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Fabric Types Described

This video reveals everything you need to know about the differences between various outdoor fabrics.


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Video Transcription

As you’re shopping for new cushions for your patio furniture, you will notice all our fabrics are designed specifically for outdoor use.

At Patiopads you will find the largest selection of outdoor fabric on the web.  There are two basic types of outdoor fabric: Vinyls and Non-vinyls.  When you are looking through our selection you will see that all fabrics are categorized first by design type: solid colors, stripes, patterns, florals and blended colors, and then each of these is separated into Vinyl and Non-vinyl fabric groups.

There are many options for you to consider, including colors, designs, texture and grade. 

Fabric grades are determined by the mills and are explained in another video on this website.

To better identify our fabrics, their names consist of 3 components:
1. the fabric number
2. the fabric name, and
3. the fabric grade.

For example, this one is number 004. Its name is Putty Linen, and it is a grade A open weave vinyl.

Regardless of color, grade or type, outdoor fabrics should always be chosen to serve your needs, tastes, style and practicality. We have about 500 choices, so don’t settle for anything you’re not in love with. 

So with that background, let's now explore the characteristics of each fabric type.

Vinyl Fabrics
Vinyl fabrics are constructed from a strong Polyester core, which is coated with colored PVC and woven into fabric. It is extremely durable and resistant to abrasion, mildew, soiling, stains, fading and is easy to maintain. 

Vinyl fabrics are available in A & B grades only.  Both A & B grades are made from the same material; the only difference is that A grade is woven loosely (it's an open weave, like a mesh), and B grade has a much tighter weave, and is sometimes referred to as “shade” vinyl.  A grade will allow the cushion fill to get wet quicker, but will also allow it to dry faster than the B grade.  Cushions dry best if you take them out of the chair and stand them on their side in a sunny, airy location. 

A grade or open weave vinyl is suitable for cushions and is also the fabric that is used as a sling to support cushions on most PVC furniture, but it is not suitable for umbrellas, as it allows too much light to pass through.

However, B grades can be used for umbrellas as well as cushions, pads and seating slings.

Now let's talk about the non-vinyl fabrics. Non-Vinyl Fabrics are available in all grades -- grades A through E. There are three main types:

Acrylic
Acrylic fabric is woven from solution dyed fiber. It will retain its color and vibrancy for years. It's a soft, comfortable, breathable fabric with a soil and stain resistant finish.  It cleans easily, resists mildew, rot and atmospheric chemicals. Definitely the best long-term value.  The Sunbrella brand of fabric is 100 percent solution-dyed acrylic yarn, and is considered to be top-of-the-line outdoor fabric. You'll find Sunbrella fabrics in all grades, but most of them are B grade.

We carry the full-range of Sunbrella fabrics, so if you've fallen in love with a specific Sunbrella fabric but can’t find it on our website, let us know. Unless it’s discontinued we probably have it!

Spun Polyester
This is a 100% Polyester material spun together to provide a soft, cotton- like feel. The spinning process reduces the tendency for pilling – those annoying little clusters of fiber that sometimes accumulates on fabrics. It is very durable, and also has very good soil and stain resistance.

Olefin
Olefin fiber is solution dyed then woven, retaining its color and vibrancy for years. Olefin has a slightly coarser feel than Acrylic and Polyester, but is very strong, and resists stains, mildew, fading and abrasions. It's easy to care for, and tends to be a lighter construction. It has low moisture absorption but if it does get wet, it dries very quickly.

Some fabrics are constructed of a mix of two or more fibers, so they have some of the qualities of each.

One other factor to consider is printed fabrics.  Instead of solution dyeing colors into the yarns, which are then woven into a pattern, some patterns are printed onto the surface of plain woven fabric.  This means that only the top layer of fabric has color.  Think of a carrot and a radish.  The radish has a nice bright colored skin, but if you cut it open it is white and colorless. That’s the principle of printed fabrics.  One the other hand, solution dyed fabric has the color throughout the fabric, just like a carrot. 

You will find some beautiful printed fabrics on our website, mostly found in the stripes and florals sections. However, printed fabric is more prone to fading.  So to protect printed fabrics from damage caused by the sun's UV rays, use our Solar Shield fabric protectant for all your non-vinyl cushions. It not only dramatically slows down fading, but also helps to make the fibers more stain resistant and easier to clean – like ScotchGuard, but for the outdoors. It also prolongs the life of the fibers.

Now grab a cup of coffee or a cool glass of iced tea and tour our display of 500 fabulous fabrics.  It's important to remember that colors viewed through your computer screen may not depict the exact fabric colors.  If you need to match specific colors, fabric swatches are available for a small charge.  We also offer free consulting with our experienced designers. 

By the way, at any time you can search for a specific fabric by number or name by using the search field at the top-left of the page. Simply type in the fabric's number or name here, click the search button, and then select the fabric from the results list. Also, by clicking on any small fabric swatch, you can see a larger version of that particular fabric.

We hope this video has answered your questions about the various fabric types. Thanks for watching.