Polyester vs Olefin Fabric vs Sunbrella (Olefin Fabric Cons)

3 sides to the same coin. While in reality, this may seem to be an impossibility when it comes to fabrics just about anything is possible. These fabrics are touted as the next best thing and perfect for outdoor furniture and other applications. But they may all be the same thing.

Sunbrella fabric uses high-end and fade-resistant acrylic while Olefin is made from polypropylene or polyethylene. Polyester is polyester and you know where that material comes from. The biggest con for Olefin is that it is a synthetic fiber made from harsh chemicals, etc.

To learn more about Olefin fabrics and its competitors just continue to read our article. It has the information you need to make a smart choice for your outdoor furniture. Take a few minutes and get caught up on these handy materials.

Is Olefin Fabric Better than Polyester?


This will depend on your experience with either fabric. Polyester, as you know, is a cheap material that does fade somewhat when exposed to the sun. Its best qualities are that it is a great fabric for outdoor furniture including patio furniture, umbrellas, and so on.

The material comes in a wide range of colors and designs allowing you to create a great outdoor look that will make your neighbors envious. Proper care has this fabric lasting a long time.

Olefin, as you just read, is made from polypropylene or polyethylene. and is supposed to be environmentally friendly. This description is made although it too is a synthetic fiber made from chemicals and petroleum products.

This outdoor fabric option is supposed to be almost as fade resistant as Sunbrella, it is also stain-resistant as well as quick to dry. Then this fabric has some nice color and design options along with being quite durable.

Many materials classed as Olefin are said to be waterproof but more are just water-resistant. Given these qualities, one can see that Olefin is an improvement over polyester. Your experience will determine if it is the better of the two fabrics or not.

Regular polyester is good but with these added touches, Olefin should be the go-to outdoor fabric unless you are worried about the total cost of the product. That point keeps polyester the better of the two despite its weaknesses.

Olefin vs Polyester

Since Olefin is an improvement over polyester, one could say it is the better of the two fabrics. However, a head-to-head comparison will shed more details and give you a better picture of the two materials.

Polyester has been around for decades and its start just about finished it as it was a bad looking and not so great material. Over the years polyester has been upgraded and it works well as an outdoor material. It can be made to be waterproof, fade and stain resistant, and given other qualities.

The biggest problem this material has when it is used outdoors is that it will fade faster than Olefin. Polyester is probably more waterproof or water-resistant than Olefin. However, Olefin does not fade that quickly and is seen as a very durable material to be used outside.

Also, polyester may be cleaned easier than Olefin as it is said the latter is not good with spot cleaning or bleach use. Polyester is also smoother than Olefin but it will depend on your preference which one is best next to your skin. Some people do not mind the roughness of Olefin when relaxing in the sun.

Both materials are quick drying which is a major plus, especially if your area gets a lot of rain throughout the year. If treated right both materials should stay attractive for many years to come.

Is Olefin Fabric as Good as Sunbrella?


Sunbrella is a brand name and should not be confused with a fabric name. That material advertised as Sunbrella is actually acrylic and this is the leading brand of acrylic outdoor fabrics.

Olefin is also a brand name for outdoor fabrics made from polypropylene which is a portion of oil and a gas element. In looking at the benefits for both materials, it is okay to say that Olefin is almost as good as Sunbrella. The biggest difference between them is their cost with Olefin being a bit cheaper than Sunbrella fabrics.

Both fabrics are easy to clean, comfortable as well as looking stylish. There is little difference between the two in these categories. Your sense of style will be the final determining factor when choosing between the two.

Olefin will lose out to Sunbrella when you add extreme heat. That means this fabric should be hung out to dry instead of being placed in a dryer. Environmentally, Olefin can be recycled many times without any adverse effects and it does have a low carbon footprint during manufacturing.

Sunbrella tends to be more colorfast and water-resistant than Olefin. After looking at these facts it is safe to say that Olefin is almost as good as Sunbrella and may excel in some points over the competing material.

However, the melting factor of Olefin tends to make it the lesser of the two materials. This may be a concern if you live in regions of the country that get extremely hot.

Olefin Fabric vs Sunbrella

While Acrylic Sunbrella materials are not cheap nor are they as environmentally friendly as Olefin, it tends to be the better of the two materials. The reason for saying that is that it is the most durable of all the outdoor materials you can buy including both polyester and Olefin.

In many cases, as you just read, the two fabrics are equals but Olefin probably has fewer drawbacks than Sunbrella. The latter fabric is not as soft as Olefin and it does create static electricity, which is not a good experience at the best of times.

But Sunbrella has better brand name recognition which makes it the go-to outdoor material to buy. More people know about this material than they do Olefin. You may find that both materials are excellent in water-resistance as well as comfort.

While Olefin is cheaper, it does not last as long as Sunbrella acrylic will last. When it comes to cleaning, some people claim that Olefin can be spot cleaned and bleach can be used while others say the opposite.

This is a big point that needs to be clarified before you buy the material. Sunbrella is very easy to clean and there is no confusion in how to keep it looking nice and clean. This material is not easy to recycle and it is not that biodegradable which is a drawback to many potential customers.

In the end, the cost of Sunbrella may be high but in the long run, it may be the cheaper of the two fabrics as it doesn't need replacing as often. That is something to consider when looking for an outdoor fabric to buy

Olefin vs Polypropylene


You can’t really compare a fabric against itself. The only way to make a comparison would be to look at the different colors and designs and decide which one you like the best. Texture and comfort will not be factors in your decision unless you are looking for a better quality of the fabric.

The reason we say that is because Olefin is made from polypropylene. It comes from a combination of a gas called propylene, oil products, and ethylene, and these ingredients are combined through a process called steam cracking.

Polypropylene was first invented in 1957 in Italy. It wasn’t until 1963 that the process to make this new material was awarded the Nobel Prize. The scientists behind the invention used titanium to help turn the material into fibers and this upgrade led to the eventual creation of Olefin fabric.

Olefin and polypropylene are both synthetic products made from the same ingredients with the added exception of titanium. The propylene pellets are melted and sent through a spinneret which turns the melted product into thread or fibers.

From there those fibers are woven into fabric or yarn. The process makes this material less expensive than Sunbrella fabrics but more expensive than polyester. In the eyes of Goldilocks, it may be the 'just right' fabric for outdoor use.

All of this was written to simply say that polypropylene and Olefin are the exact same thing but just in different physical forms.

Is Olefin a Good Upholstery Fabric?

There is no doubt that it is a good material to use on your outdoor furniture, umbrellas, and even outdoor curtains. It is well made, durable, and does resist water. Plus, it does come in attractive colors and great designs. Those are the key elements for any outdoor furniture fabric.

However, if expense is a concern, it does cost more than regular polyester but it does not fade as fast as the latter material. The process to create this material is supposed to be environmentally friendly and it can be recycled so you are not harming nature when it is time to replace the material.

Also, since no land or water is used in its production it is considered to have a low carbon footprint. The propylene gas was once burned off until those scientists discovered a more practical use for that gas.

The durability factor of this material is quite high but it may not last as long as Sunbrella will. Then with the lack of static electricity creation, this is a safe fabric to lay on or rub against.

The material should last you a long time as it does resist fading and depending on who you talk to should be easy to clean even with bleach. The quick-drying feature is also a positive that makes this material a good fabric to use on your outdoor furniture.

Its versatility allows you to use it in many applications and you can coordinate colors and designs to make sure your backyard or outdoor area is fashion-forward and looking good.

Is Olefin Fabric Durable?


One of the things about synthetic fibers is that they can be stronger than natural ones. The reason for that is the different ingredients used to create those synthetic fibers. Olefin is no exception to that option and it can be seen as a very durable fabric.

However, and with that said, Olefin may not be as durable as Sunbrella. Acrylic is one of the more durable synthetic fibers you can find and even polyester doesn't hold its own against that material.

Olefin is more durable than regular polyester which accounts for its higher cost than that competing fabric. That is what you should expect when you are looking for long-lasting materials to use outdoors.

Since you are buying less of the material, and use it for longer periods, expect to pay more for that convenience. This is something you have to factor in when you go shopping to replace your old outdoor materials.

Then depending on who you talk to, Olefin may not resist water as much as it has been claimed to resist. That makes it a fabric you may not want near your pool when there is a lot of splashing going on. The Olefin material may wear out faster because water does some damage to it.

But that may not be a worry if the water-resistant reports turn out to be true. Play this by ear and talk to the salesman before you buy to make sure the protections are all in place and are top-notch.

Olefin Fabric Disadvantages

The biggest disadvantage we have already mentioned earlier. This is not a material you want to let get too hot. It is still plastic and when plastics get too hot they will melt. This is why it is recommended that you hang dry the material after cleaning it.

It does not take long to dry and since it resists fading, save a few bucks on your electric bill and hang dry the fabric outside. other disadvantages we have also talked about. While it may not be as expensive as Sunbrella, it can still cost you a lot as this material is more expensive than polyester.

You will pay for the upgrade in quality and Olefin is an upgrade over regular polyester. You will have to check your budget to see if this material is worth the cost as Sunbrella is more expensive but it lasts longer as well.

Another drawback will be in the waterproof water-resistant category. There seems to be some confusion over this material’s ability to repel moisture. Some people say some of the material under this brand name is waterproof while others are only water-resistant.

Then some claim that you can’t spot clean it nor allow bleach to get near it as it is not water-resistant material. What this tells us is that there are different qualities of this material with different characteristics in each quality.

Olefin Fabric by the Yard


If you are still sold on using this material in your outdoor furniture, then you will be happy to know that it is readily available by the yard. There will be different qualities available as one online store sells good quality material for about $10 per yard.

However, Hobby Lobby and possibly its competitors only offer what is called slub Ofelin material by the yard. The automotive upholstery version is at Amazon and the prices we saw ranged around $25 per yard.

Each outlet will have its own price tag depending on the quality of the material. You can check your local fabric shops and see what they are selling the fabric for. Or you can go to your local mall and spend some time shopping before checking on their prices.

There are lots of outlets that have this material. The safest and easiest method to shop for this material will be online. Your only worry there will be knocking your cup of coffee over when you reach for your mouse.

Find the best online outlet where you can save on the shipping costs to cut down on your expenses. This may be the slower method as you wait for the material to be delivered but at least you saved some money.

Some Final Words

Comparing fabrics is not always easy. It is always a subjective method especially when you are comparing like fabrics with like fabrics. Olefin may not be polyester or acrylic but all three have basically the same source ingredients.

What this comparison boils down to is how much you want to pay. Olefin is the middle of the road cost and may be the better choice of all three, especially if you live in a climate that does not get too hot.

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