You may think that all outdoor furniture by definition would be waterproof, but this is simply not the case.
Most fabrics and materials used in the construction of outdoor furniture are weatherproof and not waterproof. Even if they’re advertised as the latter, they may lose their waterproofing properties over time. So outdoor furniture could best be described as water-resistant but not fully waterproof.
The reason for this is mainly due to the types of fabrics used to make patio furniture, and if you get this wrong (by buying the cheapest types of patio furniture), then not just durability but comfort will be compromised.
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When I was young our family car was a light blue Ford Cortina estate. It would be considered a classic these days, but back then me and my sister saw it as almost impossibly uncomfortable – because the plastic-vinyl made the seats burning hot in summer when wearing knee pants, and freezing cold through your pants in winter.
The same thing can be applied to the waterproofing properties of outdoor furniture fabrics and materials. For outside chair cushions to be completely waterproof they’d need to be made of similar plastics and vinyls which would be terribly hot and sticky in summer – so complete waterproofing is often impossible for this and other reasons.
Can You Leave Patio Furniture Outside in The Rain?
Yes, you can leave patio furniture outside in the rain – after all, you can’t bring your patio couch indoors every time the sky turns gray. However, various materials are affected differently by exposure to water, and some types of furniture will cope better with wet weather than others.
If you’re planning to keep your patio furniture outdoors all year round, choose a robust material that doesn’t absorb water. Furniture that’s made from materials that aren’t very waterproof could start to rust, swell, or develop mold and mildew.
What are the best types of patio furniture to leave outside in the rain? Aluminum provides a rust-resistant base for the furniture, and plastic (PE) rattan is a good choice. Natural rattan needs to stay safely in the conservatory.
Hardwood is good, especially if correctly treated. Teak is definitely among the best and most popular woods for year-round yard use, and it gradually weathers to a beautiful silvery-gray shade.
Even if your furniture is weather-resistant, it’s still a good investment to cover it in winter. Well-fitting chair and table covers protect the furniture from wind, debris, bugs, and bird poop as well as rain (more about these in a moment).
Is it OK To Leave Patio Furniture Cushions in The Rain?
It isn’t OK to leave your patio furniture cushions outdoors in the rain, even if they’re described as “water-resistant”. We’ll look into the different types of outdoor cushions shortly; however, we recommend keeping all types indoors in wet weather.
Why is this? Well, even water-resistant fabrics will degrade with time, and as the water-repelling coating begins to age and become less effective, mold and mildew will develop. So, to preserve the fresh good looks of your cushions, just take them outside when you need them.
So the second question is: if they’re not living outside, can I buy normal indoor cushions instead? This is a good point, as indoor cushions tend to be cheaper and there’s always a bigger choice.
We’d still always recommend buying proper outdoor cushions. If the cushions are outdoors and there’s a sudden shower of rain, normal cushions will quickly become soaked, right through to the pads. This is a pain to dry, and indeed, the filling may never recover.
The best approach is to buy genuine outdoor cushions, then take them inside overnight or if there’s rain forecast. Some patio furniture actually comes with water-tight storage for cushions and throws, making it easier to remove and store them.
Is Outdoor Furniture Weatherproof?
Most outdoor furniture is therefore classified as weatherproof, which means it is water-resistant, wind and UV resistant – and can withstand the occasional light rain shower, but should be covered or taken inside if more serious wet weather is forecast.
Most modern outdoor furniture fabrics are breathable as a result, so when small amounts of moisture get inside them they can dry out and avoid the foam inside going moldy. This also protects the frame of the furniture itself, if constructed of wood or wicker.
Where patio furniture is completely encased in a plastic or vinyl covering, when water ingress does occur there is no way for the water to sweat out, so mildew can quickly eat away at the cushioning inside.
As such, all outdoor furniture (even if advertised as totally waterproof), needs to be regularly treated with waterproofing spray to ensure it stays protected, (more on this below).
The Best Types of Outdoor Furniture For Rain
Due to their location, items of outdoor furniture will inevitably sometimes get rained on. However, certain materials are better in the rain than others – so look out for the following when you’re considering what to buy:
- Quick-dry foam – this should be standard in most modern outdoor cushions, but it’s always worth checking.
- Acrylic fabrics – silky and stylish but also possessing the rain-resistant properties you need, easy-clean acrylics are great for patio furniture.
- Polyester fabrics – these not only look great and can come in a never-ending variety of colors – but are also extremely durable in both light and heavier rain showers. Polyester is easy to clean too.
- Teak – expensive but great looking and very high quality, oil-infused teak is sourced from rain forests so is naturally protected from water ingress. It is quite expensive but is a great investment as it lasts so long in all weather.
- Resin wicker – a more durable alternative to natural rattan, these woven strands of synthetic material are rain resistant and also stronger than their organic counterparts.
- Polypropylene – furniture made with this highly hydrophobic material is almost permanently shielded against rain showers, water ingress, and mildew. It will still need to be kept clean and well cared for though.
- Aluminum – this is ideal for outdoor furniture manufacture because it doesn’t contain any iron and so can’t go rusty. However, it can appear flimsy if not used in thick enough struts – and is therefore often used in cheaper patio furniture options.
- Polystone – capable of being molded into any shape and sanded completely flat, this synthetic material is extremely water-resistant and perfect for outdoor table tops. It also has a granite-like finish which suggests a quality beyond its price.
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Does Patio Furniture Need To Be Covered?
All patio furniture needs to be covered at night even in the summer, and especially in the winter if it’s being used in the colder months with patio heaters. When not in use for extended periods such as holidays, it should be stored in a cool, dry place such as a shed or garage.
It’s not just rain and overnight dew that can cause mildew to grow on your outdoor furniture fabric, but the harmful UV rays of the sun can also damage your patio furniture fabric and completely bleach out its color over time.
On top of this, swirling wind can also directly damage your patio chairs, sofas, and tables – as well as coat the fabric with dust and grime over time. There’s nothing worse for guests at your BBQ or garden party than dirty, faded cushions to sit on.
That’s why as well as buying patio furniture with breathable, weatherproof fabrics, it’s also an excellent investment to choose high-quality fabrics with UV protection built-in.
It’s then best to buy woven polyester patio furniture covers that offer extra UV protection and are weatherproof, windproof, and water-resistant for complete peace of mind. These also offer an extra level of breathability for your fabrics too.
When you buy such covers, it’s also important to check the care information for your particular outdoor fabrics, as their polyester weave construction is usually backed with PVC, which can cause a reaction in some patio furniture fabrics.
In the main though, taking care to select the right fabrics from the outset and then buying some top standard covers for them – should stand you in good stead when prolonging the life of your outdoor furniture.
Water Repellant Patio Furniture Cushions
Perhaps the most important factor in ensuring the long life of your outdoor furniture is choosing cushions for your chairs and patio sofas that are manufactured with water repellant properties (or what is known as a hydrophobic finish).
Just like when you see water running off a duck’s back, water repellant treatments will mean rain showers and spilled drinks will just roll off the fabric and can be brushed off to avoid long-lasting damage.
While water repellent cushions are shower resistant, quick-drying, and stop mildew – you should still take them inside in really bad weather, even if you have protective covers for them.
As with all types of outdoor furniture fabrics, their water repellent properties will wane over time, so it’s always a good idea to treat your patio furniture fabrics with waterproofing spray at least at the start of every summer season – or more often if you entertain or eat outside a lot.
How To Waterproof Fabric Outdoor Furniture
Ideally, all your outdoor furniture should be thoroughly cleaned in the spring and fall, so it’s ready to be stored away over the winter. You should still do this even if you still intend to use your furniture under a fixed gazebo or veranda during the colder months.
Depending on the type of fabric in question and your care or warranty instructions, after cleaning you can then treat it with fabric waterproofing spray to prolong its life.
You’re naturally going to need a spray that’s specifically designed for outdoor use, and that’s suitable for your exact fabric type. In general, you can use the same sprays as used on sailboat fabrics – as the waterproofing formulas are similar.
Before spaying your fabric, ensure it’s a dry, still day, and wear safety goggles and gloves so none of the spray gets on your hands or worse still in your eyes. We’re dealing with some pretty serious chemicals here so it’s best to take precautions.
Here are the main things to remember when waterproofing your patio furniture:
- Ensure there are no holes in the fabric (or you’ve patched them), and make sure the fabric is completely dry if you’ve spot-cleaned any stains.
- Use a vacuum to suck up any heavy residues of dirt from in the seams, so the spray can get in a protect all areas where water can collect.
- Move your furniture away from any garden or pot plants – perhaps out onto the driveway, and keep your pets away whilst you’re spraying. Read the label but you’ll find many of these sprays are harmful to both.
- Spray your furniture fabric comprehensively in line with the coverage directions in the instructions. Again, make sure the spay is worked into the seams and any buttons so you get maximum water resistance.
- Make sure your cushions and furniture is completely dry before using it again. If it starts raining whilst it’s still drying, move the furniture to a dry but well-ventilated area such as the garage with the door left open.
Despite what some manufacturers may say – and even in the face of certain limited lifetime warranties – most outside furniture fabrics are water-resistant but not waterproof.
Indeed, even products advertised as being waterproof may lose this property over time, so it’s important to clean, dry and spray your fabrics at least twice a year so your furniture cushions don’t get covered in mildew or fade in the sun.
If you take care of selecting just the right fabrics from the start – and care for them properly over time – you’ll find your investment in water-resistant garden furniture will prove to be money well spent.
Now get out there and start enjoying your backyard with friends and family!
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Homeowner and property investor Larry Jones founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >