Cleaning your Sunbrella Patio Umbrella

It's important to keep your Sunbrella fabrics clean and dirt free.  Sunbrella fabrics are highly mildew resistant, however, dirt and mud are not.  Most times, when you see mildew on an umbrella made with Sunbrella fabrics, it's because dirt and mud where allowed to get on the umbrella canopy, embedding into the fabric.   As mud and dirt get wet and are exposed to the air, mildew grows on the particles.  The fabric resists the mildew, but it still grows on the foreign particles.

Follow these steps to keep your Sunbrella umbrella clean and mildew free.

General All Around Cleaning

  1. Brush off any loose dirt using a cloth brush or towel.
  2. Create a  solution of 2 ounces (1/4 cup) mild soap per gallon of lukewarm water (less than 100°F/38°C).  The term "mild soap" is all over the place, but generally we are talking about a mild laundry soap like Gain or Tide.  Anything that isn't EXTRA STRENGTH would do fine.
  3. Use a sponge or a soft bristle brush to clean.  Use circular motions and press the sponge or towel into the fabric for stained areas.
  4. Allow the soap to soak into fabric.  Let the bubble do their work!
  5. Rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue.  You can hit the umbrella with a hose if you'd like.  Or use a sponge or towel free of soap, just water, and sploosh water on.
  6. Allow fabric to air dry.  Open your umbrella up and expose to sun and wind.

If your umbrella fabric is removable, like ours, you can launder them in your washing machine! For removable Sunbrella fabric umbrella covers, machine wash in cold water (less than 100°F/38°C). Depending on your load size, use normal amounts of laundry soap. Allow fabric to air dry.  Drying your fabrics in the dryer is NOT recommended.  Tumble drying acrylic fabrics can sometimes cause shrinkage or wrinkling.  Hang up your fabrics on a clothesline if you can.  When done, you can iron them with your iron set on synthetics.

Spot and Stain cleaning

Sunbrella fabrics are highly stain resistant, if you move quickly.  Since the fabric is moisture resistant, most stain causing liquids can't "grab" the fibers long enough to cause a stain.  If you can wipe it up quickly with a wet towel, you're probably going to come out great.  However, sometimes we don't catch that bit of wine or chocolate ice cream, so we have to work just a little bit harder to get out the stain.  Here are some steps to take:

  1. Apply a light mist of the recommended soap using a spray bottle or a sponge.
  2. Work the solution into the stain by lightly scrubbing the area with a sponge or very soft brush.  Concentrate on the area of the stain.
  3. Rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue.  The particles that create the stain clings to the soap.  That's how soap works.  If you leave a bit of soap behind, you'll be leaving behind a slightly paler stain.
  4. Blot excess moisture with a clean, soft towel or sponge.  Blotting shouldn't be too strenuous, but don't be afraid of pushing the clothe in some.
  5. Wet-vacuum or blot excess water.  If you don't have a wet-vacuum, don't worry.  Just keep blotting with dry clean towels or sponges.  Once a towel or sponge is wet, move on to a new one.
  6. Repeat these steps until stain is removed.

No one can guarantee that your Sunbrella fabric will always be stain and spot free, but most people have success with this technique.

Heavy Cleaning

Sometime you just have to get in there to clean up your umbrella fabric.  Follow these steps to make heavy cleaning as simple and easy as possible.

  1. Prepare a solution of 8 ounces (1 cup) of bleach and 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of mild soap per gallon of clean water.
  2. Spray on entire area and allow to soak into the fabric.  Sunbrella works well with bleach, don't worry.
  3. Scrub vigorously with a soft bristle brush, sponge, or clean towel.  When we say vigorously, we mean it's time to pound that baby down.
  4. Rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue.  Hit the umbrella with a hose, or buckets of water.  You do not want the bleach to settle in.
  5. Allow fabric to air dry.
  6. If the stains are severe and don't come out the first time, you can increase the amount of bleach used.  Try an additional ounce per gallon at first, then increase by one ounce as necessary.  You shouldn't really get to this step though.  The first pass should do the job.

Some Last Thoughts

  • Protect the area around your Sunbrella fabric when using a bleach solution.  Bleach can discolor non Sunbrella fabrics. Always rinse Sunbrella thoroughly to completely remove bleach.  Bleach setting can damage the fibers.
  • Sunbrella air-dries very quickly. Machine drying is not necessary.  Clothespins and an old fashion clothesline is fine.
  • If fabric has some wrinkling, use an iron if necessary, but only on the synthetic setting.  Some irons exceed the recommended 100°F/38°C temperature on the synthetic setting though, so test a small inconspicuous area before ironing entire piece.
  • DON'T use a steamer or iron set to steam setting.

2 thoughts on “Cleaning your Sunbrella Patio Umbrella”

  • Anne Vezina

    I have 4 umbrella with sunbrella fabric (white/off-white). After 5 years of use, they are quite dirty and stained with green mildew. I will try to wash them in the washing machine, with bleach as indicated. Once the sunbrella fabric has been washed, does it need to be retreated to keep the SPF sun protection?

    Thank you

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