When the clouds gather above your garden and a crack of thunder announces an imminent rain shower, removing garden furniture cushions can be a hassle. Even more so if rain showers are common guests during the summer and you have to watch over the cushions all the time.
Today, you can buy garden furniture cushions that are marketed as water-repellent and mould-resistant. But this doesn’t mean you can always leave them outside. Not before a storm and not during the winter.
Read on to find out if your garden furniture cushions can be left outside and for how long.
Are garden furniture cushions waterproof?
Garden furniture cushions can be shower-proof, water-resistant, water-repellent, or waterproof depending on their cover and what goes into it. Unless you read these terms in the product description, it’s safe to assume garden cushions can’t handle rain showers or downpours!
- Shower-proof outdoor cushions can withstand the occasional spring drizzle or summer shower. You don’t have to tuck them away at the slightest hint of rain. But serious rain will soak them and turn them into a breeding ground for mildew. It may also fade and damage them in time.
- Water-resistant outdoor cushions are similar to shower-proof ones in that they can resist brief exposure to light rain. They will require airing after, or mould may grow on them. You will need to shake the water out of them before placing them in a warm spot.
- Water-repellent outdoor cushions feature a surface coating that can keep water at bay. Good quality products provide better water resistance than the shower-proof and water-resistant varieties we talked about. Still, don’t expect them to keep looking at their best. They may harbour mould or fungi after repeated exposure to water and require cleaning and drying—the sooner, the better.
- Waterproof outdoor cushions are your best bet if you’re living in a rainy climate or have a seating area very close to a swimming pool. Not all waterproof cushions are the same, though—there can be big differences in quality and durability. Leaving waterproof outdoor cushions in the rain all the time will damage them eventually.
As a rule, budget outdoor cushions are the least likely to withstand weather damage. Most of the time, they’re not even shower-proof. So, think twice before leaving them out in the rain!
What damages garden furniture cushions?
Garden furniture cushions are often under constant attack from UV radiation, rain and moisture, accidental spills, splashes from the pool, temperature extremes and critters. All of these can damage them.
UV radiation can fade outside furniture cushions, damaging the covering over time. You don’t want to leave your outdoor cushions in the sun or they’ll end up looking washed out. Place your garden furniture under an umbrella, patio, gazebo, or other structure that provides shade.
Rain and moisture
Rain and moisture can damage garden cushions and turn them into a breeding ground for mould and fungi. More than fading the fabric, moisture can affect the elasticity and comfort of the foam or filling. It can also make cushions smell like you don’t want to sit on them.
Intense heat and freezing temperatures take their toll on exposed garden cushions. The damage may not occur right away, but in time you may notice tears, discolouration, and pilling. Even if the cold doesn’t damage high-quality fabrics, the foam or filling inside may still suffer.
Rats, mice, rabbits, squirrels, frogs and bats—these garden critters won’t usually show up when you’re around, but at night they may call your outdoor cushions their home. Critters are a particular problem if you leave your garden furniture out in the colder seasons. They may even burrow into large cushions.
Which cushion fabrics last longer outdoors?
Solution-dyed acrylic and olefin covers typically provide more protection for outdoor garden cushions than lower-end polyester fabrics. They are more resistant to water and moisture and can better handle other types of damage too.
- Polyester cushion fabrics tend to be the cheapest—they provide the worst protection. Those sold as water-resistant or waterproof usually have a chemical finish that’s not healthy to have around. It can rub against your skin when you wear shorts or a skirt. Children and pets may also come into contact with it.
- Acrylic cushion fabrics provide good resistance against UV radiation—they don’t fade as easily as other materials, making them a safe choice for sunny areas. Examples include the popular Sunbrella type of outdoor fabric. These fabrics can handle a bit of rain too.
- Olefin cushion fabrics are durable and stain-resistant, with higher quality products providing good UV protection as well. These are not the cheapest, though.
In the end, it’s not just the fabric that determines how well the cushion takes a downpour but also the filling. A high-quality foam with open pores allows the water to dry out quickly.
By contrast, other fillings may trap moisture and require you to take the pillow out of its case, shake it, and hang it out to dry.
Tips if you leave your garden furniture cushions outside
If you want to leave your outdoor cushions outside all the time, or you accidentally leave them out during a storm, there are a few things you can do to make them look better and last longer. You can waterproof them, dry them, wash them more often, and consider quick storage solutions.
- Waterproof them if they don’t have any built-in protection against the weather. For this, you can use special waterproofing sprays or sealers, or linseed oil. Apply them only to the covers.
- Shake the water out of them and hang them to dry if they’re wet. Leaving them on the chairs can damage the furniture and give rise to mould.
- Wash them more often to prevent mould, fungi and bad smells.
- Replace the covers every few years. If the covers start to look bad, check the filling before throwing the cushions away. The filling may be fine, and you could cut costs by replacing the covers only.
- Get a cushion box or other outdoor garden storage solution. These come in a variety of styles, so you can match them to your furniture and keep them at hand for when the rain clouds show up.
The bottom line
Waterproof garden furniture cushions will survive the occasional spring drizzle or summer storm without damage. But for them to last and look at their best, you need to protect them from the rain, direct exposure to the sun, and critters. You also need to store them during winter. Having the right storage solution around will make your life easier.