Understanding the differences in outdoor fabrics

Differences in Outdoor Fabrics: Sunbrella, Solution-Dyed Acrylics, Solution-Dyed Polyester, and Olefin

When choosing outdoor fabric, it is important to consider the different types of fabrics available and their respective properties. One of the most popular outdoor fabric brands is Sunbrella, which offers solution-dyed acrylics fabrics.  Other popular outdoor fabrics include, solution-dyed polyesters, and olefins.

Sunbrella is brand name that makes high-performance outdoor fabric from solution-dyed acrylic fibers. Solution-dyeing is a process in which the color or pigment is added to the acrylic, in the liquid state, before they are spun into yarn. This makes the color consistant and thoughtout the fiber resulting in a fabric that is both resistant to fading and other surface damage. Sunbrella is also water-repellent, mold & mildew-resistant, and easy to clean.

Other Solution-dyed acrylics such at Outdura & Bella Dura and are similar to Sunbrella in that they are made from solution-dyed fibers in a similar process.  However, they may not be as well-known as Sunbrella. Make sure to ask about the warranty of other solution-dyed acrylic fabrics before making your selection. 

Solution-dyed polyester is another type of outdoor fabric that is made from solution-dyed fibers. Solution-dyed polyester is typically less expensive than solution-dyed acrylic, but it is also slightly less durable. It is also not as water-repellent or mildew-resistant as Sunbrella or other solution-dyed acrylic fabrics. 

Olefin is a synthetic fiber that is known for its durability and resistance to stains, mildew, and fading. Olefin is also resistant to moisture, making it a great option for outdoor furniture. However, it is not as strong as some other synthetic fibers, such as polyester, and can be prone to pilling and snagging.

*In our personal experience with olefin fabrics - they are much more prone to fading than solution-dyed acrylic and polyester fabrics. 

Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between Sunbrella, solution-dyed acrylics, solution dyed polyester, and olefin fabrics:

Fabric Durability Fade resistance Water repellency Mildew resistance Price
Sunbrella Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent High*
Other solution-dyed acrylics Good* Good* Good* Good* Medium*
Solution-dyed polyester Fair Good Fair Fair Low
Olefin Good Excellent Excellent Excellent Medium
 *There are many fabrics that ma be just as good as Sunbrella brand fabrics.  Make sure to check the warranty information before making a selection.  Also, Sunbrella offers many different fabrics in many price ranges and you may find Sunbrella fabrics that are very competitive in price. 

Which fabric is right for you?

The best outdoor fabric for you will depend on your specific needs and budget. If you are looking for the most durable and fade-resistant fabric, Sunbrella is the best option. However, it is also the most expensive. If you are on a budget, you may want to explore other solution-dyed acrylics and it is possible that a solution-dyed polyester is a good option. However, they may not be as durable or fade-resistant as Sunbrella. Olefin is another good option for those on a budget, that do not need maximum durability from the elements or sun (such as screen porch). It is durable, fade-resistant. However, it is not as strong as some other synthetic fibers and can be prone to pilling and snagging.

Tips for choosing and caring for outdoor fabric

When choosing outdoor fabric, be sure to consider the following factors:

  • Durability: Outdoor fabric should be durable enough to withstand the elements, including rain, sun, and wind.
  • Fade resistance: Outdoor fabric should be fade-resistant to prevent it from looking worn and outdated over time.
  • Water repellency: Outdoor fabric should be water-repellent to prevent rain and other liquids from soaking through.
  • Mildew resistance: Outdoor fabric should be mildew-resistant to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.
  • Price: Outdoor fabric can range in price from inexpensive to expensive. Be sure to set a budget before you start shopping.

Once you have chosen an outdoor fabric, it is important to care for it properly to extend its lifespan. Here are a few tips:

  • Clean the fabric regularly: Use a mild soap and water solution to clean the fabric. 
  • Protect the fabric from the sun: Although solution-dyed fabrics are extremely fade-resistant, to maximize the life of your cushions or fabrics covering your cushions when not in use will pro-long thier life. 
  • Store the fabric in a dry place: When the fabric is not in use, store it in a dry place to prevent mold and mildew from growing. *Mold and mildew cannot and will not grow on synthetic fibers.  Mold and Mildew will only grow on the dirt and organic material that gets trapped between the fibers over time.  Keep your cushions clean and dry (sunlight is a good thing) and you should have no problems with mold and mildew. 

By following these tips, you can choose the right outdoor fabric for your needs and budget, and extend its lifespan for many years to come.


Triad Cushion is proud to offer fabrics from the high-quality manufacturers: Sunbrella, Outdura, Sunbelievable, Revolution & more.