Protect and Waterproof Outdoor Fabrics for Summer

Protect and Waterproof Outdoor Fabrics for Summer

We protect ourselves by slathering on sunscreen, donning wide-brimmed hats, and seeking shade. But how can you shield your favorite summer outdoor fabrics from constant exposure to the elements? After all, whether it’s a beloved picnic blanket or your cherished patio lounger, outdoor fabrics are critical to our summertime enjoyment. But they can end up damaged and decayed if not properly cared for. The good news? We have eco-friendly ways to protect them while minimizing your environmental impact. So, when you’re prepping your patio for the season, follow these sustainable and effective techniques to waterproof your outdoor fabrics for summer.

How to clean outdoor furniture

Before waterproofing your outdoor pillows, cushions, and tablecloths, you’ll need to clean your outdoor fabrics thoroughly. Use a mild detergent, like SaltyLama laundry detergent sheets, and wash them with warm water to remove dirt, stains, grime, and whatever else has built up during the off-season. Our plant-based sheets are easy to use and provide a gentle, effective clean. Plus, they come in lightweight biodegradable zero-waste packaging. To save money and ensure you never run out of detergent, simply subscribe. Just schedule when you want your order. You can cancel, pause, or skip an order on your subscription whenever you want. 

When cleaning sustainably, avoid harsh chemicals that can negatively impact the environment and use natural solutions instead. If you discover tough stains, you can use a soft brush or sponge to gently scrub the fabric before placing it in the dryer or washing it in hot water.

Embrace eco-friendly waterproofing techniques

Once your outdoor fabrics are clean and dry, waterproof them to protect against moisture and UV damage, which can slowly bleach your materials. Instead of traditional waterproofing sprays that contain harmful chemicals, try eco-friendly alternatives such as beeswax or plant-based waterproofing products. Let’s take a closer look at these ways to protect and waterproof your outdoor fabrics.

Beeswax waterproofing

Beeswax is a natural and sustainable option for waterproofing and sealing fabrics. It works well on its own, but for outdoor fabrics, we recommend combining beeswax with linseed oil, which is stain, fire, and water resistant, for a sturdy finish. Mix 50/50 beeswax and linseed oil, melted down on the stovetop. From there, go outside and stretch each fabric until it is taut and secure with clips. Then, use a paintbrush to coat the fabric with the 50/50 mixture of linseed oil and melted beeswax.

Let the fabric dry for 24 hours in a warm and dry area. The next day, check the fabric and decide if it needs a second coat. If it looks patchy, go ahead and repeat the steps and wait another 24 hours.

From there, your fabrics will be protected for the summer season as beeswax creates a protective barrier that repels water while still allowing the fabric to breathe and linseed oil is ultra-resistant against stain, fire, and water.

Plant-based waterproofing

Another eco-friendly option for waterproofing outdoor fabrics is to use a plant-based waterproofing product like Otter Wax. These products are created from such natural ingredients as plant oils and waxes, making them safe for the environment. Apply the plant-based waterproofing solution according to the manufacturer's instructions. Be sure to confirm that the fabric is thoroughly coated for maximum protection and is fully set before being used. 

How to maintain and protect outdoor fabrics

To keep your outdoor fabrics in top condition throughout the summer with its blistering sun and punishing UV rays, practice regular maintenance. Here are some steps you can take to actively protect your fabrics.

  • Brush off debris: Regularly brush off any debris or dirt that may build up on the fabric’s surface. You can also use a soft-bristled brush or a vacuum cleaner with a bush attachment to gently remove dust, pollen, and other outdoor particles.
  • Spot clean stains: Take care of stains promptly by spot cleaning them as soon as they occur. Grab a SaltyLama eco-friendly laundry detergent sheet and with a little warm water, dab the stain. Avoid rubbing the fabric vigorously, as this can damage the fibers and waterproofing protectant.
  • Protect from prolonged sunlight: While we love to harness the sun to clean fabrics, over-exposure to prolonged sunlight can cause outdoor fabrics to fade and deteriorate over time. So, to minimize sun damage, strategically use shade structures such as umbrellas (which you can also waterproof), pergolas, or awnings to provide shelter for your outdoor furniture. Alternatively, move furniture into shaded areas during the hottest parts of the day to reduce sun exposure.
  • Prevent mold and mildew: Outdoor fabrics are susceptible to mold and mildew growth, especially in humid environments. To prevent mold and mildew, allow for ventilation and make sure they dry completely after exposure to excessive moisture. If mold or mildew does develop in the humidity, spot clean the affected areas with a solution of vinegar and water or a commercial eco-friendly mildew remover.
  • Store away during inclement weather: During spells of inclement weather like heavy rain or windstorms, the best practice is to store outdoor cushions, pillows, umbrellas, and other fabric in a shed or in waterproof storage containers. Doing this will help protect them from moisture and damage, prolonging their lifespan and reducing the need for premature replacement.
  • Rely on repurposed materials: Instead of throwing out your old shower curtain, repurpose it — and other household items — to protect outdoor fabrics. Cut those curtains to size to create protective covers for outdoor furniture or cushions.

Protecting and waterproofing outdoor fabrics for summer doesn't have to come at the expense of the environment. By embracing eco-friendly methods and products, we can enjoy summertime outdoors while minimizing our ecological footprint. Whether it’s using plant-based cleaners or repurposing materials, there are plenty of sustainable options available to keep outdoor fabrics looking and performing their best. So, get ready for backyard BBQs, get-togethers under the stars, and time spent basking in the sun — and enjoy!

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