From awnings and umbrellas to seat cushions and sun shades, outdoor fabrics add an ambiance and romanticism to outdoor living areas that couldn’t be created otherwise.
Tasteful colors and an array of patterns add visual interest while durably woven fabrics repel harmful UV rays and resist those occasional southern Oregon rain showers, making backyard areas more usable and inviting. While choosing a fabric is not any easier than deciding paint colors, the primary types available - canvas, mesh and vinyl – each offer specific attributes.
For basic cleanup of fabric furniture and awnings, spray a mild detergent (such as Lux) onto fabric and allow to sit for a few minutes. Then use spray pressure from a garden hose to rinse completely.
Cleanup should be done as needed to prevent mildew and other buildup from compromising the integrity of the fabric.
Every two to three years, depending on sun exposure of the area in which the fabric is used, consider applying a waterproofing solution, available from local canvas suppliers for about $30 per gallon.
According to local fabric gurus, solution-dyed acrylic or canvas, such as Sunbrella, resist fading in the sunniest of spots and is 90% (or better) water resistant.
“It’s nice because, basically, whatever the yarn color is it [penetrates] completely through,” says Murphy’s Custom Canvas owner John Hurd. “That’s how they keep, or delay, the color from changing or fading. It’s made that color, woven into it, and not dyed after the fact.”
Used in umbrellas, patio furniture and awnings, canvas is comfortable to sit on, heat and fade resistant. It also offers the biggest range in color and pattern options, so finding one to complement your outdoor décor is easier.
Almost as heavily used for furniture and sun shades are mesh fabrics (vinyl encapsulated fiberglass or vinyl coated polyester). More breathable than canvas, these provide a slightly more comfortable surface in warm or wet settings. Mesh offers some sun reflective properties while remaining somewhat “see through,” to give a more open feel.
Of two types, vinyl encapsulated fiberglass will hold up longer under environmental stresses, says Bill Welch, owner Deluxe Awning Company in Ashland. Polyester offers an economical version in local retail stores. Still more utilitarian is vinyl, a solid waterproof option popular for spa and storage covers. Sadly, it’s most likely to fade and isn’t as cozy for furniture covering, “but it’s an economical option and easy to clean,” he notes.
“It’s the more industrial option. Just doesn’t feel as nice as canvas or mesh and doesn’t sound as nice when it’s raining.”
In terms of livability, all three options, if choosing a quality brand, come with warranties ranging from three years to far longer if purchased from a reputable dealer and well cared for and cleaned.
Sunnier backyards and patios should opt for shade resistance in the color palette. While personal preference plays a key role, some fabrics are more likely to fade than others. Mesh and canvas hold color the best. For colors, avoid reds, corals and fluorescents in sunny spots, Hurd says.
“Certain colors, even though the manufacturers still warranty them, just fade a little more than others. Red is one that, in four years you’re going notice some color change. A pink-based coral will fade quite a bit, too,” he says.
Colors that work well are, surprisingly, burgundy, dark blues and greens, and variations of browns and grays. With proper care most colors will maintain their saturation for years, says Hurd. “And whatever you wind up buying, if you clean it regularly and take care of it, you’ll obviously buy some time.”