And even remove stubborn mildew stains.

By Mary Marlowe Leverette
April 12, 2021
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How to Clean Canvas Patio Furniture and Pillows: chair with canvas cushions by the water
Credit: Getty Images

The weather was finally nice enough to enjoy a relaxing afternoon on the patio, but then I took a look at the fabric cushions on my furniture. They were dusty, dingy, and had some muddy paw prints and the droppings of errant birds. Luckily for me, cleanup required just a few supplies, a bit of elbow grease, and a breeze to dry the fabric before I could settle down for a glass of iced tea and a good book. Follow these steps to clean your canvas patio furniture and pillows so they're ready for the relaxing warm-weather evenings ahead.

Note: If the covers on your pillows and cushions are removable, cleaning is even easier. Pretreat any stains with a dab of heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent, work it in with a soft-bristled brush, let it sit for 15 minutes, and toss the covers in the washing machine. Wash in cold or warm water (following the care label) and hang the covers to air-dry before you put them back on the cushions. Most small canvas throw pillows can also be machine-washed and air-dried.

What You'll Need:

  • Large bucket or tub
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
  • Powdered oxygen-based bleach
  • Plastic tarp
  • Soft-bristled nylon scrub brush
  • Garden hose

How to Clean Canvas Patio Furniture:

  1. Fill a large bucket or tub with warm water and add one tablespoon liquid laundry detergent. Add 1/4-cup powdered oxygen-based bleach to help brighten colors and treat stains.
  2. Spread a plastic tarp on the grass or patio to create a clean work area. Remove the fabric cushions from the furniture, if possible. If the fabric is affixed, move the entire piece of furniture to the tarp.
  3. Check for stains and pretreat before continuing to clean the canvas fabric. Follow the steps listed below for specific stains.
  4. Dip a soft-bristled nylon scrub brush in the cleaning solution. Start at the top of the cushion or affixed fabric and gently scrub the surface of the fabric in overlapping circles. Starting at the top lets the soil move down the surface of the fabric, so you won’t have to re-clean areas.
  5. Use a garden hose to rinse away the soil or fill a large tub with cool water and dip the cushion up and down several times to rinse. Do not allow the cleaning solution to dry on the fabric.
  6. Gently squeeze out as much water as possible. To prevent mildew, hang or prop up the cushions in a breezy spot so they will dry as quickly as possible.

How to Remove Stains From Canvas Patio Furniture and Pillows

  • Mildew: While the fabric is dry, brush the surface with a soft-bristled brush to loosen and remove mildew spores. Make a paste of one tablespoon liquid laundry detergent and one teaspoon powdered oxygen bleach and apply it to the mildew stains with a soft-bristled brush. Allow the paste to sit for at least one hour before rinsing.
  • Food and oily stains: Use a dab of heavy-duty laundry detergent on each stained area and work it into the fabric with a soft-bristled brush. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before rinsing.
  • Bird droppings: If the dropping is wet, allow it to dry before cleaning. Use the edge of a dull knife or a credit card to lift away any dry solids. Dab the spot with liquid detergent, work it into the stain with a brush, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Add a bit of powdered oxygen bleach to the detergent if the stain is dark from berries the bird ate.
  • Grass: Make a paste of one tablespoon liquid laundry detergent and one teaspoon powdered oxygen bleach and apply it to the stain with a soft-bristled brush. Allow the paste to sit for at least 30 minutes before rinsing.
  • Tree sap: Work a dab of heavy-duty laundry detergent onto the stained area with a scrub brush. Let it sit for 15 minutes before scrubbing the area with the brush dipped in hot water.