resistant or 100% blocks sunlight.
  • Prolonged moisture has led to persistent mildew smell or growth that you can’t tackle.

While covers don’t last forever, proper maintenance and storage can significantly extend their lifespan!


Outdoor furniture covers are integral for protecting your patio investments against the elements year round. But don’t stick them on and then forget about them!

By regularly washing covers, treating stains promptly, and proper storage, you’ll get the most value from these protective layers. Always check and follow fabric care instructions for the optimal cleaning method.

Hand washing is safest for delicate fabrics, while durable types can withstand occasional machine washing. With a little TLC, your furniture covers can defend against rain, sun, dirt and more for many seasons to come!