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Patio Furniture Covers: Can You Machine Wash Them?

I pretty much hate spot cleaning the patio furniture covers, so putting them in the washing machine is a great option. Or is it?

You can machine wash patio furniture covers, just check the tag for laundry instructions first. In general, polyester, vinyl, and nylon can all be machine washed at low temperatures, but polypropylene is better being hand washed. None of these should be put in the dryer.

Let’s dive down into the subject of machine washing patio furniture covers in more detail, and discover what you can and can’t do when it comes to cleaning them…

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Can I Wash Outdoor Patio Covers in the Washing Machine?

Yes, you can put your patio furniture covers in the washing machine, which is great news if your kids love ice cream or you have a pup with muddy paws!

However, patio covers are the same as indoor covers (or clothes and bedding), and you’ll need to read the label to double-check they’re OK to wash.

This is because patio covers are made from a range of different fabrics. Some machine wash like a dream, while others need more careful handling. We’ll take a look at how to treat different outdoor covers in a few moments.

Can You Put Outdoor Patio Covers in the Dryer?

Generally speaking, it’s not a good idea to put your outdoor patio covers in the dryer. Many fabrics shrink under high heat conditions, and you don’t want your covers to be too small for the cushions. 

If for some reason you need to dry your cushions quickly (an accidental spillage before a garden party, maybe!), use the lowest setting on your dryer.

The best way to dry them is to make sure they have a bit of a spin in the washing machine, then hang them up to dry. The best time to wash your covers is on a dry but breezy day, so you can line dry them. 

How Do You Find Out if Your Garden Furniture Covers Are Machine Washable?

Firstly, can the cushions be removed? If not, you’ll need to wash the whole cushion, and we’ll come to that later. If they are removable, check the tag, which should give you basic laundry instructions. 

Cut off the tag? You can either try to find the manufacturer’s instructions online, or if you know what the fabric is, wash it as you usually would (for example, we all know that nylon can be machine washed, so it’s a pretty safe assumption that nylon covers will be OK.

If in doubt, use one of the machine’s gentle and cool cycles. If you’re really in doubt, hand wash the patio covers in slightly warm water and use dish soap. Rinse with the hose pipe to make sure you get all the soap out.

Machine washing outdoor furniture covers

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What Types of Outdoor Fabrics Are Machine Washable?

Happily, many common outdoor fabrics are designed to be tough and easy to care for. Some are more robust than others, so it’s always worth knowing which fabric your patio covers are made from, and how best to care for it.

Polyester Patio Furniture Cover

Polyester is a popular synthetic material, and is easy to care for. Generally, polyester (or PET) items can go in the washing machine (not too hot though: select a warm or even cool program.

But… quite often, polyester outdoor covers are treated with a special finish. This makes them more resistant to UV and helps to protect it from water. Machine washing can damage this coating, so if your covers have been treated, you’ll need to gently clean any stains off by hand.

Vinyl Patio Furniture Cover

This really surprised us, but yes you can wash vinyl patio covers in the washing machine (and all those times we’ve dabbed out stains by hand…). Vinyl is increasingly popular, as it looks great, is a fab alternative to leather, and is hard-wearing for regular use. So, how do you machine wash your favorite vinyl covers?

  • Turn the covers inside out
  • Pop them inside a large mesh laundry bag (sometimes called lingerie bags)
  • Put them in the machine on a cool washing program
  • Select a slow spin
  • Leave them to dry naturally – do not use the dryer

Word of warning: if your vinyl covers are really dirty, don’t be tempted to get them dry cleaned. The chemical used for dry cleaning (perchloroethylene) shrinks vinyl. 

Polypropylene Patio Furniture Cover

Polypropylene is a popular choice for garden furniture, because it looks and feels like cloth, giving you a lovely, homey appearance. It can also be inexpensive to buy – but, this does mean it’s not the best quality fabric for outdoor use, and it’s not robust when it comes to machine washing.

If you can, always hand wash your polypropylene covers using warm water and mild dish soap. One of the problems with this fabric is that it will eventually fade, so be super careful when you wash it.

Nylon Patio Furniture Cover

This strong fabric is the toughest option for outdoor covers. After all, it’s used to make heavy-duty items like rope and fishing nets! This means it’s tough when it comes to washing, and it can be easily machine washed. You don’t even need to choose a cool cycle.

Like vinyl, it can’t be dry cleaned; however, because it’s so easy to machine wash, you should be able to remove most marks and dirt by washing it yourself.

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Outdoor furniture with covers

Can I Wash My Outdoor Cushions in the Washing Machine?

Washing the actual cushions in the machine is a big risk. As well as potentially squashing them out of shape, it can be hard to get the cushion completely dry, and you can start to get an unpleasant, stale odor after a surprisingly short amount of time.

So, grab your bucket: it’s time to hand wash the cushions.

  1. Take off the covers, and depending on their fabric and washing instructions, clean them separately
  2. Take the upholstery vacuum nozzle to the cushions, to make sure you’re removing any dirt, pet hair and bugs
  3. In the bucket, mix a bit of dish soap into warm water.
  4. Pop the cushion on a towel next to the bucket and with a sponge, scrub at the surface of the cushion
  5. Use the gentle setting on the hose pipe, or a fresh bucket and sponge, to rinse off the soap
  6. Pat the cushion with a towel to absorb some of the water
  7. Prop it up in a warm or sunny spot to dry

Washing the actual cushions isn’t as easy as washing the covers: indeed, that’s one of the reasons we have covers! The best thing to do is to keep the covers clean, and don’t use the cushions while the covers are in the wash. This means that the cushions themselves shouldn’t really get dirty.

The main reason we need to wash cushions is if they become damp, moldy or mildewy. You can prevent this by bringing them in every evening and if rain is forecast. Make sure they’re clean and completely dry before winterizing them, to prevent mold growing while they’re in storage.

Has mildew developed on your patio cushions? There are quick and chemical-free ways to remove unsightly black marks from your cushion. Watch this short film to see how to remove mildew from patio cushions.

Can You Put Outdoor Cushion Covers in the Dryer?

As we mentioned earlier, putting your patio cushion covers in the tumble dryer is rarely a good idea. This is because most cushion covers are made from synthetic fabrics, and these shrink in high heat. 

The best way to dry your washed covers is naturally. Ideally, you can line dry them outside, or lay them flat on a table in the yard. Choose a sunny and windy day to wash your covers, then they should be dry by the end of the day.

Wet cushion emergency? If you need to dry them super-fast, some cushion covers could have a tumble in a cool dryer. However, we really wouldn’t recommend this.


Our patio furniture covers are all made of nylon, so next time they need a good clean they’ll be going in the washing machine.

Just don’t tell my wife how I ruined the old polypropylene covers by putting them in both the washing machine and the dryer!

I’ll be sleeping on the patio furniture myself if she finds out! 🙂

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Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >