The point about Sunbrella fabric is that it’s hard-wearing in outdoor environments. It’s designed specifically to be fade-resistant, mold-resistant, mildew-resistant, water-resistant, and stain-resistant. If you gave it the chance to win a million bucks, it would probably resist that too, just because it could.
That being the case, Sunbrella fabric has been standing outdoors through hot summers, wet springs, falls of spreading decay, and year-round pummeling by human beings for over 30 years now.
It’s true that the original Sunbrella fabric has probably been replaced on awnings, sun loungers, outdoor seats, and pool covers by now – but it’s also true that it will have been replaced far less often than you might imagine.
The official estimate is that Sunbrella fabric can stand up to at least 10 years of pretty heavy, rough and tumble usage before it even thinks about flagging. And when it does, cruise ships that use the fabric say it tends to be the stitching, rather than the fabric itself, that goes first.
If that’s the case, it’s worth knowing that Sunbrella uses Tenara sewing threads when it initially makes its fabrics, coverings, cushions, and the like. Tenara threads are heavy-duty outdoor-friendly threads, that resist UV light, chemicals, salt water, and even extreme weather.
So if your fabric is still going strong after 15 years – as cruise operators frequently report theirs is – you can maintain your investment with a little judicious seam-work, rather than buying the next generation of Sunbrella fabric before you need to.
That means that in plenty of applications – on yachts, in gardens, on awnings, and around pools, it’s possible that Sunbrella fabrics have only needed to be replaced once in the 30 years of the company’s existence. That’s got to be a good enough investment for most sun worshippers. After all, can you say your skin has weathered the last 15 years in the sun that well?
So ultimately, you’re going to get at least ten years of sunshine and heavy human interaction out of a Sunbrella fabric, possibly up to half as much again, and, because more recent Sunbrella fabrics have moved with the times, perhaps even longer still.
Can Sunbrella fabric be left outside?
There are two schools of thought on whether Sunbrella fabric should be left outside.
The first school doesn’t really believe Sunbrella is as everything-resistant as the fabric has proven itself to be, time and time again.
There’s a nagging sense that something somewhere is amiss with the universe if people don’t take in their outdoor furniture whenever it’s not in use – or at the very least when it’s not likely to be in use for the next few weeks and months.
Really speaking, this is the mindset Sunbrella was invented to dismantle. Sunbrella – a solution-dyed acrylic fabric that resists all the hazards of being outdoors more or less permanently – almost begs you to leave it out in the wild.
That’s why it’s treated to resist everything, it says. But still, lots of people get antsy if they don’t pull their outdoor furniture – complete with its resistance to mold, water, mildew, and the color-fading viciousness of the Almighty Sun – indoors in the fall in case it gets ruined by mold (Resistant!), or sudden rainstorms (Resistant to those too!).
Then there’s the other mindset. The mindset that buys Sunbrella fabric in the first place because it resists everything the outside can throw at it, so it removes the hassle of moving outdoor furniture indoors for half a year, including finding the indoor storage space to fit it.
No, they say. It’s an outdoor kitty kind of fabric.
They’re right – it really is.
Sure, you can argue that if you keep it safe from rain, mold, and the unconquerable sun, it will last longer. Testing and customer feedback reports the fabric already lasts over a decade if you leave it out and get dogs to trample on it every chance they get.
How long do you want it to last? The fundamental point of it is that it takes the responsibility of keeping outdoor furniture indoors off the list of things you need to worry about.
Bring in the cushions if you really want to – they won’t take up much space, and won’t be much trouble to bring out on the spur of a sunny moment.
Otherwise, leave it out. It can take it.
Does Sunbrella fabric fade in the sun?
There’s a slightly odd answer to this question. If you leave anything out in the sun for long enough, it will fade or it will die. Hopes, dreams, houseplants, vividly-colored weatherproof materials. You name it, you leave it out long enough, it will fade, and wither and die.
But – and this is an important ‘but’ – all the evidence from users, as well as somewhat po-faced testing by experts suggests that of the subset ‘Things that fade in the sun,’ Sunbrella fabrics are toward the extremophile, ‘Not while I have my stitching, damn you!’ end of the spectrum.
When asked, some yacht owners who use the fabric on their decks related an interesting phenomenon with Sunbrella colored fabrics. They claimed that, somewhat counter-intuitively, it’s the lighter-colored Sunbrella fabrics that seem to fade first – though it should be noted, this was only noticeable after 8-10 years of use(!), while darker-colored fabrics were lasting much longer unfaded – 15 years and more.
So while the answer is unavoidably “Yes, it fades in the sun,” Sunbrella has done everything short of adding a NASA heat shield to its fabrics to ensure that that answer comes with a rejoinder – “Eventually.”
Sunbrella fabrics are still significantly more fade-resistant than most fabrics you’ll find on outdoor furniture and awnings.
So while they will eventually fade, at slightly inconvenient and different rates depending on whether they’re brightly or lightly colored, the point is that you’ll still get a lot more use out of them before they fade than you would from less stubbornly built fabrics.
That means that when you buy a Sunbrella fabric, it’s something of a false dichotomy to ask whether it will fade in the sun. It will eventually, because everything does.
But in comparison with almost everything else on the market, Sunbrella fabrics are as sun-shielded as they come, and practically immortal into the bargain.