The Best Vinyl, Foam & Thread for Outdoor Cushions
Vinyl and faux leather fabrics look great on your patio or outdoor seating area. They're durable, easy to clean and worry free. One of the best qualities of vinyl is that the material is extremely abrasion resistant and long-lasting. You can keep patio cushions outside year-round without worrying about the vinyl showing signs of damage and deterioration after a few years. Faux leather designed for outdoor use is not as weather friendly, but it looks and feels like fine upholstery leather. In today's blog, we're going to discuss the best materials and supplies for constructing a vinyl or faux leather cushion that you can leave on your patio all year long.
Step 1: Foam Types
When it comes to choosing the right foam for your outdoor vinyl or faux leather cushion, the most important factor is choosing a foam with antimicrobial properties. Traditionally, there have been two foams that fit the bill: Dry Fast Foam and Medium Density Polyurethane Antimicrobial Foam. Both are great choices, but we realized that a slight shortcoming of these foams is their lack of longevity corresponding to the frequency of use. If you frequently use your patio cushions, you might consider a foam with a longer lifespan. Sailrite® now carries a High Density Polyurethane Antimicrobial Foam that will last up to 12 years on your patio. Deciding which type of foam is right for you comes down to personal preference, cost and a consideration of how often you sit on your patio furniture.
If a more rounded look is desired, you can wrap your foam in a layer of polyester batting for added softness and plumpness to your cushion assembly. Then, to add a layer of protection against moisture and mold/mildew growth, wrap your cushion assembly in Cushion Wrap Silk Film (#103933) before inserting the foam into the cushion cover. The silk film acts as a moisture barrier, protecting the batting and foam from getting wet. Make sure the foam is well wrapped in the silk film and no areas of foam are exposed to potential moisture, especially the cushion top.
Step 2: Choosing the Fabric
Vinyl and faux leather fabrics are a fantastic choice for outdoor cushions on your patio and porch. They add an expensive, high-end look to your outdoor seating area. We have an impressive collection of outdoor vinyl and faux leather fabrics that will transform any ordinary patio into an exquisite entertainment area and outdoor retreat.
First, what is the difference between vinyl and faux leather? They are both manmade, synthetic fibers containing no animal parts whatsoever. Vinyl fabric is made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and includes brands such as Morbern®, EverSoft™ and Sunbrella® Horizon. Faux leather, on the other hand, contains no vinyl and instead is a polyurethane-based synthetic fabric. Ultraleather® Promessa® Outdoor is our only outdoor polyurethane upholstery fabric. Polyurethane resins are made from a softer polymer than traditional vinyl fabrics, which means they don't need additional plasticizers to soften the material.
Vinyl upholstery fabrics have really advanced in technology over the years. They all have an extremely low cold crack rating, which means you are safe to leave them outside all year long, even in four-season climates. Polyurethane fabrics have no risk of cold cracking, which means Ultraleather Promessa can also remain outdoors all year long. Modern vinyl and faux leather fabrics are incredibly soft with a leatherlike feel. They come in a wide assortment of very attractive colors from tasteful neutrals to bold brights and dramatic darks.
All of our outdoor vinyl and faux leather upholstery fabrics are highly UV resistant and waterproof, and we give them our highest abrasion resistance rating for outdoor fabrics. They are all mold and mildew resistant and incredibly easy to clean. And with a range of price points, there's a vinyl fabric that fits your budget.
Here are the brands we recommend for year-round patio cushions:
EverSoft: Available only at Sailrite, EverSoft is a beautifully textured indoor/outdoor vinyl fabric that closely resembles the look and feel of real leather. Its high-end and expensive look makes it perfect for a rich and luxurious outdoor seating area. EverSoft has exceptional four-way stretch properties, which make it easy to shape and contour. To learn more about EverSoft, be sure to read our detailed blog "What Is EverSoft Vinyl?" (#300445XHT).
Sunbrella Horizon: Sunbrella Horizon is Sunbrella's first engineered synthetic leather. This waterproof vinyl has excellent stretch and recovery properties, meaning it won't sag or puddle even after extended use. Its four-way stretch capabilities make it easy to contour and tailor. Sunbrella Horizon is available in two embossed textures: Textil is a bold, grid-like texture pattern and Capriccio is a more subtle texture that resembles leather.
Morbern Bayside: Bayside is the perfect mix of both stretch and construction vinyl properties. Not a true four-way stretch vinyl, it has the versatility of some stretch with the ability to add construction stitching. This makes it a great choice for patio cushions where you need a combination of stretch and construction. Bayside's matte, shine-free finish will add a level of sophistication to your outdoor seating and entertainment area.
Ultraleather Promessa Outdoor: Best suited for covered outdoor applications such as shaded porches and patios with awnings or canopies, Ultraleather Promessa Outdoor is a PVC-free faux-leather fabric with a soft pebble design and subtle sheen. This water-repellent faux leather fabric features a rich texture and extremely supple hand for a look and feel almost like genuine leather. Upgrade your outdoor area with this standout, luxury fabric. If leaving your cushions outside in a four-season climate, we recommend covering your patio furniture to protect Promessa from snow buildup and potential water damage.
These fabrics do have a couple of small issues that we want to talk about. Because vinyl and faux leather fabric is waterproof, there is an issue with water pooling on the surface of the cushion. Also, vinyl fabrics may become hot if directly exposed to sunlight. This can make it a bit uncomfortable to bare skin, much the same way leather upholstery in a car gets hot and sticky in the summer. Ultraleather Promessa, however, features a climate control technology that is proven to be more resistant to temperature changes than vinyl fabrics.
If these issues are deterring you from considering a vinyl or faux leather, you might want to consider using a woven fabric for your outdoor cushions. Read our companion blog "The Best Fabric, Foam & Thread for Outdoor Cushions" (#300454XHT) for the best foam, fabrics and notions for constructing a durable outdoor woven fabric cushion.
Step 3: Notions & Finishing Techniques
To sew your cushions, you'll want to use a UV resistant outdoor polyester thread. At Sailrite, we offer sizes V-69 and V-92 polyester threads in a wide range of colors to match your fabric choice. For water-resistant seams, we recommend using the semi flat felled seam construction. Use basting tape when assembling your cushion panels as it will also help to waterproof your seams. To learn how to sew a semi flat felled seam, refer to our how-to blog on the topic (#300441XHT).
If you want to add piping to your outdoor vinyl cushions, we have a selection of both premade piping and piping cord. Choose premade piping from Morbern® Seabrook or Naugahyde® Universal to accent your vinyl cushions with a contrasting or coordinating color. Or use piping cord to make your own piping for a perfect match to your cushion vinyl.
Though vinyl and faux leather fabrics are waterproof, water can seep into your cushion at the seams. Therefore, we highly recommend venting at the zipper plaque to add some breathability to your cushion. However, the primary reason for venting is to allow air to escape when sitting on the cushion. There are two options for venting vinyl cushions. You can add metal vent grommets at the zipper plaque, which is our preferred method. Or, you can sew a Phifertex® mesh zipper plaque and install that in your cushion cover. And speaking of zippers, look for a size #5 YKK® VISLON® zipper for your cushion. Refer to our detailed zipper selection guide to help you find exactly what you need (#300049XHT).
Step 4: Maintenance
One of the great things about upholstery vinyl and faux leather is that the fabric is so easy to maintain. Spills simply wipe away — dirt and stains never permeate the fabric. Any stains that are embedded in the fabric's texture easily wash away with soap and water. Tougher stains can be cleaned with an alcohol solution or a professional cleaner. Be sure to reference the Care & Cleaning document on your fabric's product page for specific instructions.
It's good practice to hose off the cushions once a month with clean water to help prevent dirt from accumulating and becoming embedded in the embossed texture and seams. Always use soft, non-abrasive towels and rags when washing and drying your cushions to avoid scratching or marring the fabric. Never use abrasive powders, steel wool, or industrial-strength solvents or chemicals.
We hope this article has given you some great information and advice on choosing the best materials for outdoor vinyl and faux leather cushions. Once you've selected your materials, reference the "Projects & Tips" section of our website for dozens of cushion DIYs and how-to videos.