Outdoor Upholstery Fabric

When you are decorating your porch or backyard space, it is important to be aware that the upholstery choices that may work inside your house are likely not going to be able to stand up to the elements outdoors. Instead, you should be choosing from textiles that are specially designed for outdoor use. Outdoor upholstery fabrics come in many patterns, prints, and textures, so there are still plenty of options out there to fit your vision for your outdoor space. 

What to Consider When Choosing Outdoor Upholstery Fabric

If you are looking into fabrics for an outdoor upholstery project, there are several different factors that you should keep in mind while you do your research. These include the location that the furniture will be in, as well as the amount of sunlight or water they will be coming into contact with. We will take a more in depth look at these factors below. 

Weave and Dye

One of the factors that you should consider is the weave and dye of a textile. For instance, woven acrylic fabrics are more fade resistant than fabrics such as printed acrylic or polyester print fabrics. 

Solution dyed fabrics are also more stain and wear resistant than fabrics that are dyed after they are woven. This is where the fiber filaments are dyed before the yarn is made– then, the colored filaments are spun into yarn that is already permeated with color to weave into a textile.

Water and Mildew Resistance

Water and mildew are common occurrences when your fabric or furniture is sitting outside and exposed to the elements. Therefore, it will be important to research the water and mildew resistance levels of a particular fabric that you are looking at. Your outdoor fabric should at least be water repellant, or even better, waterproof. 

Most outdoor fabrics will have a protective coating which helps it to repel water, mold, mildew, and moisture. The more that you use or clean a fabric, though, the more this protective coating will begin to wear down, and will eventually need to be replaced. 

Cording and Strapping

Take a look at the chair or sofa that you are purchasing the upholstery fabric for. You may be choosing fabric for cushions to set on the furniture– for example, if the piece of furniture has a metal frame or any sort of strapping or cording. Metal framed furniture, whether it is vintage or a reproduction, will often have some sort of tubular cording or wider strapping in a variety of colours. 

You can pay to have these rewrapped or re-strapped, or you can easily do so yourself. You may want to look at fabrics such as faux leather or other such materials that will be able to stand up to the elements for this cording or strapping. 

Cleaning and Maintenance 

Of course, cleaning and any other maintenance is something very important to consider when choosing between your outdoor fabric options. How easy they are to maintain will be a big factor in your decision, as you may not have the time– or want to spend the time on– extensive upkeep. 

In 1969, fabrics began to denote a cleanability code, making it easy to determine information related to cleaning or maintenance. Be on the lookout for this code during your research to make things easier. 


Fading is another common issue when you leave textiles out in the sun and the elements. Regardless of whether they are outdoor fabrics or not, most fabrics are going to fade after time when out in the sun. If you expect that the textile is going to have a lot of contact with intense sunlight, you should opt for one of the fabrics with higher UV resistance. 

If your fabric will have a lot of contact with sunlight, another option is to choose colours that will not fade as fast as bright, vibrant colours. Some examples of more fade resistant shades are black, navy, and other such dark colours.

Outdoor Upholstery Fabric Options - Calgary Interiors

Outdoor Upholstery Fabric Options

It may feel overwhelming when you begin your outdoor fabric research, as there is no shortage of different options on the market. However, some of these options are going to be a better fit for your project and your particular needs than others. Take a look at some of the types of fabrics below for a jumping off point in your research. 

Olefin Fabrics

Olefin fabrics are one of the newer fabrics that are out on the market. It is woven with polypropylene and olefin fibers. Olefin is a byproduct of refining petroleum, and it is very durable and stain resistant. Due to this, as well as its high UV resistance, olefin fabrics are a great choice for use for outdoor upholstery.

Most of the outdoor fabrics available these days will be olefin, acrylic, or polyester. Solution dyed olefin fabrics will be the most resistant to wear, tear, and fading. This is because of the method of dyeing the filaments prior to spinning them into yarn– it helps to make sure that the fabric is as permeated with colour as possible, as we discussed previously. 

Solution Dyed Acrylic Fabrics

Solution dyed acrylic fabrics are another fantastic choice for your outdoor furniture. They utilize the method of dyeing fabric fibers before spinning them into yarn and then the final textile, as we mentioned above. Due to this, solution dyed acrylic fabrics are more resistant to fading or other wear and tear than regular acrylic outdoor fabrics might be. 

Acrylic fabrics are synthetic fabrics, made with manmade fibers. Most acrylic fabrics have high lightfastness levels, but it is important that you ensure that the fabric you choose is also treated with a stain treatment bath. This is because the fabric will stain fairly easily without this sort of treatment. When your fabric will be easily exposed to water and other elements that can cause stains and damage, this is an important consideration to make!

Polyester Fabrics

Polyester fabrics are some of the lower performing outdoor fabrics, so they may not be a good fit for you, depending on where you live or where the outdoor furniture will be located. Polyester fabrics will be a good choice for screened porches, porches that are shaded or protected from the elements, or areas that do not experience extreme weather or temperatures.

Polyester is typically batch dyed, which is not as stain or fade resistant as solution dyed fabric options. However, one of the advantages of polyester fabrics is that they are one of the cheaper outdoor upholstery options. Because of these points, as well as polyester’s lower performance, polyester is a good fit for small accents to your outdoor furniture, such as throw pillows. 

Sunbrella Fabrics

When researching outdoor textiles, Sunbrella is going to be a name that pops up constantly. Sunbrella is a company that has engineered their own special line of heavy duty outdoor fabrics. The company began its work in 1960, and has since offered fabric that is highly UV resistant and highly durable– perfect for climates where the weather is constantly changing and the elements may be more severe. 

Sunbrella is said to have a significantly longer lifespan when compared to fabrics such as cotton. Each Sunbrella fabric is imbued with different performance boosting characteristics that make it easier to care for and longer lasting than many of the other outdoor upholstery fabrics on the market today.

Calgary InteriorsSunbrella - Living Room Trends
photo credit | Sunbrella

Polypropylene Fabrics

Another outdoor fabric is polypropylene. Polypropylene was one of the first marine fabrics– marine fabrics are great options for outdoor upholstery, due to their water resistance and durability. Like other marine fabrics, polypropylene textiles dry quickly when they do get wet and are water and stain resistant. They also have a very high UV resistance.

Polypropylene is comfortable to sit on, too. When you think of marine fabrics, you often think of plastic-like textiles that will stick to your legs when you try to get up. Polypropylene, however, is soft and comfortable. It is also easy to clean, as it has no dye sites, and can be cleaned with bleach if necessary, without damaging the fabric or losing the colours. Stain protectants and chemical treatments are unnecessary with polypropylene. It is also generally waterproof, but this is something that you should be sure to confirm, as certain manufacturers will create and finish the fabric in a way that makes it more waterproof than others. 


Canvas is another fabric that can be used for your outdoor furniture. It is one of the more popular options, because it can come in a variety of colours and prints, and is fairly waterproof. After all, people even use it for sails for their boats! Canvas is also easy to clean, and can withstand a good amount of UV exposure as well. However, its performance and durability are not going to be as high as that of Sunbrella or olefin, for example.

Duck canvas has a tighter weave than regular canvas, so it is more comfortable and also stronger than most regular canvas textiles. Depending on the nature of your project, duck canvas is something that you may want to look further into. 

Tips When Choosing Outdoor Upholstery Fabrics

As your outdoor furniture may be subject to a lot of abuse from the elements, you will want to choose something that is comfortable and attractive, but also durable and low maintenance. Finding a textile that checks all of these boxes– and doesn’t break the bank!– can certainly be tough. Take a look at some of the tips below for choosing and then caring for your upholstery fabrics. 

  • Take your cushions and smaller furniture inside when weather is bad to protect the fabric from stains, wear, and tear. 
  • Choose a fabric that will be able to stand up to daily moisture exposure.
  • Look for fabrics that can be removed and put in the washing machine for easy maintenance and cleaning.
  • Pay attention to the fade resistance of a fabric before you buy, especially if it will be exposed to direct sunlight.
  • If your fabric has poor fade resistance, opt for darker colors that will not fade as quickly.

Looking to give your patio furniture some extra love this season?

At Calgary Interiors, we can re-upholster your patio furniture so you can enjoy it season after season.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best fabric to use for outdoor seating?

If you are shopping for fabric for your outdoor seating, you should consider polypropylene fabric. It is widely considered to be the best fabric for outdoor furniture, and was one of the first marine fabrics. It has superior UV resistance and dries quickly when wet. 

Is Sunbrella the only outdoor fabric?

No, Sunbrella is not the only outdoor fabric, and conversely, not all outdoor fabrics are Sunbrella. Outdoor fabrics cover a wide variety, from spun polys to solution dyed acrylics. Not all of these outdoor fabric options will have the same UV resistance or quick dry features, so you should be sure to research the unique properties of any fabric you are considering– some are better suited for screened porches than for patios in direct sunlight. 

are Sunbrella fabrics worth the price?

Sunbrella fabrics are respected because they are superiorly designed. They are easy to take care of and wash, low maintenance, and are also resistant to mold or mildew– which can be a common issue for outdoor furniture. Sunbrella fabrics are resistant to water, stains, and fading, too, making the textile one of the most durable outdoor fabric options. 

What is outdoor fabric called?

There are many different kinds of outdoor fabric, so there is no one, all encompassing name for outdoor fabric. The name for an outdoor fabric will depend on its fiber content or on its patent, if it is a technical fabric. Some examples of names of outdoor fabrics are polyester, acrylic, or olefin. Sunbrella is another type of outdoor fabric on the market. 

What is the most UV resistant fabric?

One of the most UV resistant outdoor fabrics is Sunbrella, which was engineered specifically for this purpose. Other UV resistant fabrics that would be good for outdoor upholstery use include canvas, olefin, and acrylic blends. 

For more outdoor fabric trends, check out our blog on Commercial Patio Furniture and Outdoor Furniture Upholstery