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Polyester, Olefin, Sunbrella Fabric Comparison: Durability, Water Resistance and Value (2024)

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polyester vs olefin fabric vs sunbrellaYou need outdoor furniture that stands strong against the elements. We get it—who doesn’t? Polyester, olefin, and Sunbrella are top contenders when it comes to durable, water-resistant fabrics.

Let’s compare and contrast these three fabrics so you can find the perfect fit.

The FOCUS KEYWORD is central here. Polyester and olefin have their benefits but tend to fade faster than Sunbrella. As the leader in solution-dyed acrylic, Sunbrella is fade and mildew resistant. Its ability to withstand sun, rain, and chlorine makes it ideal for outdoor cushions.

While cost varies, Sunbrella often outperforms polyester and olefin in longevity, saving you money in replacements.

Want fabric built to brave the weather? Put Sunbrella to the test. Its reputation for durability and easy maintenance makes it a go-to choice for outdoor living.

Key Takeaways

  • Polyester is the cheapest option but it fades and wears out the fastest.
  • Sunbrella is the best value long term for outdoor furniture and coastal climates.
  • Olefin is a decent budget pick for moderate climates and occasional use.
  • Sunbrella is the most breathable and best for hot climates, while olefin and polyester can trap heat more.

Polyester Vs Olefin Vs Sunbrella

Polyester Vs Olefin Vs Sunbrella
You’d think that with all the advancements in fabrics over the years, we’d have moved beyond relying on those old petroleum-based synthetics by now. When it comes to outdoor furniture though, these synthetics still reign supreme.

Solution-dyed acrylics like Sunbrella offer exceptional fade and stain resistance. The color is embedded deep within the fibers, unlike surface treatments that wear off. While olefin fabrics resist mildew and are fairly durable, Sunbrella simply lasts longer when exposed to intense sun and rainfall.

Made specifically for outdoor use, it will retain its color and integrity for years.

Consider your climate and budget. For humid coastal regions and longevity, choose Sunbrella despite the higher price tag.

We have innovative eco-friendly fabrics coming, but until then, choose what suits your needs and supports responsible production.

Properties and Composition of Polyester Fabric

Properties and Composition of Polyester Fabric
The synthetic fibers in polyester give it an unnatural feel, unlike natural fabrics that breathe and move with you. Polyester is made from petroleum and contains no natural fibers. The fibers have no ability to absorb moisture, making polyester less breathable.

Polyester also lacks the elasticity of natural fibers like cotton or wool. This causes polyester to hold its shape but resist stretching. Polyester is prized for its durability, wrinkle resistance, and stability when wet.

  1. Polyester does not breathe well, causing you to overheat.
  2. It holds odors and needs more frequent washing.
  3. The fabric feels scratchy against the skin.
  4. Static cling is a common issue.
  5. Pilling occurs as fibers break down.

While easy to care for, polyester lacks the comfort of natural fabrics. It excels at maintaining shape and minimizing wrinkles but falls short on breathability. The solution-dyed acrylic in Sunbrella offers outdoor durability like polyester but with a softer feel.

For outdoor furniture, Sunbrella is often preferred over polyester or olefin options. While polyester has its benefits, the synthetic fibers create an artificial, plastic-like feel quite different from soft, breathable natural fabrics.

Properties and Composition of Olefin Fabric

Properties and Composition of Olefin Fabric
Made from polypropylene plastic, olefin fabric is rugged yet budget-friendly for outdoor use.

Unlike other synthetic fabrics like polyester, olefin is made by combining propylene gas molecules into polypropylene plastic resin. This plastic resin is then spun into olefin fiber and woven into fabric. Olefin was invented in Italy in 1957 but not fully commercialized until 1963.

Olefin shares many properties with its polypropylene base, just in different forms. It is naturally stain and mildew resistant, making it a popular outdoor fabric. Olefin has decent water resistance thanks to its hydrophobic plastic resin composition, though less than specialized outdoor fabrics like Sunbrella.

Here’s a comparison of key olefin fabric properties versus other common outdoor fabrics:

Fabric Fade Resistance Mildew Resistance Stain Resistance Water Resistance
Olefin Moderate High High Moderate
Polyester Low Moderate Moderate Low
Sunbrella Very High Very High Very High Very High

While not as durable for multi-year outdoor use as solution-dyed acrylic Sunbrella, olefin offers a rugged texture and affordable price point. It’s a good choice for occasional outdoor furniture use in moderate climates. With care, olefin can deliver several seasons of service before needing replacement.

Just avoid bleach when cleaning. For more demanding outdoor applications, spend up for fade and water-resistant Sunbrella.

Properties and Composition of Sunbrella Fabric

Properties and Composition of Sunbrella Fabric
You must be aware that Sunbrella’s exceptional fade and UV resistance stems from its acrylic composition and solution-dyed production. The acrylic fibers in Sunbrella fabric are saturated with color, unlike surface-dyed fabrics where pigment only adheres to the outside of fibers.

This means the color is an inherent part of Sunbrella and won’t wash out from sun exposure or cleaning.

Acrylic itself is colorfast, resistant to mildew, and dries quickly. Originally created in the 1960s for awnings, Sunbrella revolutionized outdoor fabrics. It’s ideal for patio furniture, boat covers, umbrellas – anything under constant sun and weather exposure.

The fibers stand up to years of UV rays without losing vibrancy. Sunbrella can be machine washed without the risk of fading. It has more breathability than vinyl while maintaining water resistance. The soft, luxurious hand comes from the flexibility of acrylic.

Sunbrella delivers the highest quality and longevity for outdoor applications. With proper care, it will outlast polyester and olefin alternatives.

Durability and Longevity of Polyester Fabric

Durability and Longevity of Polyester Fabric
Keep polyester’s fading face away with Sunbrella’s grounded grip, outlasting olefin’s short trip.

Polyester fabric lacks the staying power for heavy outdoor use. While initially vibrant, its dye color will fade and deteriorate when exposed to a range of harsh weather conditions over time.

Without the exceptional solution dyeing process of Sunbrella, polyester fibers fail to stave off the sun’s destructive UV rays. Olefin makes a decent budget-friendly alternative for occasional light use. But for longevity spanning years, not months, premium Sunbrella is unmatched.

Its tightly woven solution-dyed acrylic fibers lock in fade-defying color and fend off deterioration.

Only Sunbrella combines:

  1. Tenacious resistance to damaging sunlight, water, and mildew
  2. Permeation of solution-dyed color deep into the fiber core
  3. Durability to endure constant sun, rain, wind, and dirt
  4. Vibrant hue retention over years of use
  5. Strength to withstand the demands of heavy daily wear

With fortified defenses against the elements, Sunbrella is the fabric that goes the distance. Its unyielding performance saves money in replacements while beautifully standing the test of time.

Durability and Longevity of Olefin Fabric

Durability and Longevity of Olefin Fabric
You’ll find olefin doesn’t quite match Sunbrella’s exceptional durability and longevity when used outdoors year after year.

While olefin is stain and mildew resistant, making it a good choice for outdoor furniture and decor in moderate climates with occasional use, it simply can’t stand up to Sunbrella in terms of durability over the long haul.

Sunbrella is made specifically for extreme outdoor conditions like intense sun and salty coastal air. Its solution-dyed acrylic fibers resist fading and deterioration for years longer than olefin.

For outdoor decor you want to last more than a season or two, Sunbrella is a better fabric. However, if you just need an affordable outdoor fabric for short-term use in milder conditions, olefin can be a great choice.

Durability and Longevity of Sunbrella Fabric

Durability and Longevity of Sunbrella Fabric
When looking for a fabric with exceptional durability for outdoor use, Sunbrella is in a class of its own. This solution-dyed acrylic fabric is made specifically for intense outdoor conditions like coastal climates.

Sunbrella actually gets its superior fade resistance because the color is dyed directly into the fibers, rather than just on the surface. This allows the rich, vibrant colors to last for many years outdoors without losing their brilliance.

Independent testing shows that Sunbrella retains its strength and resists deterioration from sun exposure and mildew longer than any other outdoor fabric. While Sunbrella will eventually need replacement after prolonged outdoor use, you can expect it to last 5-10 times longer than cheaper alternatives like olefin when used in intense sun and weather.

When you need true long-term durability for patio furniture, boat covers, or outdoor cushions, Sunbrella is worth the investment.

Water Resistance of Polyester, Olefin, and Sunbrella Fabrics

Water Resistance of Polyester, Olefin, and Sunbrella Fabrics
Check out Sunbrella’s superior water resistance to really splash outdoors without worry this summer. When looking for a durable outdoor fabric, water resistance is key. Sunbrella acrylic fabric offers excellent water repellency thanks to its solution-dyed fibers, allowing it to withstand years of exposure to rain, sprinklers, and moisture without losing color or strength.

Though olefin fabrics have some degree of water resistance, Sunbrella is purpose-built for outdoor use and the gold standard for repelling liquid. Light rain and morning dew may leave Sunbrella damp, but it will dry quickly and not soak through like lower-quality olefin and polyester.

For pools, patio furniture, umbrellas, and more, Sunbrella is the best bet to stay vibrant and functional through countless summers. Upgrade from basic polyester or questionable olefin claims to experience the real-world water resistance that makes Sunbrella the go-to outdoor fabric.

Its tightly woven, solution-dyed acrylic fibers keep your style going strong, rain or shine.

Cleaning and Maintenance of Polyester, Olefin, and Sunbrella Fabrics

Cleaning and Maintenance of Polyester, Olefin, and Sunbrella Fabrics
Though olefin can be easily cleaned with soap and water, Sunbrella’s softer hand and machine washability make cleaning a breeze. The solution-dyed acrylic fibers of Sunbrella allow it to be safely machine washed without concern of colors bleeding or fading.

This is a huge advantage for outdoor furniture intended for outdoor environments where spills and dirt are common.

The fibers are permeated with color, so Sunbrella maintains its vibrancy for years. Olefin can generally be spot cleaned with some soap and water, but take care as harsh detergents and bleach can damage the fibers.

For tougher stains, some light scrubbing may be required. However, olefin is not able to be fully submerged and machine washed like Sunbrella.

For low maintenance outdoor furniture, Sunbrella is the clear choice. The soft, supple hand also makes cleaning easier as dirt and debris do not become ingrained like the more textured olefin. While olefin requires less maintenance than untreated polyester, Sunbrella’s solution dyeing and softer hand make it the easiest care option.

Cost and Value Comparison of Polyester, Olefin, and Sunbrella Fabrics

Cost and Value Comparison of Polyester, Olefin, and Sunbrella Fabrics
You’ll pay more upfront for Sunbrella, but its exceptional durability lasts years longer than olefin, saving you money in replacement costs down the road.

  • Sunbrella costs $25-40/yd, while olefin is $15-25/yd and basic polyester $10-15/yd.
  • Sunbrella will last 5-10 years outdoors, olefin just 2-4 years before fading/wearing.
  • Olefin is a decent budget pick for occasional use.
  • Polyester is the cheapest but fades the fastest, not worth the savings.
  • Calculate the cost per year – Sunbrella is the best value long term.

With proper care, Sunbrella can last over a decade outdoors, making it the best value long term despite the higher initial cost. It’s the wiser investment for outdoor furniture cushions, patio umbrellas, boat/RV covers, and other applications needing lasting performance in the sun, rain, and wind.

For moderate climates and occasional use, olefin is a good middle ground. But for coastal areas and furniture that’s out year-round, Sunbrella’s solution-dyed acrylic stands up to the sun and moisture longer than any other outdoor fabric.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which fabric is easiest to sew or craft with?

You’ll find polyester the easiest fabric to sew and craft with. It has a smooth, uniform texture that’s not prone to fraying or unraveling. Polyester thread glides smoothly, and the fabric’s inherent stability makes it simple to cut and piece together.

Just be sure to use the right needles and thread to avoid skipped stitches. Polyester’s versatility and ease of use make it a favorite for both novice and expert crafters.

How do the fabrics compare in terms of wrinkling and creasing?

You’ll find olefin fabric wrinkles less than polyester or Sunbrella. Its rugged texture resists creasing and bounces back quicker after folds. Polyester wrinkles more with wear, while Sunbrella’s softer hand may show wrinkles until tensioned or heat is applied.

Are any of the fabrics made from recycled materials?

Unfortunately, none of these synthetic fabrics are made from recycled materials. Polyester, olefin, and Sunbrella acrylic are all petroleum-based and produced from raw materials. To be eco-friendly, look for fabrics made from recycled plastics or organic fibers like cotton, hemp, and linen.

What are the best and worst applications for each fabric?

You’ll love Sunbrella for outdoor furniture that withstands coastal climates and extreme sun. Olefin works alright for occasional backyard use in moderate weather. Polyester is the most budget-friendly, but won’t last long outdoors compared to more durable options.

How breathable are the fabrics, and which would be coolest in hot weather?

You’ll find Sunbrella is the most breathable since it’s solution-dyed acrylic; the process leaves space between fibers for airflow. Olefin’s tighter weave traps heat. Polyester also tends to hold heat, though some blends breathe better.


When it comes to finding the perfect fabric for outdoor use, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the options. But as you’ve learned, not all fabrics are created equal. While polyester and olefin have their places, Sunbrella reigns supreme for unbeatable durability and longevity.

Investing a bit more upfront in Sunbrella will pay off exponentially down the road, saving you from frequent replacements. So don’t settle – choose Sunbrella for furniture that will last as long as your memories outdoors.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a site dedicated to those passionate about crafting. With years of experience and research under his belt, he sought to create a platform where he could share his knowledge and skills with others who shared his interests.