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The importance of maintaining and cleaning outdoor fabric awnings

Outdoor fabric awnings are an essential part of many homes and businesses. They provide shade, protection from the elements, and can significantly enhance the exterior aesthetics of a property. However, like any other outdoor feature, they are exposed to the harshness of weather conditions, dust, pollution, and even bird droppings. Over time, these factors can lead to a buildup of dirt and grime, causing your awnings to lose their vibrant colour and potentially even degrade the material.

Maintaining and cleaning your outdoor fabric awnings is therefore crucial for several reasons:

Aesthetic Appeal: Clean awnings contribute to a well-kept, attractive appearance for your home or business. Dirty or stained awnings can detract from your property’s curb appeal.

Durability: Regular cleaning helps extend the lifespan of your awnings. Dirt and grime can cause the fabric to wear out more quickly, leading to tears and other damage.

Cost-Saving: By properly maintaining your awnings, you can avoid the cost of frequent replacements. Regular cleaning is a small investment that can save you money in the long run.

Prevention of Permanent Stains: Some substances, if left unattended, can cause permanent stains on your awnings. Regular cleaning helps to ensure that these substances are removed before they can cause lasting damage.

Health Reasons: Awnings can also collect allergens like pollen and mold spores. Regular cleaning helps reduce these allergens, contributing to a healthier environment around your home or business.

While it might seem like a chore, regular maintenance and cleaning of your outdoor fabric awnings is an important task that shouldn’t be overlooked. It not only keeps them looking their best but also ensures they last as long as possible, providing you with shade and beauty for years to come.

Understanding Your Awning’s Material

Outdoor awnings are made from a variety of fabric materials, each with its own unique properties and benefits. Here’s a closer look at some of the most common types:

1. Canvas: Traditionally, many awnings were made from canvas, which is a heavy-duty plain-woven fabric. Canvas awnings are known for their durability and can last for many years with proper care. They are typically treated with a waterproof coating to make them more resistant to rain and other elements. However, they can be prone to mildew and may fade over time if exposed to direct sunlight.

2. Polyester: Polyester is a synthetic fabric that is popular for outdoor awnings due to its strength, durability, and resistance to most chemicals, stretching, and shrinking. It’s also quick-drying which makes it an excellent choice for areas with frequent rainfall. 

3. Acrylic: Acrylic fabric is another synthetic material commonly used for awnings. It’s highly resistant to UV rays, meaning it won’t fade easily in the sun. It’s also water-resistant and fairly durable. One of the main advantages of acrylic is that it’s breathable, allowing warm air to escape and keeping the area under the awning cooler. However, it may not be as robust as polyester or canvas when it comes to tear resistance.

4. Vinyl: Vinyl is a type of plastic material that’s often used for awnings. It’s highly durable, waterproof, and resistant to UV rays. Vinyl awnings are easy to clean and maintain, but they’re not as breathable as acrylic or canvas, which can lead to more heat underneath the awning. 

The choice of fabric for an outdoor awning depends largely on your specific needs and environmental factors. Factors such as the amount of rainfall, intensity of sunlight, and desired maintenance level should all be considered when choosing the right material for your awning.

How to determine the type of fabric in your awning

Determining the type of fabric in your awning can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re not an expert. However, several characteristics can help you identify the material. Here’s how to go about it:

1. Check the Product Information: If you still have the product information or manual that came with your awning, this is the easiest way to find out what fabric it is made from. Manufacturers usually specify the materials used in their products for customers’ reference.

2. Inspect the Fabric’s Appearance: Different materials have distinct appearances. For instance, canvas has a heavy-duty, rugged look and often feels stiffer compared to other fabrics. Acrylic and polyester fabrics typically have a smoother appearance and may have a slight sheen. Vinyl awnings generally have a glossy, plastic-like appearance.

3. Feel the Fabric: The texture of the fabric can also give you clues. Canvas feels thick and heavy, while acrylic is lighter and softer. Polyester has a smooth, slightly slippery feel, and vinyl feels like plastic.

4. Consider the Fabric’s Behavior: How does the fabric react to water and sunlight? Canvas and acrylic are breathable and allow some air circulation, while polyester and vinyl are not. When wet, polyester dries quickly, which may not be the case with canvas. Vinyl is waterproof and won’t absorb any water.

5. Professional Inspection: If you’re still unsure, consider reaching out to a professional. Awnings experts or fabric specialists should be able to accurately identify the material of your awning.

Remember, it’s important to know what type of fabric your awning is made from because different materials require different care and cleaning methods. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or consult a professional for cleaning advice based on the type of fabric.

Tools and Materials Needed for Cleaning

Cleaning your awning is a task that requires the right tools to ensure you perform the job effectively and safely. Here’s a list of items you’ll typically need:

1. Ladder: A sturdy ladder is crucial if your awning is installed high up. It will allow you to reach all areas of the awning easily.

Make sure the ladder is on stable, even ground before climbing it. Never overreach while on a ladder; it’s safer to move the ladder instead. Always maintain three points of contact (two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand) with the ladder.

2. Soft Brush: A soft-bristled brush is ideal for gently removing dirt, dust, and debris from the surface of your awning without causing damage to the fabric.

3. Mild Detergent: Choose a gentle detergent that won’t harm the fabric of your awning. Avoid bleach-based cleaners or harsh chemicals as they can discolour or weaken the fabric. 

Always dilute the detergent as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid harsh chemicals as they can cause skin and eye irritation. Never mix different cleaning agents together as this can result in harmful chemical reactions.

4. Hose with Spray Nozzle: A hose fitted with a spray nozzle will help rinse off the detergent and any loosened dirt. The spray nozzle allows you to control the water pressure to avoid damaging the fabric.

When using a hose, start with a low-pressure setting to avoid damaging the fabric of the awning.

5. Bucket: You’ll need a bucket to mix your cleaning solution (water and detergent).

6. Protective Gloves: These will protect your hands from the cleaning solution and any dirt or debris.

7. Safety Glasses: Safety glasses will help protect your eyes from any splashes of the cleaning solution.

8. Tarp or Drop Cloth: This is useful to protect the area beneath your awning from the cleaning solution and falling debris.

9. Soft Towels or Sponges: These are used to gently scrub the fabric and to blot dry after rinsing.

10. Telescopic Pole: If your awning is particularly high or large, a telescopic pole can help you reach every part without straining.

11. Clear the Area: Ensure the area around you is clear of pets and children when you’re cleaning the awning.

12. Be Aware of Electrical and Weather Hazards: Never work near power lines or during adverse weather conditions such as rain, high winds, or lightning storms.

Remember, it’s important to use these tools correctly to prevent damage to your awning and ensure your safety. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintaining your awning.

Step-by-step Guide to Cleaning Outdoor Fabric Awnings

Cleaning your outdoor fabric awning not only enhances its aesthetic appeal but also extends its lifespan. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

1. Preparation:

  • Clear the area around your awning to prevent any items from getting damaged during the cleaning process. This includes moving outdoor furniture, toys, and plant pots.
  • Lay down a tarp or drop cloth beneath the awning to catch falling debris or drips of cleaning solution.
  • Put on your protective gloves and safety glasses.
  • Set up your ladder securely if needed, ensuring it’s on stable and even ground.

2. Loose Dirt Removal:

  • Start by using a soft brush to gently remove loose dirt, dust, and cobwebs from the awning. A long-handled broom or brush can be helpful for reaching high areas.
  • Always brush from the top down to avoid dirtying areas you’ve already cleaned.
  • Be gentle to avoid causing damage to the fabric.

3. Washing:

  • Mix a mild detergent with water in a bucket as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid bleach-based cleaners or harsh chemicals that could harm the fabric.
  • Using a soft sponge or cloth, apply the cleaning solution to the fabric. Start at the top and work your way down.
  • Pay extra attention to particularly dirty spots, gently scrubbing them until the dirt is gone.

4. Rinsing:

  • Rinse the awning using a hose with a spray nozzle. Start at the top and work your way down, ensuring all detergent is thoroughly rinsed off.
  • Use a low-pressure setting to prevent damaging the fabric.

5. Drying:

  • Allow the awning to air dry completely before retracting it. This is crucial to prevent the growth of mildew and mold, which thrive in damp conditions.
  • If possible, choose a sunny, breezy day for cleaning so that your awning dries faster.

Remember, each awning is different, and it’s always best to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for specific cleaning guidance. 

Tips for Removing Stubborn Stains

Dealing with stubborn stains on your awning can be challenging, but with the right techniques, it’s possible to remove even the most stubborn marks. Here are some tips for dealing with common types of stains:

1. Bird Droppings:

  • Remove as much of the droppings as you can using a soft brush or cloth. Be careful not to spread it around.
  • Mix a mild detergent with warm water and gently scrub the stain using a soft cloth or sponge.
  • Rinse thoroughly with a hose and let the fabric air dry.

2. Mildew and Mold:

  • Mildew and mould can be tricky because they’re living organisms. There are specially formulated cleaning products available at your local hardware.
  • Apply this solution to the affected area and follow the instructions on the packaging.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water and allow the fabric to air dry in the sun, which will also help kill any remaining mildew or mould spores.

3. Food Stains:

  • Scrape off any excess food then blot the stain with a mixture of mild detergent and warm water.
  • Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry.

Remember, it’s always best to deal with stains as soon as possible. The longer a stain sits, the harder it will be to remove. Always test any cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area first to make sure it won’t discolour or damage the fabric.

Preventive Measures for Keeping Your Awning Clean

Maintaining the cleanliness of your awning can extend its life and enhance the overall aesthetic appeal of your outdoor space. Here are some preventive measures to keep your awning clean and reduce the need for frequent deep cleanings:

1. Regular Dusting and Brushing:

  • Use a soft brush or broom to regularly remove loose dirt, leaves, and other debris. This prevents the accumulation and embedding of these materials into the fabric, which can cause staining.

2. Prompt Stain Removal:

  • Address stains as soon as they occur. The longer a stain is left, the harder it will be to remove. Use mild soap and water for spot cleaning.

3. Use a Protective Cover:

  • When not in use, especially during harsh weather conditions, consider using a protective cover (weather box) over your awning. This can prevent damage from rain, snow, wind, and sunlight.

4. Retraction During Bad Weather:

  • If your awning is retractable, pull it in during storms or strong winds. This not only prevents it from getting dirty but also avoids potential damage.

5. Regular Check for Mould and Mildew:

  • Regularly check for signs of mould and mildew, particularly in humid climates or wet seasons. Early detection makes treatment easier and helps prevent spreading.

6. Avoid Trees, Bats and Birds:

  • If possible, avoid installing your awning under trees as falling leaves, sap, bat and bird droppings can dirty your awning. If you can’t avoid trees, frequent checks and clean-ups are necessary.

7. Professional Cleaning:

  • Consider having your awning professionally cleaned once a year. Professionals have specialized tools and products that can provide a deep clean without damaging the fabric.

By implementing these preventive measures, you can keep your awning looking its best and extend its lifespan, reducing the need for frequent deep cleanings.

When to Seek Professional Help

While regular maintenance and cleaning can help extend the lifespan of your awning, there may come a time when professional intervention is necessary. Here are some signs that may indicate you need professional help:

1. Persistent Stains:

  • If you’ve tried everything but still can’t get rid of certain stains, it might be time to call in a professional. They have specialized products and equipment that can tackle tough stains without damaging the fabric.

2. Mould or Mildew Infestation:

  • If your awning has a significant amount of mould or mildew that you can’t remove, a professional cleaning service can help. Mould and mildew can cause structural damage to the fabric and pose health risks if not treated properly.

3. Structural Damage:

  • If your awning shows signs of structural damage, such as torn fabric, bent frame, or faulty mechanism, a professional repair service is necessary. Continuing to use a damaged awning can lead to further damage and possible safety risks.

4. Water Pooling:

  • If water is pooling on your awning, it could indicate an issue with the pitch or tension. A professional can adjust these settings to ensure proper drainage.

5. Regular Maintenance:

  • Even if there’s nothing specifically wrong with your awning, having it professionally cleaned and inspected once a year can help extend its lifespan and maintain its appearance.

Remember, while DIY maintenance and cleaning can save money in the short term, there are times when professional help is necessary. A professional can identify potential problems early, fix them effectively, and help prevent costly replacements in the future.

Maintaining the cleanliness and overall condition of your outdoor awning is crucial for both its longevity and aesthetic appeal. Regular dusting and brushing can help prevent the accumulation of dirt and debris, while prompt stain removal can keep your awning looking its best. Protective measures such as using a cover and retracting the awning during bad weather can also significantly reduce damage and the need for deep cleaning.

However, there are times when professional help may be necessary. Persistent stains, mould or mildew infestations, structural damage and water pooling are all signs that you might need to seek the assistance of a professional. Even without these issues, having your awning professionally cleaned and inspected once a year can help extend its lifespan and maintain its appearance.

Remember, an awning is not just a functional addition to your home; it’s also a significant investment. By taking steps to maintain it regularly, you can ensure it continues to provide shade and beauty to your outdoor space for many years to come. So, don’t overlook the importance of awning care – your diligence will pay off in the form of a durable, attractive, and long-lasting awning.

If you have any questions about the maintenance of your blinds, security screens or shutters, our friendly team of experts are only a phone call away.

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