How to clean outdoor cushions – treat mildew and stains by hand and without borax

Enjoy clean outdoor cushions all year long by washing yours at home. Treat mildew and stains with vinegar by hand or in the washing machine, without using any Borax

clean outdoor cushions: patio furniture
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re anything like us, then as soon as the sun shines, you’ll head straight for the garden or whatever outside space you have. Grab yourself a cup of coffee, a good book and some clean outdoor cushions (note the word clean) and your next few hours are sorted. 

Whether you have a covered balcony turned plant paradise, or a fancy-pants patio space in your backyard that's filled with the very best garden furniture, you’ll know just how great it looks when it’s set up perfectly and filled with enough soft furnishings to make it feel like an outdoor living room space.

However, if you’ve had your throws, cushions and poufs for at least a year and through all the seasons, you’ll know all too well just how grimy and dirty soft furnishings can get with all the elements hammering them…

Think mould, mildew and mud (so much mud!) not to mention pet hair and other stuff if you have furry friends or kids around – yours or not. Cushions go through hell: We sit on them, we nap on them, we hug them, we drop them, and we could go on, so knowing how to clean your outdoor cushions is a must for their survival.

Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to restore them to their original glory, and as usual, there are lots of ways that you can prevent them from getting so gross in the first place. From cleaning yours in the washer to treating patio and non-removable outdoor cushion covers by hand – tackling stains with cleaning agents like vinegar, baking soda and more – you’ll have your outdoor space sparkling in no time.

What is the best way to clean outdoor furniture cushions?

Outdoor cushions, individual or on patio furniture, aren't always like regular cushions you'll find in your home, since many will have been treated with UV-protective and other weather-resistant coatings – especially if yours came as part of a patio set. 

Before you start any cleaning or washing, check the labels for any information on how the manufacturer recommends you best clean your items.

clean outdoor cushions: bohemian summer patio set up

(Image credit: Getty images)

How to wash outdoor cushions in the washing machine 

If your outdoor cushions have removable covers then washing them in your washing machine is a great way to get them clean quickly. Do this once a year (or when they visibly need it). 

Simply remove the cushion cover, keeping the inner filling separate somewhere warm, dry and protected to avoid any mildew getting in there. Check the label as above for any notes on temperature and more. Next, shake any dust, sand or other debris stuck in the corner grooves of the covers and run them on a gentle cycle with a laundry detergent. When done, allow them to air dry completely before putting the filling back in.

Extra grubby? Make a baking soda and water paste to pre-treat cushions before running them through the washer. It's a great way to lift stains and refresh them in a more natural way than using bleach.

How to clean outdoor cushions with vinegar

You can use white vinegar to remove both stains and mildew from outdoor cushions. This method is especially useful to use on outdoor cushion covers that you can't remove. Simply mix lukewarm water, 1/2 cup dish soap (omit if you want) and a few tablespoons of white vinegar then apply this to the cushions using a soft brush. Scrub well on all sides then let the mixture sit for a little while. Then rinse well using a sponge and more warm water, trying not to let too much water penetrate to the filling – less of an issue if your covers are weatherproof. Finally, let the cushions dry completely in the sun. 

Borax is a pretty tough cleaning product and many swear by it to remove mold and mildew, however, there are lots of effective ways to get rid of mildew and other types of stain without using it. 

How to remove mildew from outdoor cushions

A mixture of white vinegar, water and your choice of essential oils (we like tea tree as it's naturally anti-bac too) is a great way to treat mould and stains on outdoor cushions. Simply mix up your solution, spray it on, let it work, wash it out as above and let it dry completely.

How to clean bird poop off outdoor cushions

It might be good luck on you but shame on your cushions! Not to fret, just scrape off what you can (please wear gloves) and spray the area with warm water and detergent. Use a soft brush or a toothbrush if it's really embedded, to lift the grime then wash the whole thing using one of the methods above. 

How to remove stains from outdoor cushions

As mentioned in the washing machine method, you can pre-treat cushion covers with a water and baking soda paste. This is an especially good alternative to bleach. You can of course try an enzymatic like OxiClean.

Best Garden Furniture - Best Ikea Garden & Outdoor Furniture 2021

(Image credit: Ikea)

How to protect outdoor cushions 

  • Remove dust: Dry brushing patio cushions and outdoor seat cushions regularly will help remove dust and debris brought by the wind. You can even vacuum your patio cushions to make this quicker.
  • Clean before you store: As tempting as it is to chuck them in the garage as they are when it starts raining, clean them as above first as they will store much better.
  • Speed up drying time: We're only human and outdoor cushions will get caught in the rain a few times a year (we're talking to you guys in the UK!) so flip yours on its most narrow edge to speed up drying time between downpours. 
  • Catch spills quickly: French fry landed on your patio cushion? Blot blot blot, soak the oil up with corn flour or salt until completely removed, wash the area clean and let it dry so no stain sets.

Enjoy outdoor lounging 🌞

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Camille Dubuis-Welch

Camille is Digital Editor at Realhomes.com and joined the team in January 2020. As an interior design aficionado, when she’s not developing evergreen content and furiously researching keywords, she is most definitely finding new ways to spruce up her rented space, usually involving a houseplant or two. She loves the challenge that comes with making a room look stylish and feel homely, and her ultimate goal is to renovate the house of dreams, somewhere marvellously sunny with a wild and lavish garden, of course.