What’s the Difference Between Sunbrella® Marine & Upholstery Fabrics?

Item # X-HT-300177

Whats the Difference Between Sunbrella Marine and Upholstery Fabrics 2

All Sunbrella fabrics are made from 100% solution-dyed acrylic. That means they share a lot of core characteristics. They are all breathable and UV, water, mildew and stain resistant. All Sunbrella fabrics are dyed to the core of their fibers; this is what the term “solution dyed” means. This is what makes Sunbrella fabrics performance fabrics. The color will never fade due to prolonged sun exposure. Both Sunbrella marine and upholstery fabrics are also easy to clean (bleach cleanable) and easy to sew. But there are some key differences between the marine and upholstery collections. It’s these traits that make the two fabric lines perfectly suited to their specific applications, but not necessarily all sewing applications.

All Sunbrella Fabrics Are:

  • Breathable and easy to clean.
  • Highly abrasion and UV resistant.
  • Solution-dyed.
  • Mold and mildew resistant.
  • Stain resistant.

Whats the Difference Between Sunbrella Marine and Upholstery Fabrics 4With solution-dyed performance fabrics, the color penetrates to the core of each yarn in the fabric weave, unlike surface-dyed fabrics.

Sunbrella Marine & Shade Fabrics

Sunbrella marine and shade fabrics have been engineered with outdoor shade applications in mind. These outdoor only fabrics are perfect for boat, home and RV awnings, biminis and dodgers, patio umbrellas, outdoor furniture and grill covers, and more. Sunbrella marine and shade fabrics feature a tight weave construction and a heavy finish. This tight weave gives the fabric a stiff feel to the touch. This stiffness gives the fabric excellent dimensional stability, which is great for awnings and covers. This stiffness makes them a bit uncomfortable to sit on, which is why they’re not recommended for cushions and upholstery. The exception is cockpit cushions. For cockpit cushions, you want a stiffer fabric that is extremely abrasion resistant. Available in a wide variety of solids and stripes, these fabrics will look great on your boat, patio and RV.

Shop Sunbrella Marine & Shade Fabric

Whats the Difference Between Sunbrella Marine and Upholstery Fabrics 3

Sunbrella Upholstery Fabrics

Compare marine and shade to the lighter, softer weaves of Sunbrella upholstery fabric and you’ll notice the difference between the two fabric lines. These indoor/outdoor performance fabrics are woven with softness, comfort and flexibility in mind. The end result is an upholstery fabric that has a wonderfully soft hand that is both comfortable to sit on and still incredibly durable. Sunbrella’s upholstery fabrics offer a wide variety of colors, weaves, textures and patterns. You can choose from solids, stripes, geometrics, florals, ikats and more. Unlike marine and shade fabrics, not all Sunbrella upholstery fabrics are reversible, meaning there is a right and wrong side to some of their upholstery fabrics.

Shop Sunbrella Upholstery Fabric

Fabric Stiffness & Ease of Sewing

The stiffness versus flexibility of Sunbrella fabric is a factor when it comes to sewing the fabric. Stiffness is also a consideration in project application and what you're using the fabric for. The stiffness of the Sunbrella Marine Grade doesn’t lend itself well to upholstery projects. It doesn’t easily wrap around curves, and it's less desirable to sit on than a softer fabric. It also can be a bit difficult to sew, as the stiffness keeps the fabric from folding easily when hemming and sewing seams. Here's a tip when sewing Sunbrella Marine Grade: Crease the fabric well or use basting tape on hems and seams. There's no difficulty when sewing Sunbrella upholstery fabric. It's just as easy to work with as any other home décor fabric.

Fabric Matching Made Easy

The great thing about Sunbrella outdoor and indoor/outdoor fabrics is that they coordinate beautifully with each other. For example, use a marine or shade fabric to sew a patio umbrella or canopy, and then create coordinating cushions and pillows for your patio furniture with Sunbrella upholstery fabrics. The possibilities are endless when you have hundreds of fabrics at your fingertips.

Whether you choose Sunbrella marine/shade for your outdoor patio, boat and RV sewing projects or Sunbrella upholstery for your indoor/outdoor upholstery DIYs, you won't be disappointed by this high-quality performance fabric. Take a look at this quick comparison chart to help see which fabric best suits your needs and application.

Comparing Sunbrella Marine & Upholstery Fabrics

Sunbrella Marine & Shade Sunbrella Upholstery
Solid colors and stripes.     Solid colors, stripes and woven patterns.
Stiff feel.     Soft feel.
9 oz. per square yard.     Weight varies.
Outdoor use.     Indoor/outdoor use.
Highly water resistant.     Water resistant.
Reversible; no right/wrong side.     Only some fabrics are reversible.
10-year warranty.     5-year warranty.
Use for covers, awnings, biminis, dodgers, boat tops, cockpit cushions and enclosure curtains.     Use for cushions, pillows, upholstery, patio furniture, and RV and boat interiors.


Shop Sailrite’s wide selection of Sunbrella fabrics and choose this high-performing, dependable and durable fabric for your next DIY. What traits do you look for in a fabric? Leave us a comment and share your thoughts!