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Outdoor Cushion Buying Guide: Inners & Covers Explained


Garden Cushions that Stand the Test of Time

Outdoor cushions are just as important as the bench or seat itself. After all, this is what you will be resting your bottom on all summer! (If the sun decides to make an appearance this year). By investing in a high-quality, waterproof design your garden cushions will last through the many seasons to come. But remember to care for it properly to make it last even longer. The purpose of this guide is to compare two different types of outdoor cushion inners and covers:

  • Polyester Canvas vs Olefin Fabric
  • Compressed Fibre vs Standard Foam

*Note. You can continue reading our take on waterproof outdoor cushions or jump below to a video demonstrating the difference in foams and there pros & cons from our Managing Director, Ed Sloane. Plus take a look at our infographic just below the video!

When the time comes to replace your bench cushions, the first thing you are likely to notice is that those outdoor seat pads have seen better days. They may be tattered and stained or becoming mouldy and damp from the continuous rainy weather (We like sun here at Garden Benches, can you tell?).

Perhaps your cushions weren’t manufactured for outdoor use or maybe it was the super absorbent inner foam causing the issues. The outdoor cushion covers are also just as imperative as the core inner, which can be another cause of mildew seating. But to make sure you have seat cushions that withstand the elements, you may be asking what inner and cover is best to use for your outdoor seat cushions? You can find out below!

Image: The Windsor 150cm Bench with Forest Green Waterproof Cushion.

Outdoor Cushion Covers

Although many cushion covers out there on the market look the same, the materials used on outdoor cushions can vary radically. This is important because cheaper covers can lead to mould due to a lack of water resistant properties, and no one wants a wet bum!

Many covers will also fade and lose colour after prolonged periods in the sun, and we all know outdoor cushions are costly to replace each year. We have compared two types of outdoor fabric covers below.

Polyester Canvas

This is an age-old fabric that is used in many upholstery items, from clothing to furniture. While polyester is a water resistant fabric, you may experience problems with mould due to this type of material absorbing some water. Polyester would also require to be treated with a water proof application once a year, a costly and time consuming process.

Olefin Fabric

When it comes to durable outdoor fabrics, most people have heard of acrylic and polyester, but have you heard of olefin?

Also known as polypropylene, olefin fibre is synthetic. Olefin is ideal to use for cushion covers because of its oil based properties. It can easily stand up against mould, heat and wet weather. Olefin fabrics are taking outdoor furniture cushions by storm as it is 100% waterproof. Olefin is a fabric we use here at Garden Benches and is the best because it is stain & fade resistant and 100% waterproof.

Any fabric that has been pierced because of a cushion zip will never be completely waterproof. This is why you require a non-water absorbent inner to alleviate and drain any water that may seep through.

Outdoor Cushion Inners

Many people believe that the fabric covering will suffice in safeguarding the cushion from the weather. Whilst this is true to some extent when the right cover is chosen, what would happen if your cover were to rip?

The UK is known for its downpours and the slightest bit of water infiltrating a poorer quality foam can quickly turn to mould, ruining the cushion altogether. So to prevent this happening it is vital to choose a foam that does not absorb water. So, what kind of foam would that be?

Best Inner for Outdoor Use

The inner of your cushion really is a core material and should be considered when making a purchase. When looking for the best cushion inner for use on outdoor bench or furniture cushions, a compressed fibre is a choice you’ll want to make.

Image: compressed fibre; water completely drains straight through and does not retain any moisture. The bowl captures the whole jug of water.

Compressed Fibre

Compressed fibre is sometimes referred to as loft pads or loft insulation basically because it can serve several multi-functional jobs. Compressed fibre is made up of several tiny layers of blown fibre flattened and then added to layer by layer until the desire height is reached (usually no more than half a foot).

It is bonded together by glue and due to its unique properties allows heat retention (ideal for loft insulation) but also allowing fluid (water) to pass through it. This means that compressed fibre is a much better material for use in outdoor cushion manufacture as it does not retain water like foam meaning it is perfect for sudden down pours or if the cushions are accidentally left outside overnight in the rain.

Image: standard foam; water is retained and absorbed by the foam, similar to a sponge.

Standard Foam

Unlike compressed fibre, standard foam types absorb and retain water and require to be ‘rinsed’, similar to ringing out a mop. This type of foam is found in cheaper outdoor cushions on the market and is claimed to be water-resistant. But it’s drying out period after getting wet can take hours.

Because of its water retaining properties this foam is more likely to become mouldy, and many retailers recommend that the cushions are not left out in rainy weather. Standard foam can require a lot of maintenance, with regular cleaning and drying out.

*Note: There is a difference between waterproof and water-resistant. Waterproof means that the fabric will not absorb any water. Water-resistant means the fabric will drain some water but it will absorb like a sponge if subject to long periods of soaking.

Cushion Ties

Cushion ties make your outdoor living enjoyable. Without these simplistic yet effective ties, your cushions will move around whenever you sit or stand up. The ties keep your outdoor seating presentable and prevent cushions blowing off during windy weather. They will also help you keep your cushions clean because they won’t be falling or flying around on the garden floor. The small things do matter!

Cushion Piping

Piping is all about the visual appeal. Piping (as I am sure you know) is a thin piping that is added along the edge of your cushion cover. This accentuates the shape and are a luxury add-on. Piping looks great on cushions, and adds that touch of interest to a plain coloured cushion.

Making your Decision

Any of these materials will get the job done. The decision is more a matter of your preference for longevity and savings. Capitalising in a high quality cushion that will last years is a far better investment that one you will need to replace every few months or so. Remember that regular maintenance will extend the life of your cushion.

Wiping down your cushions after wet weather will help prevent mould and stains. If your cushion is zippered you can easily wash them with a soft detergent to remove dirt as often as you like, regardless of weather.

As you can see, there is a lot to consider when purchasing an accompanying cushion for your garden bench or seating. There now should be no problem to find one that is just right for your old or new outdoor arrangement, taking into consideration how little maintenance the cushions we offer are.

Anna Sharples

Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches - a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.

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