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How to Clean Residential Awnings or Commerical Awnings: Acrylic vs. Vinyl

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How to Clean Residential Awnings or Commerical Awnings: Acrylic vs. Vinyl

Whether fitted to residential awnings or commercial awnings, exterior fabrics are a major investment. You should know how to properly protect your canvas awnings.

Know the difference between cleaning one type of exterior fabric vs. another (e.g. acrylic vs. vinyl). From bird poop to mildew to … various “party stains” (enough said?), there are proper and improper techniques for keeping your awnings looking great.

Do it carelessly and you’d better build up a hefty new fabric budget.

cleaning residential awnings

Canvas (Acrylic) Awnings vs. Vinyl Awnings

In this article, we’re focusing on two basic types of fabric: canvas and vinyl. If your awnings have a metallic frame with some type of fabric stretched over that frame, you’re probably in the right place.

Canvas = Breathable Acrylic, Polyester & Cotton Blends

Don’t worry too much about technicalities here. It’s true, “canvas” is traditionally made from natural fibers like cotton (and before that, hemp). But canvas today refers to a variety of breathable, durable manmade fabrics such as polyester and woven acrylic.

While canvas may still be made with a blend that includes cotton, the presence of manmade fabrics make modern canvas much longer-lasting and easier to clean.

Vinyl = Waterproof PVC &amp; Other Composites

Again, we’re keeping it simple. Vinyl itself isn’t a fabric. The fabrics we call “vinyl” have a polyester base, which is what makes it possible to stretch it over your residential awnings or commercial awnings.

What matters is that when coated with vinyl, exterior fabrics become waterproof and extremely durable.

By now you can probably guess why cleaning methods for canvas vs. vinyl are going to be a little different.

Cleaning Polyester or Acrylic Fabrics (Canvas Awnings)

Quality canvas might not be truly waterproof, but it is water-resistant. That means you don’t have to be afraid to hose it down about once a month and do light cleaning on occasion.

Of course, you’ll have to apply more elbow grease to stains and occasionally mildew. Good canvas itself is resistant to mildew; however, mildew can grow on any dirt on the surface.

Light Cleaning

(From the Sunbrella cleaning guide)

Periodic cleaning is pretty simple. You just want to dilute your soap and use a soft brush.

  1. Brush off all loose dirt.
  2. Hose it down.
  3. Dilute dishwashing liquid in water.
  4. Use a soft bristle brush to clean with the solution.
  5. Allow the solution to soak into the fabric.
  6. Rinse until all soap residue is removed.
  7. Let it air dry.

Heavy Cleaning for Stains and Mildew

(From the Sunbrella cleaning guide)

For mildew, bird poop bombings and party fouls, it’s okay to be a little more aggressive.

  1. Combine 1 cup bleach and ¼ cup mild soap in a gallon of water.
  2. Use a soft bristle brush to clean with the bleach solution.*
  3. Allow the mixture to soak into the fabric for 15 minutes.
  4. Rinse until all soap residue is removed.
  5. Let it air dry.
  6. Repeat if necessary.
  7. Re-treat the fabric for water and stain resistance (see guide).

We recommend these guidelines for any of the canvas fabrics by Sunbrella, Sattler and Dickson that we carry.

*Commercial awnings with vinyl graphics: brush away from the edge of the graphics, not along the edges.

Cleaning Vinyl Fabrics

As vinyl fabrics are waterproof and highly durable, cleaning is a virtually worry-free process that you don’t have to do more often than you want to. Hosing it down is all you need to do most of the time.

Good vinyl is mildew-resistant. And stains aren’t as urgent a matter with vinyl as they are with canvas either. So how often you clean residential awnings depends on personal aesthetics. But to keep your commercial awnings looking sharp year-round, you’ll want to clean regularly.

Light Cleaning

Couldn’t be simpler.

  1. Hose it down.
  2. Apply soap to accumulated dirt.
  3. Scrub with a soft brush.
  4. Rinse it off.

Heavy Cleaning

If using a bleach solution on canvas is okay, it’s definitely okay on vinyl.

  1. Make a 50/50 bleach/water solution.
  2. Use the solution to scrub stubborn areas with a soft brush.
  3. Allow the solution to remain for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Rinse thoroughly, avoiding plants or materials that can be damaged by bleach.

Follow these steps for any of our vinyl fabrics from Weblon (Vanguard and Coast Line Plus lines), Snyder or Patio 500.

Not Sure How to Clean Your Residential Awnings or Commercial Awnings?

We’ve covered the basics here. But there are other types of outdoor fabrics for awnings and other structures such as coated vinyl, mesh, and shadecloth.

If you’re unsure how to clean your exterior fabrics (or if you’re wondering if your awnings are too fargone to even try), let Coastal Canvas help.


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