Save money - and throw away less - with this easy technique to paint a faded outdoor umbrella instead of tossing it in the landfill. Get tips on how to clean the umbrella and what paint technique worked best, plus find out how it looked years later!
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Do you have a perfectly good umbrella on your patio that has faded from the sun?
If everything else is working - the opening mechanism, there are no holes, etc. - then it's worth it to take an hour or so to revive it with...paint.
Really - and with just a basic spray paint. Our canvas cover looked 100 times better after using spray paint on it, so I'm confident yours will, too.
Wait, can I paint my outdoor umbrella?
Yes! I tested two types of painting methods and only one - spraying - worked well.
Our Patio Umbrella Before
We had a basic black canvas outdoor umbrella for about five years. During most of that time we didn't have a garage or other place to store it for the winter and the constant exposure caused the black to slowly fade to gray.
Surprisingly, though, it was still in good shape with only a few small holes at the top thanks to birds who liked to hang out there.
It was surprising to me because I had found a really good deal on this- I paid less than $40 for it with an easy to open hand-crank design instead of the cheaper wooden pulley system. So this works for all kinds of umbrellas with canvas covers.
How to Paint a Faded Outdoor Umbrella
When the umbrella got to the point in the before photo above, though, I felt I could no longer ignore it. The umbrella was no longer just gray, but a washed-out gray that contrasted dramatically with the black underside.
Since the underside was still black, and the canvas in decent shape, I decided to try to get another season out of it by painting the top. What did I have to loose?
Step 1: Clean the Umbrella
First I had to answer the question:
Can you wash an umbrella?
I found you have two choices for cleaning:
- Use a machine. Since mine was a cotton canvas, I simply threw it in the washing machine on a regular cycle with soap and a vinegar rinse. After laying it out to dry, it came out looking great, even the mildew was gone! (Another surprise...)
- Wash by hand. If you're not sure about your cover material, you can lay it out and wet it with a hose. Then scrub with a brush and soap before rinsing with a hose and letting it dry. If dealing with mildew, add vinegar instead of soap or do a vinegar rinse.
So, yes, you can wash an umbrella. The photo of our umbrella cover before (above) is actually after cleaning, so you can't see the green moldy stripes that were on the top - or the bird droppings. Yuck.
Step 2: Paint The Umbrella
Spray Paint: Since I wanted to make this as easy as possible (always a goal of mine!), I used flat black spray paint - and the cheapest indoor-outdoor paint I could find, at that, since I didn't expect this to last more than a season and this was just an experiment.
Spoiler: since this was a huge success - see update below - I'd spend $4 now instead of .99 and get this flat black spray paint, lol. Who knows how long it would last then?
Regular paint with brush or roller: I did not research this DIY advance, so I didn't know there was an article on eHow about painting a faded umbrella. But I can tell you this:
I do NOT suggest using regular paint and a brush or sponge roller like the article.
I tried it when I ran out of spray paint and found it takes a LONG time, plus the paint soaks into the whole fabric, creating a stiff, ugly pattern on the underside.
I also found it impossible to apply evenly with a sponge - maybe a small roller would work better for even distribution, but there'd still be the problem of soaking into the fabric.
Based on these experiences in the spray vs. brush/roll debate, I would firmly land on the spray side.
How do you Spray Paint an Umbrella?
- Remove the cover from the frame (unscrew the finial and pull the cover out of the supports) and lay it out flat on the grass (we just mowed the black spray painted grass away) OR cover an area with paper or drop cloths if you don't want to use the lawn.
- Start at the top and spray the vent and vent edges and undersides with a flat paint.
- Spray one section at a time, being careful to get all the seams and edges.
- Spray a second coat after it dries - it won't cover evenly, so let it dry a bit and then and spray in a different pattern.
- Let it dry completely, put it back on the umbrella frame and then use a ladder to add a third coat (you can make this step the second coat and not do 3 coats, but it will be more mottled). It was really easy to stand and turn the umbrella as I sprayed, but I'd still do the first coats with the umbrella flat to get the tops, seams and edges without worrying about getting paint on the frame.
Step 3: Optional Clear Coat
Coat with a water-repellant sealer after the paint is completely dry, though the only option for this is to roll it on, since there isn't a spray product I found. (I did not do this.)
Umbrella Painting Tips
- It takes a lot of spray paint. Ours was a nine foot umbrella and I used 5 cans of paint. It probably could use another can, so I'd plan on about a can per section of umbrella. I found flat black paint for $1 a can, so it was a total investment of $6! I know that's not normal - here's a paint I'd use now. That's still less than a $20 investment - and I learned you'll get many years out of it.
- Use a spray-paint gun that attaches to the top of the can. Trust me, your finger will not last, so this is worth the price and you will love it.
- Use a painting mask for safety - here's an inexpensive, 10-pk of respirators with valves for painting odors.
Up close, you can see the cover is still a bit mottled. My daughter thought it looked like those photographers backdrops that are supposed to be that way, so I'm going with that.
I think it looks 100% better. Actually, a million times better than green mold on faded gray.
Especially for just a few dollars.
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Painted Outdoor Umbrella Updates
I didn't add any protective coating on the umbrella, but I've gotten three seasons of life from it with only the one painting!!
I simply cannot believe how that cheap spray paint has held up all these years - this is definitely a way to get more life out of an outdoor umbrella!
BIG NOTE: We did build a garage and were finally able to store it through the winter, which may have helped it last.
Look at this photo of our backyard and the umbrella from our 2016 Garden Tour right before we put our house up for sale:
That's a full FIVE years of use from a couple cans of paint!!
Yes, it's more mottled looking. I could've painted it again, but by now it did have holes and we were just waiting until we moved to finally toss it. I still think it's better than the light faded gray, don't you?
This was a wonderful surprising result from my painting experiment - you CAN paint a faded outdoor umbrella and they DO last - with no top coating and just basic spray paint!
What to do when it's time to actually get rid of your patio umbrella?
You have a couple choices:
- Buy a new one (obviously). My favorite have a crank to open the umbrella and a tilting head like this one or this one.
- Buy just a replacement cover that fits your pole. Here's a 9 foot option (be sure to count how many ribs your pole has).
Let me know if you've used paint on a faded outdoor umbrella, too, and how it worked for you!
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