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What are the Different Types of Outdoor Upholstery Fabric?

By Donn Saylor
Updated Feb 29, 2024
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Outdoor upholstery fabric is designed to withstand the elements while providing attractive decoration to outdoor spaces; common types of fabric used in outdoor areas include various kinds of cotton, acrylic, and other synthetic materials. Proper selection of outdoor-friendly fabric can be tricky since the majority of natural materials on the market are designed for indoor use, and only a few can serve both indoor/outdoor functions. Many synthetic fabrics, however, are specifically manufactured for utilization in the great outdoors without compromising attractiveness or functionality.

Certain types of cotton are popular choices for outdoor upholstery fabric. Cotton duck canvas and sailcloth are two sturdy forms of cotton material suitable for outdoor spaces. Cotton can also be woven into thick tapestries, which are generally more durable than other cotton varieties, though tapestries are generally protected from the elements when placed outdoors and function for mostly decorative purposes. Softer forms of cotton, like velveteen and gingham, are sometimes used as outdoor furniture covering, but, given the more sensitive nature of the material, these items are not left outdoors when not in use.

Acrylic is a dependable alternative to natural fibers and is renowned for its resilience as an outdoor upholstery fabric. It can be utilized for outdoor furniture fabric, awnings, or canopies. Acrylic fabric is also widely used on boats as protection from the elements. The material is widely available in an array of colors to suit any color scheme or decorative design.

Among other synthetic materials, Sunbrella® is a specifically designed fabric intended for outdoor use, be it on the patio, by the pool, or on a boat. Sunbrella® is made from acrylic dyed in a special solution. It can be purchased by the yard for a do-it-yourself upholstery project, furniture update, or furniture repair. It can also be used to make umbrellas, awnings, and outdoor rugs and pillows. Sunbrella® products are available in a huge selection of colors and styles; they also manufacture waterproof and fire-resistant designs.

Like Sunbrella® Textilene® is also made especially for outdoor usage and is developed to resist fading and mildew. It is comprised of vinyl-coated denier polyester core yarns, offering a thick, protective barrier from both inclement weather and temperature extremes. Textilene® is an outdoor upholstery fabric popular in both home and marine settings.

Vinyl is among the types of outdoor upholstery fabric used primarily in automobiles and boats. With a leather-like look and feel, vinyl is a common choice for seat coverings on boats and other vehicles exposed to the elements. It is soft to the touch yet exceptionally durable, providing both comfort and protection.

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