When I first moved to Southern California from Vancouver, Canada, I just wanted to be outside all the time. I loved, and still love being able to eat outside, have drinks on the patio, jump in the pool or enjoy an evening with blankets round the firepit. Having moved from the rain forest to the desert, rain was of little concern in my new home. I couldn’t wait to buy new outdoor furniture, cushions and an umbrella. I did not however do any research and I underestimated the power of the sun to strip my rich red cushions and umbrella of nearly all their color. I went for looks and did not consider performance.


Your choice will make a difference depending on whether you plan on leaving your outdoor fabrics outside for most of the year or just a few months. Decide whether your fabric needs to be waterproof. Umbrella fabric may need to be more resilient than cushion fabric. Remember that cushions are a lot easier to clean if the covers are removable. And if you live where it is sunny, make sure the fabric can withstand those UV rays. Some of the qualities and features you will read on the tags include:

  • waterproof
  • water resistant
  • mold resistant
  • fade resistant
  • UV blockers
  • stain resistant
  • breathable
  • machine washable or hand wash only


Waterproof means than water cannot penetrate the fabric. Water resistant means that it can, though with a little difficulty. Fabrics may be coated to help repel water, but these coatings may wear off over time after several washes. If rain is an issue and you want waterproof, double check the label.


Sunbrella is the fabric I wish I had chosen for my outdoor cushions and umbrella. I bought 2 small round pillows for my lounger in bright red Sunbrella fabric. They sit out in the harsh California sun every day and have hardly changed at all. My outdoor seating cushions however look pink, instead of red, on the side that has been open to the elements. I admit that I hate having to bring cushions in and out and I don’t really have anywhere to store them, so now I would choose the toughest, fade resistant fabric out there.

Sunbrella has been in business since 1961 and many people use the brand name to generally refer to outdoor fabric. But as I found out, outdoor fabrics are not all created equal. Sunbrella started in the awning business and then extended to a full range of outdoor products. The company is a leader in the field and has established a good reputation for excellent performance.