Can I Use Outdoor Fabric for Indoor Projects?

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We are often asked, "can I use outdoor fabric for indoor projects?" The answer is yes and no, depending on your application. But don’t let that response discourage you; we’re going to take a closer look at when outdoor fabrics are suitable inside, when they aren’t, and why.

Waverly Sun N Shade Fabrics are great for patios and interior accents, but not upholstery

When You Can & Can’t Use Outdoor Fabric Indoors

First, let’s talk about those applications where outdoor fabric is just fine to use indoors. We like to refer to projects like this as “decorative accents.” Think throw pillows, lampshades, curtains and craft projects. These projects don’t see the same stress as an upholstered furniture piece, so they are much less likely to wear any differently if made from indoor or outdoor fabrics.

The types of projects where an outdoor fabric is not suitable are upholstered pieces and cushions. Fabrics used in upholstery are pulled taut and this places them under stress. You need to use a sturdy fabric for applications like this to ensure the fabric will be able to stand up to being tensioned, and many outdoor fabrics just weren’t made for being upholstered and used on a daily basis.

The Difference Between Indoor & Outdoor Fabrics

While it might seem like an outdoor fabric should be more durable than interior fabrics, really many of them are not. Most decorative outdoor fabrics are rated for “occasional use” by their manufacturers. To understand what we mean by “occasional use” think about how you use your patio in comparison with how your living room is used. The patio furniture sees a lot less traffic and is often seasonal. Many patio cushions even get packed away in between uses during their peak season. Therefore, outdoor fabrics are only made durable enough for this infrequent usage, where upholstery fabrics are designed to withstand the wear and tear of daily use. In fact, some outdoor polyester fabrics with a printed pattern may stretch or fade over time if they are used very heavily for outdoor seating applications. The integrity of the fabric itself will not be compromised, but the pattern may not look the same if used quite often or kept outside uncovered for long periods of time.

If you want a seamless transition between your home’s interior and your outdoor living spaces, we recommend using an indoor/outdoor performance fabric. As demand for flexible-use fabric grows, more brands are creating lines of fabric that are specifically designed for use indoors and out. Indoor/Outdoor lines at Sailrite are Sunbrella Upholstery, Covington SD, Richloom Fortress and Geobella fabrics.

Hopefully this sheds a little more light on outdoor fabrics and will help you in your decision-making process for your next project. To learn more about what makes a good upholstery fabric, head over to our “How to Choose Upholstery Fabric” post (#300010XHT).