Amazing Outdoor Cushion Makeover (Part 1 of 2)

Project: Outdoor Cushion Makeover Part 1 of 2

Difficulty Level: Moderate (Some basic sewing experience necessary)

You’ve seen them on the curb. You’ve probably got a set in your garage covered in bugs, grime, the lawn furniture. They’re serving no purpose and you’d trash them were it not for the pile on top and the spiders underneath.

I hear you. Toss them! Spend a couple hundred on a new set, right? Frankly, they’d be better used for the dog’s bed (of course, that’s not such a bad idea). 

Don’t ditch those cushions! I know, DIY can be a lot of work. But in the end, it’s worth it. Glove up and brave the spiders. You can do this and the payoff is going to be huge! You’re doing a good thing.

Trust me.

In this two-part How-To, I’m going to show you just how easy, economical, and eco-friendly a makeover project can be. In part one, we’ll tear down, sanitize and revive the foam. We’ll also measure to plan for our fabric purchase.

Part two will give you step-by-step instructions on creating beautiful new cushion covers and the spectacular reveal! Before you know it, you’ll be digging your old furniture out. The results will blow you away!

Look, I love new stuff with the rest of you. But I also want to lessen my footprint on the Earth if I can. I believe that most discarded furniture can be refurbished. Some are beyond help. You have to make touch choices. But with outdoor cushions, I’ve yet to meet any that couldn’t be resurrected.

Here’s the caveat.,,

It will take a little effort, but the pride of knowing you saved money, got what you wanted, not what the store forced you to choose from, AND, you did your part for the environment, that’s a huge win.

Here we go

Materials Needed:

  • Set of Outdoor Chair Cushions
  • Bleach (outdoor bleach preferred)
  • Box cutter, straight razor, seam ripper, whatever you prefer to cut with
  • Spray Bottle
  • Garden Hose
  • Gloves
  • Eye Protection

So this is what I call a eco-friendly project. Mind you, I’m not a tree hugger. I don’t compost everything or have goats instead of a lawn mower.

(I’ll admit, goats would be freaking awesome and would make my life easier.)

But, I don’t like waste and I despise the throw away lifestyle. So when I see an opportunity to reuse or repurpose, I’m all over it.

We’re going to start with the tear down. This is the fun part for me. It’s cathartic. Before that, let’s go ahead and measure to determine yardage.

These are standard outdoor cushions. If you have something different, don’t stress, you can easily adapt the instructions and modify as needed. Of course if you get stuck, feel free to send a question in the comment section or contact me via Facebook.

I know, you’re worried you won’t order enough fabric. Trust me, you’ll be fine.

Measuring to purchase fabric

Measure the length, including the thickness plus an inch on both ends (VERY IMPORTANT or you’ll short yourself). Measure the width by wrapping your tape measure all the way around adding an inch for seam allowance.

For this project, we’re using Chevon Navy. It’s a classic style available in several color options. The project is a straight sew on rectangular cushions; and since the pattern repeat is small, we don’t have to really deal with it so everything lines up.

On the subject of pattern. While it’s up to you, I prefer the pattern direction run vertical. The project will be measured based on that. Here’s what we came up with. This was simple to measure because the wrap was just about the same as the width of the fabric. That means, in order to determine yardage, we just need to worry about length. The fabric width is 54″. That means I don’t need to order extra for the width so we’ll have 6 inches extra on the sides to work with. Since each cushion is about yard and a half, I’ll need 6 yards. While I might order extra to make the welting and ties, because I’ll have extra going around, I can cut that off and use it. I’ll show you that in Part Two.

Note: If you choose to run the pattern horizontal, you made need to order extra. Remember, measure twice ORDER once!

So to recap, here’s the math: We’re only using the length so 52″ per cushion x 4 cushions=208″total inches in length need. I’ll divide that by a yard 208″/36″=aproximately 5.7 so we’ll round up to 6.



Of course,  now the hard part is deciding what to order! Best Fabric Store has so many beautiful outdoor fabrics to choose from. But if you like this project and want to duplicate it, here’s the link again for the Chevon Navy.

Tear Down

Most commercial cushions are made in similar fashion. You might find your cushions to be a little different.

Regardless, first, find the ties. You’ll notice the edges are probably stitched down. If not, skip this step. Using your weapon of choice, nick the stitches around each of the ties.

Next, in the fold, either nick away or simply cut through the stitches in the gutters where the cushion folds. Since we’ve already measured, we really don’t need the old covering for a pattern, not on this project. Don’t cut too deep, we’re going to need the foam. Repeat on the other fold.  Take note as you go along as to where the ties are placed. You can mark the foam if you want but it’s not necessary unless you’re forgetful like me!

Now, find the welting (or you might call it cording). Grab hold and give it a pull. It should come off in one piece. You might have to nick some stitches along the way. The thread used is not designed to break easily, so it may give you a little resistance.

For this part, I recommend grip gloves. They are rubbery on the palm side. You’ll find them at any home improvement store. They help you grab because we’re going to tear the seams apart. They also save your manicure and wear and tear on your hands.

Since this is a recycle project, put the welting aside as we’ll be reusing it later on. Put the remaining fabric in the recycle bin.

Time to wash down those awful cushions! Yep, they’re pretty bad.



Restoring the old cushions

This is an outdoor project, so I prefer outside bleach, the kind used for deck washing. It handles the kind of stuff that accumulates inside the cushions, like mold and grime and yes, algae. Don’t fret. It comes out, I promise. Outdoor cushions are designed to get wet and dry quickly. So you can’t hurt them unless you manhandle them.

This is strong stuff so I strongly advise wearing gloves and eye protection (and clothes you don’t care about).

Mix a 25% solution, or 3 parts water to 1 part bleach in a large spray bottle. That will handle the worst offenders.

Note: Avoid plants, this could harm them.  And keep the pets and kiddos inside, PLEASE!

Separate the cushions in two if they are made that way. Remember what goes together. Mark if you must.

First spray down the cushions with water.

Then, THOROUGHLY spray down all the dirty bits with the bleach solution covering both sides and let it sit 5 minutes. Really get into the crevices.

Carefully using the jet setting, completely rinse down the cushions focusing on the stained areas until they are clean. Go easy with the sprayer though. They aren’t indestructible. You want pressure; you don’t want to water blast them. So if you were thinking… and I see those wheels turning… I’ll just use the pressure washer… STOP! You will tear them up.

Rinse the entire cushion, not just where the solution was. Reapply if desired until you’ve determined they are as clean as you’ll tolerate. Please know that some residual stain or discoloration may remain. The important thing is what the bleach is designed to eliminate doesn’t.


Hang the cushions over a chair or clothes line until completely dry. This could take all day depending on the weather. Sunshine helps too, and may whiten them even more.

Good as new!