How To Clean A Canvas Awning (Step by Step Guide)

Having a canvas awning is great, especially for hot summer days when you want to sit on the deck without being cooked alive. They are also helpful when you are barbecuing, and it starts to rain. You can even sit out on the deck and watch it storm if you want to. But eventually, they get dirty.

How are you supposed to clean them?

Cleaning a canvas awning is not a difficult job if you spray it down with a hose once in a while to keep it from getting too dirty. You can use a high-pressure washer or a soft bristle brush to keep it fairly clean in between major cleanings, which should be done once every two or three years as needed.

If your canvas awning is protected by a warranty, make sure you follow the instructions laid out by the manufacturer. Some awnings have a coating on them that require special cleaning or a certain type of cleaning solution. If you use the wrong cleaner, you could violate your warranty.

How To Clean A Canvas Awning

1)Gather Everything You Are Going to Need

Make sure you gather everything you need before you get started. It can be a real hassle if you get up on the ladder with your cleaning materials and find that you forgot something. Then you have to climb back down and gather even more things, leaving your job half-finished. Here are the items you will typically need for cleaning your canvas awning.

  • A soft bristle brush
  • Broom
  • Clean cloth or towel
  • Large bucket
  • Hose
  • Plastic covers or tarps
  • Ladder
  • Cleaning solution
  • Some kind of fabric protecting spray like Scotchgard

2)See if Your Awning Can Be Removed

Check to see if you can safely remove the awning for easier cleaning. For a small or medium-sized awning, you may be able to unsnap or unhook the canvas and clean it on the ground. That would be a lot easier than cleaning it on a ladder. However, make sure you know how to put it back on before taking it off.

3)Make a Cleaning Solution

Most canvas awnings can be cleaned with mild liquid soap and water. However, you can use a bleach solution for mold, mildew, and other tough stains. Be careful when using bleach though. You do not want to get it in your grass or on your outdoor furniture or house.

Use tarps or plastic covers to protect anything you have that you cannot move out of harm’s way.

If your awning was already on your home when you bought it and you have no idea what it is made of or if you have a warranty, mild liquid soap and water is your best choice. Do not use bleach unless it is diluted enough not to cause fading of the fabric. The preferred solution is made of:

  • ¼-cup of mild liquid soap
  • One gallon of cool water
  • One cup of non-chlorine (color safe) bleach if needed

Quick Tip: Always test your cleaning solution on the awning prior to application. Test in an inconspicuous area to verify that the solution won’t damage the material.

4)Get Rid of All of the Dirt and Debris on Top

Use the broom to gently brush off any dirt or debris from the top of the canvas. You would be surprised how much can accumulate up there over the years. Cobwebs, twigs, sticks, leaves, etc. all need to be removed before applying the cleaning solution with the cloth.

5)Apply the Cleaning Solution

Use the clean cloth or towel to spread the cleaning solution over the entire awning. Make sure to clean and wring out the cloth every few minutes so you get enough cleaning solution on the whole thing. You can rub it lightly as you go, but your main focus is to cover the entire area with the cleaning solution.

Let the cleaning solution sit on the awning for about 15 to 20 minutes. Take a break or spend the extra time making sure the cleaning solution has not gotten on anything it is not supposed to. Or just sit back and enjoy the view from under your awning while you wait.

6)Scrub with a Scrub Brush or Broom

Standing on a ladder, use the scrub brush or broom to scrub the canvas. Do not be too hard on it but you should scrub hard enough to get the dirt and grime off. If there is any mold or mildew, you may have to scrub harder or use a bit more cleaning solution. Also, if any of the awning dries before you scrub it, soak it again in the cleaning solution before scrubbing it.

7)Rinse with a Hose or Pressure Washer

Many awning companies or manufacturers will tell you that you cannot use a pressure washer on your canvas awning. If that is the case, it is best not to use it. However, most pressure washers on a low setting are acceptable. If you do not have a pressure washer or cannot use it, just use your hose with a sprayer attached to it. Rinse the entire awning.

8)Apply the Cleaning Solution Again

If there are any spots you missed or if the awning is still dirty, make some fresh cleaning solution, grab another cloth or towel, and soak it again. This time use more solution and leave it on for 30 minutes. Take a break while you wait for it to soak into the canvas again.

9)Scrub it Again

Once again, scrub the awning canvas with a scrub brush or broom. Make sure you put a little elbow grease into it this time. You do not want to have to repeat the process a third time, right? Scrub it and continue to add a bit of cleaning solution as needed.

10)Rinse it Again (if needed)

Go ahead and rinse it again using the pressure washer or hose with a sprayer. Hopefully, all the spots will be gone, and you can go ahead and let it dry. Take the time to clean the deck or patio material while you wait.

11)Treat Your Canvas

When the awning was first placed on the house, it was treated with some type of fabric protector like Scotchgard. After the awning has dried completely, apply a water and stain-resistant fabric protector. Make sure it is approved by your warranty if you still have one. If not, any commercial-grade fabric protector is fine.

Soak the entire canvas. You may need to use two applications for the best coverage. Follow the instructions on the bottle.

What Is It Made Of?

Even if your canvas awning just says that it is made of canvas, you should do your best to try and find out exactly what material it is made of. Most often it will be made from cotton blend canvas or an acrylic polyester blend.

Learning what specific fabric you are dealing with can make cleaning a lot easier. However, if you don’t know, just treat it like it is a cotton blend or acrylic-coated polyester.

Performing Regular Maintenance

To prevent mold, mildew, and tough stains, be sure to spray down the awning at least once a month. Just use a hose with a sprayer to remove dirt and other organic material that can cause mildew or mold.

Once a year, perform the cleaning again to keep it clean and fresh. You should not have to worry about stains if you continue to clean it once a month.

Awning Care

Awning fabric may be constructed from natural materials such as hemp, linen, and cotton, or synthetic materials like vinyl or acrylic. Knowing the particular material that your awning is made of will ensure that you effectively clean your awning without harming it.

The table below outlines some cleaning suggestions based on the fabric type and specific stain you may be dealing with.

General CleaningLaundry or mild dish soap and cold water or Commercial Canvas CleanerLaundry or mild dish soap and cold water or Commercial Acrylic CleanerMild dish soap and cold water or Commercial Vinyl Cleaner
Cooking Grease



Dish soap and cold water or Commercial CleanerDish soap and cold water or Commercial CleanerDish soap and warm water or Vinyl Commercial Cleaner


Dish soap or acetoneDish soap or acetoneDish soap
Latex PaintDish soap and waterDish soap and waterDish soap and water
Oil PaintCommercial paint, grease or oil removerCommercial paint, grease or oil removerDish soap
Leaf Tannins and OilsOrganic stain remover,

ammonia and water or bleach and water

Organic stain remover,

ammonia and water or bleach and water

Organic stain remover,

ammonia and water

Fruit StainsDish soap and 3-6% ammonia mixture in waterDish soap and 3-6% ammonia mixture in waterDish soap and 3-6% ammonia mixture in water
MildewBleach and dish soap solution in waterBleach and dish soap solution in waterVinegar and water or an appropriate commercial cleaner
Algae StainsHydrogen peroxide mixed in waterHydrogen peroxide mixed in waterMixture of 30% vinegar and 70% water
Tree PitchTurpentine and dish soapTurpentine and dish soapGrease remover or rubbing alcohol
RustCitric acid or vinegar or oxalic acid with waterCitric acid or vinegar or oxalic acid with waterCitric acid or vinegar or oxalic acid with water
Bird DroppingsMild dish soap and waterMild dish soap and waterMild dish soap and water