The Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Cushions
Outdoor furniture used to look a lot like, well, outdoor furniture. You’d see shiny, rubbery plastics trying to pass themselves off as furniture, chairs that looked like pool toys, and weird mystery materials that have probably been outlawed by now.
Thankfully, we’ve (mostly) moved past this dark period in the history of outdoor furniture. Today’s pieces feature durable yet beautiful materials, modern styles, and, best of all, outdoor cushions that could double as indoor. But as our cushions make the move to the outdoors, knowing exactly how to choose and care for these soft bundles of joy can be a challenge. That’s where we come in.
We’ll tell you everything you need to know about not only choosing the right outdoor cushions for your space and lifestyle, but how to care for and extend the life of these plush furnishings.
Before You Buy
If you’re just starting to save some outdoor furniture ideas to your Pinterest board, there are some things you’ll want to know about before you get too attached to a specific look. Just like with indoor furniture, there are certain pieces that work better for each individual and situation.
Perhaps you’re into the look of a particular fabric or cushion, but know that you’re too busy (or lazy) to clean it regularly. Maybe you like the thought of sleeping away your summer on an outdoor lounger, but recognize that you’re much more of a sit-up-and-snack kind of relaxer. Whatever you’re looking for, there’s a cushion for you. Consider the following questions:
- Where do you live? Your geographic location might give you more rain than you’re ready to protect your cushions from. Make sure you’re willing to spend a little bit more time on prevention (furniture covers, anyone?) and have the storage space to house your cushions when the weather calls for it.
- Where will the product be placed? Is there the perfect spot under your giant maple tree where you’ll be setting up your outdoor seating area? Will it be under a protective overhang? Keep this kind of info in mind when shopping for your outdoor furniture. Fallen leaves, sap, and debris from trees can leave stains and marks on your furniture if it’s not cleaned regularly, while a protective overhang will let you get away with a more lenient cushion-cleaning routine.
- How often are you willing to clean? Are you able to put in a little bit of maintenance and cleaning time into your outdoor furniture? If so, you’re ready to enjoy the comfort of outdoor cushions. If you’re really not looking to spend even one minute on cleaning or maintenance (no judgement!), a cushion-less piece, like the Trella Sofa, might be the best fit for you. There are no wrong answers here.
You’ll also want to think about how you actually spend your time outside. If you don’t love your current patio setup, can you think of a time when you really enjoyed yourself on somebody else’s? Maybe you loved laying poolside with your favorite book while on vacation, or maybe you enjoyed the al fresco dinner parties your friends held in their outdoor dining room.
Don’t think about how you think you’re supposed to be spending your time outside. Instead, think about what an ideal day spent in your outdoor space actually looks like for you. For example, if you love putting your feet up and relaxing outside, you’ll probably want an outdoor sofa with cushions on both the back and against the arms of the sofa to lean against. If you use your outdoor space as a neighborhood wine-night spot, or you’re most comfortable sitting up while hanging out, a set of outdoor armchairs or a sofa with storage space would work great for your setup.
Basically, you want to think about how much cushioning you’ll need. Whether you require full-body lounging comfort, adjustable armchair pillows, or just some padding for your late-night dinner party chairs, there’s a huge variety of soft and stylish outdoor furniture available.
Consider the Materials
Before you began your search for outdoor furniture, you probably didn’t give much thought as to what materials the cushions are made out of.
The truth is, different materials are better for bracing the outdoors. Unless you love to live on the edge, you wouldn’t exactly use silk to cover your heavy-use, Pacific Northwest-living sofa, for example.
Knowing this, our team works hard to ensure that the materials used to create our outdoor cushions are able to withstand the elements. And while this doesn’t mean you should leave them outside for a rough and windy hail shower (more on that later), it does mean you can rest assured that they’ll be much more forgiving when a surprise spring sprinkle arrives uninvited.
Choosing the Right Fill
You may remember sleeping on foamies during sleepovers as a kid — but the foam used in our outdoor furniture is a different breed.
Most of our outdoor seat cushions here at Article are filled with high-density foam. High-density foam is resilient and resistant to warping, meaning you’ll spend less time fluffing up your outdoor seat cushions and more time just plain sitting. Due to this, it’s perfect for everyday use and high-traffic areas. Spent an afternoon sipping hard lemonades on your patio? An outdoor sectional like the Lubek won’t tell a soul.
Polyester Fiberfill (Polyfill)
Now we’re getting technical. Can you imagine the popularity you’ll gain when you whip out these polyester facts at your next block party? Oooowhee. Leave some for the rest of us, buddy.
Remember this: The back cushions of outdoor furniture are usually filled with either foam, polyester fibers, or a combination of foam and polyester fibers (otherwise known as polyester fiberfill, or polyfill).
Polyfill is a soft,cozy material commonly used in outdoor furniture due to its non-allergenic and mildew-resistant properties. It’s often contained within a sealed, water-resistant fabric, which is the case in our notoriously comfortable Venn Sofa.
As one of the most common outdoor fabrics, polyester is a top choice for good reason. You might immediately think of the itchy fabric your mom used to dress you in, but today’s polyester is soft, stylish, and versatile. It’s resistant to stretching and scratches, easy to clean, mold- and rot-resistant, and lightweight. Basically everything you could ever want in your outdoor cushion fabric.
Polyester is so great for the outdoor elements, in fact, that it’s used as a marine fabric in the construction of boats and yachts. Next time you’re lounging on your Urba Sofa, feel free to imagine you’re actually lounging on a million-dollar yacht. Ahoy, matey.
Ole what? Olefin is another popular outdoor cushion fabric, known for its smooth texture and durability. When you or the kids decide to plop down on your Corvos Modular Sofa after cooling off in the pool or a run through the sprinkler, you can relax knowing that the olefin fabric is not only resistant to water, but is quick-drying.
Because it can be produced in a large variety of colors, weaves, textures, and styles, olefin is a great way to add interest to your outdoor space.
No, we don’t mean your nails. Acrylic is another fabric you’ll come across as you shop for your perfect outdoor cushions and furniture. It’s resistant to wrinkles, fading, and mildew growth, which means it’s great for all kinds of climates.
If you want to sip a glass of your favorite Syrah on your Cera Rocking Chair, go right ahead. Just make sure you clean any spills up right away. You’ve got this.
Care and Cleaning
It’s easier to brush your teeth daily rather than deal with cavities, am I right? When it comes to your outdoor cushions, the same principle applies: Prevention is key.
Here are some proactive things you can do to avoid any outdoor cushion regrets:
- Keep them out of direct and prolonged sunlight. I can hear the questions now. “What’s the point of having outdoor furniture if it can’t be in the sun?” Okay, let us clarify: While the fabrics used for outdoor pillows and cushions are more resistant to fading than most indoor fabrics, they aren’t magic. Give them a break when they’re not in use, and either store them inside or under a protective cover. It’s basically like sunscreen for your outdoor cushions. SPF now also means “Super Protected Furniture.”
- Protect from the elements. You’re not exactly fighting to sit outside and enjoy some strawberry margs with the rain pouring down — and neither are your outdoor cushions. Pay attention to your local forecast and either bring your cushions inside, store them in a dry, sealed container, or shield them with a waterproof furniture cover like our Operi. Outdoor furniture covers are also great for keeping your cushions free from messes like tree sap and bird droppings.
- Fluff regularly. If your outdoor cushions have been stored over the winter season, they could probably use a little fluffing to freshen them up. Or, if you favor a certain seat over others and notice it’s getting a little dented and slouchy, a good fluffing will restore it back to its original glory. Fluffing doesn’t just make everything look fresh again, it actually extends the life of your outdoor cushions by helping to keep the cushion’s filling evenly dispersed, which in turn ensures all cushion surface area receives equal wear. This also helps protect your outdoor furniture’s frame from direct contact and wear.
Outdoor Cushion Cleaning Tips
No matter how careful everyone is, some messes are unavoidable. Here’s how to deal with some after-the-fact issues.
- Clean regularly. We’re not saying you have to do a deep clean of your outdoor cushions every time you want to relax outside, but a little general maintenance isn’t going to hurt anybody. It’s not fun to sit down on dusty leaves, dried up dirt, or any other gift from Mother Nature, so we recommend taking a soft bristle brush (or the little brush that came with your dustpan) and giving your outdoor cushions a quick sweep on a regular basis. This helps minimize the chances of any dirt or dust getting embedded in the fabric and causing abrasions or deep stains.
- Treat spills and stains. If some of your gourmet ranch dip escapes your chip, you’re not out of luck. Use an absorbent cloth or paper towel to absorb as much of the stain as you can. Then, mix a tiny bit of dish soap in a jar or bowl of water, and dip a soft cloth into only the bubbles. Gently dab to work the soapy mixture into the stain, and then allow it to fully air dry.
- Machine wash if necessary. If you want to get a deeper clean, many of our outdoor cushion covers, such as those on our Ora Sectional, are removable and washing-machine safe. Just be sure to read the cleaning instructions for your specific piece to make sure your washing machine doesn’t damage the fabric. Use a gentle detergent and hang to dry.
- Replace as necessary. Sometimes even the best-laid plans go awry. No matter how much you work to prevent damage and clean up messes right away, accidents happen. If you find yourself wishing you could have another chance with your outdoor cushions, you can contact us to purchase replacement cushion covers for many of our outdoor pieces (just provide your original order number).
Now that you know what to look for in your ideal outdoor cushions — and how to keep them clean and fresh — it’s time to start planning your dream patio. Get that Pinterest board going, check Instagram for inspiration, and get your game plan ready. It’s time to get comfortable.