Lisa asked: Can I wash my gazebo covers in the washing machine? The gazebo has been outside for awhile and has been covered with mildew. I’m worried that if I wash it in the machine that it will no longer be waterproof. Please help.
Start by inspecting the cover for any damaged areas (rips or tears) that need to be repaired prior to machine washing it to prevent further damage from occurring. Also look for any mold or mildew areas that need to be pre-treated. To remove the mold/mildew, follow the steps in the guide How to Clean Mold from Upholstery. If you don’t see any damaged areas or mold, try to shake off or brush off any excess dirt if needed.
Before you attempt to machine wash a gazebo cover, you need to check two things. First, ensure the material is safe for machine washing. If the label does not specifically say, you can search for general compatibility with the fabric type.
The second thing you need to do is make sure your washing machine has a large enough capacity to hold the cover. If you overfill the load, cleaning capacity is greatly reduced or could be ineffective. If your washer is too small, take the cover to a laundromat; they usually have industrial size machines that can better accomodate the cover. It is also best to avoid top-load washers as the beater bar can tear or damage the material.
When you are ready to wash the cover, use cold water only (not warm or hot) to prevent it from shrinking. Do not use chlorine bleach on the material even if it is white as the bleach will damage the fibers and cause them to break down more quickly over time. If the cover is especially dirty or had any mold spots, use OxiClean, but in most cases, a regular laundry detergent will get the job done.
It is best to let the cover air dry to prevent any shrinking in the dryer. If you used a laundromat to wash the cover, put it in a trash bag if needed or if it won’t fit in a bag, wrap it in a painter’s tarp (they are about $2 at most supermarkets) to keep it clean on the trip home and prevent it from getting your car or trunk wet. It is best to replace the gazebo cover while it is wet and allow it to air dry naturally so that it dries in the same shape/size needed, however if you had any mold on the cover then it is better to allow it to fully air dry before replacing it as the mold can use the moisture to regrow. (Mildew/mold require moisture, and if you are already having problems in that area, then the cover likely will not fully dry there.) Instead, drape the cover over some patio furniture or a porch railing. It is a good idea to wipe down the railing/furniture first to ensure no dirt is transferred to the cover.
Washing machines do tend to reduce the water repellent qualities of some waterproof fabrics. To fix this, simply apply a waterproofing spray. Allow the gazebo covers to dry first (without replacing it on the gazebo) and follow all label directions for application.