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How to Choose Outdoor Cushions and Furniture Covers

If you’re looking to refresh your outdoor furniture, give your outdoor living space a new look, or protect your new outdoor cushions, then outdoor furniture cushions and covers are essential to your space. But picking the right outdoor cushions isn’t always as easy as it seems. 

From durability to style and size, there’s more to outdoor cushions than the way that they look. And because outdoor cushions don’t come cheap, the worst thing you can do is spend a chunk of change only to discover your cushions aren’t everything you’d hoped they’d be.

Here are a few quick pointers to remember when shopping for your next outdoor furniture slipcover for cushions set.

What to Consider When Choosing Outdoor Cushions

Cushion Size

The first item to consider when shopping for your next set of outdoor cushions is their size. A bistro chair is sized differently than a standard dining chair, which is sized differently from a lounge or Adirondack chair. So knowing how big or small your own furniture is will help you make the right choice in outdoor cushions.

If you can’t find an exact fit for your chairs, we believe that a cushion that is slightly too big is better than a cushion that is far too small. So if all else fails, don’t worry about overshooting the mark by an inch or two when it comes to simple, individual seat cushions.

However, for cushions that slot into place, the right size is imperative. Break out your measuring tape and find the length and width of the seat and backing of your chair, couch, or chaise. Then use these numbers to guide your search. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching an outdoor couch cushion slot precisely into place!

Cushion and Cover Material

Outdoor cushions live, wouldn’t you know it, outdoors! A cushion that lives outside needs to stand up to more than your typical indoor couch cushion might. From weather, to intense summer sun, to kids, dogs, and dirt, the material of your cushion matters. Not only does the material determine comfort, but it also will play a large part in how long your new cushions last.

There are a range of materials commonly used on outdoor couch cushions. Each have their benefits and drawbacks. No one material is perfect for every family or lifestyle, so take your own home and family into account when making your choice.

Common cushion materials include:

  1. Polyester. Polyester cushions are water and stain-resistant, and quick drying. This means polyester cushions are less vulnerable to damage like mold and mildew which develop with lingering moisture. 

  2. Vinyl. Also known as PVC, vinyl cushions are some of the most cost effective cushion options on the market. They are as water resistant and stain repellent as polyester, but can get hot in the summer sun. This can make them less comfortable to sit on in sunny weather. 

  3. Textilene. Think of this as the composite decking of outdoor cushion covers. Textilene is a material made up of woven polyester blend yarns which are spun together and then coated with PVC. While the material will hold up against sun, wind, and rain, it may not always be the most comfortable option on the market.

  4. Sunbrella. This UV and water-resistant fabric is great in all weathers, and is easier to clean than other synthetic blends like vinyl or textilene. It dries fast, which combats against mold and mildew, and features exemplary sun and fade resistance. 

  5. Olfein (polypropylene). A more environmentally friendly option in the world of synthetic cushions and covers. This fabric is made from upcycled material, and is as durable, stain-resistant, and water repellent as other synthetics on the market. However, it can be more expensive. 

  6. Cotton Canvas. Finally, our last option is the most natural. However, it also can be the least durable, depending on your weather conditions. Cotton is porous so it takes on and retains water. If not dried, mold and mildew can grow, and staining may occur more easily. However, cotton is machine washable, unlike vinyl or PVC. 

Seat and Pillow Fill Material

After you’ve considered the outside of your outdoor cushion, it’s time to think about the inside. The filing of your cushion is what determines its level of softness and support. Unlike the exterior, there are only two main materials used for fill of outdoor cushions—foam and polyester.

Polyester fill is fluffy and comfortable, and more affordable than its foam counterpart. They are typically very soft, which can be great at first. However, due to the cheapness and lower density of the material, polyester fill cushions do tend to flatten out as time goes on.

Foam fill cushions are typically denser than polyester. This means they offer more support. You can find foam fills in varying levels of density, however, the higher the density the less likely your cushions are to deflate over time.

Stability & Attachment 

Imagine spending hundreds of dollars on beautiful new outdoor cushions just to watch them blow away in the first summer storm. While a throw pillow may not require a way to tie itself down, your seat and support cushions should be a little more durable. Knowing how your cushions will attach to your furniture can give you an idea of how stable they will be.

Many outdoor cushions feature tie attachments. These tie to the frame of your furniture and prevent cushions from blowing away in a strong wind, or moving around while you’re seated. The more ties a cushion features, the more securely they will attach.

Cleaning and Maintenance

We’re guessing you don’t want to spend money year over year to replace outdoor cushions than have flattened out or molded in a year's time. This is why durability and ease of maintenance is key when it comes to finding the right cushions or covers for your family. The best way to maintain your cushions is to wash them when needed. The easier the cushions are to clean, the more likely you are to do it.

Cushions that are machine-washable are among the simplest options to upkeep. Washing machines can do a thorough job that spot cleaning just can’t manage. However, most cushions can not simply be thrown in the wash.

In that case, your next best option is to find covers that are removable. These covers typically zip off their filling and can be thrown into the washing machine or fully submerged to clean. While you won’t get the refresh of the cushion fill itself, you will keep the exterior of the outdoor cushion in great shape.

For cushions that do not feature removable covers, more maintenance will be needed. To prevent mold and mildew, non washable cushions should be moved inside when it rains, or kept in storage in inclimate weather. Stains should be addressed with the appropriate detergent and handwashing.

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