How to Remove Mold and Mildew From Outdoor Cushions (5 Simple Methods)

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If you suspect that mold or mildew is growing on your outdoor cushions, don’t panic. 

Removing mold and mildew from outdoor cushions is as simple as washing them thoroughly with water and a cleaning solution, and allowing them to fully dry. However, you need to use the right tools, materials, and techniques to get the best results.

In this guide, I’ll explain the five most effective ways to remove mold and mildew from outdoor cushions.

You’ll also learn:

  • How to identify mold and mildew
  • How to prevent mold and mildew on outdoor cushions
  • How to know when your cushions are beyond repair

Follow the instructions in this guide, and your cushions will be looking and smelling like new in no time.

Let’s get started!


Use the links below to navigate this guide.


Signs That Your Cushions Have Mold or Mildew

Mold and mildew can grow anywhere, but it thrives in moist areas.

So if you live in a rainy or humid location, then it’s almost inevitable that your outdoor cushions will be subject to mold and mildew at some point.

If you neglect mold and mildew, it can spread to other areas through spores.

Below are some ways to identify mold and mildew:

  • Mold usually appears as black or darker spots on your cushions—but it can also look like yellow, blue, or green stains/discoloration.
  • If there’s something fuzzy or velvety growing on the cushions, it’s likely mold.
  • If it’s fluffy or powdery and either white, gray, or yellow, it’s likely mildew.
  • Mold usually has a musty, dirty smell.
  • If you’ve ever forgotten to wash your bath towels for a week or two, you know how mildew smells.

Bottom line—if you suspect something funky is growing on your outdoor cushions, it doesn’t matter if it’s mold, mildew, or just dirt, the following methods will get the job done.  

The Borax Method

The Borax Method is a quick way to clean mold and mildew out of outdoor cushions, and it doesn’t require much effort or skills.

As the name suggests, this method involves the use of Borax, which is a mineral salt scientifically known as sodium borate.

Borax has many uses, but it’s most commonly used as a laundry booster and an active ingredient in cleaning products.

It works on any type of material to remove dirt, get rid of mold and mildew, and neutralize bad odors. So, if you want to clean and disinfect your outdoor cushions, this is a fantastic solution.

You might not want to use the Borax Method if you have sensitive skin since it’s a mild skin irritant. But, of course, you can avoid this issue by wearing protective gloves.

Be careful around children and pets, since Borax is toxic and dangerous if ingested. According to The Spruce, ingesting as little as five grams can be fatal to a child or pet.

Tools and Materials:

  • Clean space to work (ex. deck, driveway, or patio)
  • Hose
  • Bucket
  • 1 cup of Borax (it’s cheap on Amazon)
  • Few squirts of dish soap
  • Hard bristled brush
  • Protective gloves

Instructions:

  1. Lay the cushions down on a deck, driveway, or patio. You don’t want them to be on the mud or grass where they will get even dirtier.
  2. Soak the cushions with water using your garden hose.
  3. In a bucket, pour in 1 cup of Borax and a few squirts of dish soap.
  4. Fill the bucket with cold water and mix thoroughly.
  5. Wearing protective gloves, dip your hard-bristled brush into the solution.
  6. Apply the solution to the cushion, scrubbing the entire cushion vigorously. For areas affected by mold or mildew, add extra cleaning solution and scrub harder.
  7. Leave to sit for 5 minutes.
  8. Use the garden hose at the highest pressure to rinse all the cleaning solution thoroughly.
  9. Press down onto the cushions with your hands to drain excess water, and lean them against a wall in a sunny spot to dry.

The Pressure Washer Method

If you have a pressure washer, this method is a super-effective way to clear out mold and mildew and restore your outdoor cushions to their original condition.

As long as you use your pressure washer properly, this method works on all types of cushions and fabrics.

For this method, you need a pressure washer and a large, open, and hazard-free space.

If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can either buy, rent, borrow one, or skip this method entirely (no big deal; the other methods are also effective).

Tools and Materials:

  • Pressure washer
  • Soap tip (for applying cleaner)
  • 40° tip for rinsing
  • Hose
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Protective gear
  • Pressure washer cleaner, such as the Simple Green Total Outdoor Cleaner (available on Amazon)

Instructions:

  1. Attach the pressure washer to an outside water source, and set the PSI to the lowest setting to avoid damaging the cushions.
  2. Pour your cleaner into your pressure washer soap reservoir and attach the soap tip. If you can adjust it, put it in the low-pressure mode.
  3. Keep your cushions attached to your furniture, or lay them flat on a dry surface such as your driveway.
  4. Using water only, soak the cushions.
  5. Then apply the cleaner. Move the pressure washer wand in horizontal, sweeping movements. The soap will buildup on the fabric, creating suds.
  6. Leave for about three minutes so the soap can penetrate the fabric. But don’t let the soap dry.
  7. Use the brush to scrub any mold and mildew affected areas.
  8. Using the 40° tip, rinse the cushions with water, removing all soap residue.
  9.  Press and gently wring out the cushions to remove excess water and air dry in a sunny spot.

Tip: When using a pressure washer, always hold it about two feet away from the cushions to protect the fabric.

The Dish Soap Method

The Dish Soap Method is one of the easiest and simplest ways to rid your outdoor cushions of mold and mildew because it requires materials you already have in the house.

However, out of the five methods in this guide, it’s the least rigorous. If mold or mildew is deeply embedded into your cushions, you might want to try the Pressure Washer method.

Tools and Materials:

  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Multi-surface cleaner
  • ¼ cup of dish soap
  • Bucket
  • Gallon of water
  • Hose
  • Protective gloves (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Use your soft-bristled brush to remove excess dirt, mold, or mildew from the cushions.
  2. Spray the stained or moldy areas with your multi-surface cleaner.
  3. Use the soft-bristled brush to scrub the surface cleaner into the fabric.
  4. Thoroughly mix ¼ cup of dish soap with a gallon of water in a bucket.
  5. Wearing protective gloves, saturate the solution all over the cushions with the brush.
  6. Leave for five minutes before rinsing the cushions with a hose.
  7. Stand them upright to dry in a sunny spot.

The Bleach Method

Bleach kills fungi, germs, and bacteria, which is why this method is a great way to clean and disinfect your mold and mildew-stained outdoor cushions.

However, this method has a couple of downsides.

First, chlorine bleach can strip the pigment from colored cushion fabric. So, before you ruin your cushions and make matters much worse, make sure the material is bleachable.

Second, bleach is a toxic substance. It can irritate your skin and eyes and damage your lungs. If you prefer an eco-friendly cleaning method, skip this one.

When working with bleach, always wear protective gear such as gloves, an apron, and protective glasses.

Tools and Materials:

  • ¾ cup of bleach
  • One gallon of water
  • Bucket
  • Cloth or soft-bristled brush
  • Garden hose
  • A dry area, like a driveway or patio
  • Tarp (so you don’t bleach the surface beneath)
  • Protective wear, including gloves, apron, and glasses

Instructions:

  1. Lay down your tarp—this will prevent the bleach from staining your driveway or sidewalk. Note: the bleach might discolor the tarp.
  2. Put on the protective gear.
  3. Mix ¾ cup of bleach in a bucket with a gallon of water. Stir to combine.
  4. Dip a cloth into the solution. Test it on an inconspicuous area of the cushion to make sure it doesn’t change the fabric’s color.
  5. Dip the cloth or brush into the solution and wipe down the cushions. Reapply until the cushions are saturated.
  6. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  7. Rinse thoroughly with a garden hose.
  8. Stand the cushions in a sunny spot to dry thoroughly.

The White Vinegar Method

The White Vinegar Method is a non-toxic and eco-friendly way to clean outdoor cushions of any fabric.

You can use distilled white vinegar for many tasks around the house, and one of those tasks—you guessed it—is removing mold and mildew from outdoor cushions.

However, this might not be the ideal method if your outdoor cushions are severely affected by mold or mildew. In that case, go with a more rigorous technique to get a deeper cleaning, such as the pressure washer or bleach methods.

Tools and Materials:

  • Cloth
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Clean spray bottle
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Large bowl
  • Sponge
  • Water

Instructions:

  1. If the cushion covers are removable, toss them into the washing machine and add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser. White vinegar is acidic and can kill up to 82% of mold. Plus, it helps to prevent further mold outbreaks. If you don’t have removable cushion covers, continue with the next steps.
  2. Fill a spray bottle with distilled white vinegar.
  3. Spray it all over the cushions on both sides.
  4. Allow the vinegar to sit for 10 minutes.
  5. Mix three cups of warm water with one tablespoon of dish soap. Stir to dissolve.
  6. Soak a sponge in the mixture before scrubbing the cushions on both sides.
  7. Rinse the cushions with a clean damp cloth.
  8. Air out the cushions in a sunny spot until completely dry.
  9. Spray the white vinegar onto the cushions again to prevent further mold and mildew outbreaks.

How to Prevent Mold and Mildew on Outdoor Cushions

While the remedies are relatively simple, knowing how to prevent mold and mildew from developing on your outdoor cushions will save you from this problem in the future.

Below are my top tips for preventing mold and mildew on outdoor cushions.

  • If the weather forecast says rain or high humidity levels, take the cushions inside, so they remain dry and clean.
  • Get waterproof cushion covers. Even though they won’t prevent mold and mildew 100%, they will minimize the risk.
  • If you can’t get a new cushion cover, you can make your existing cushion covers waterproof with a fabric seal spray. I recommend the Rust-Oleum spray, which is available on Amazon.
  • Lay a towel down before lying on outdoor cushions. If you’re wet from the pool or wearing sunscreen, the moisture can sink in and cause mold.
  • If outdoor cushions become wet, wipe them down with a dry absorbent towel immediately and take them somewhere to air dry.
  • Keep the cushions as clean as possible. If you spill food, drink, or they become soiled, clean them immediately with a damp cloth.
  • Clean your outdoor cushions thoroughly before storing them for the winter months. Ensure they are completely dry before you put them away so that mold doesn’t have a moist place to grow.
  • Store the cushions in a well-ventilated area so that mold is less likely to grow.
  • When you take outdoor cushions out of storage for the spring and summer months, clean them using any of the methods in this guide.
  • Clean the outdoor cushions regularly. I recommend cleaning the cushions every few months to prevent mold from penetrating deep into the cushions.
  • Spray the cushions with distilled white vinegar every few weeks.

Are Your Cushions Beyond Repair?

Although these methods are effective, you might find yourself in a situation where the cushions are beyond repair.

If the mold and mildew stains are extreme and persist even after a thorough cleaning, it’s time to get some new outdoor cushions.

Next time you’re in the market for outdoor cushions, I recommend choosing carefully.

Opt for waterproof and weather-resistant fabrics, which will limit your cushion’s exposure to mold and mildew.

Printed acrylic and polyester are water-repellent, which is why they’re excellent fabrics for outdoor cushions, swimwear, and active gear.

Vinyl is the most affordable option for outdoor cushions. When treated properly, it’s resistant to mildew. The drawback is that it gets hot to the touch during summer days.

But my top recommendation is solution-dyed acrylic. It’s soft and comfortable, unlike vinyl, which can be hard and hot.

Also, solution-dyed acrylic is durable and less likely to fade. Most important of all, it’s resistant to mildew and mold. But just in case you do notice mold or mildew, this fabric is easy to clean.

If your cushions are irreparable, there are dozens of outdoor cushions to choose from on Amazon, Walmart.com, and BedBathAndBeyond.com.

Have some fun shopping for your new set of cushions, and don’t stress about mold or mildew.

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