How To Clean Patio Furniture The Right Way

Nothing says summer like spending time in your outdoor space. But before you and your family can enjoy sipping coffee on your porch, barbecuing on your patio, or roasting smores around your backyard fire pit, you'll need to start by cleaning patio furniture first.

So to help you keep your patio furniture in pristine condition, we're highlighting the best ways to clean metal, fabric, wood, and plastic outdoor furniture.

How Often Should You Clean Outdoor Furniture?

To keep your patio furniture looking its best, you'll want to clean it two to four times per year: once at the beginning of summer, once at the end, and perhaps one or two times in between, depending on how much you use it. Between deep cleans, you'll want to regularly wipe up spills and do a bit of routine cleaning to avoid stains and long-term damage.

What Is The Best Way To Clean Outdoor Furniture?

Unfortunately, there's no single answer for how to clean patio furniture, as each material requires a slightly different cleaning method to keep it in tip-top shape throughout the year. Below, we've broken down how to clean patio furniture made with the following commonly-used materials: wood, metal, plastic, and outdoor fabrics.

Regardless of what material your outdoor furniture is made from, you'll want to regularly brush or wipe off any loose dirt, food, and grime that collects on your patio furniture during everyday use. Additionally, you may want to vacuum out the crevices and underside of your outdoor pieces to get rid of cobwebs, insects, and other stubborn debris.

While regular cleaning does require a bit of effort, a little TLC now means less scrubbing and long-term damage later on and keeps your furniture looking fresh between deep cleans. Remember to wear gloves and proper eye protection if you're using a power washer or harsh chemicals.

Metal Patio Furniture

The biggest problem with cleaning metal or wrought iron patio furniture is rust. While most metal patio furniture is made of wrought iron or stainless steel coated with a rust-resistant finish to protect against oxidation and water damage, rust can still accumulate after constant exposure to the elements.

After hosing off any loose dust with some clean water, you can use a bit of steel wool to remove oxidation. Be sure to scrub gently to avoid scratches. To prevent rust from coming back in the future, you may want to repaint your furniture with a thin coat of water-resistant finish every few years.

Plastic Patio Furniture

In addition to being one of the most affordable patio furniture options, plastic furniture is also one of the easiest types to clean. The low-maintenance material can be hosed off using a garden hose or pressure washer on a regular basis to remove dust, dirt, and other debris.

To remove any remaining dirt that's still caked-on, you can wipe your plastic furniture with a soft cloth, paper towel, or sponge dipped in a bucket of warm water mixed with a few drops of dish soap, mild detergent, or multi-purpose cleaner. Additionally, you can use shaving cream and an old toothbrush to remove scuff marks and power away dirt in hard-to-reach areas and small crevices.

One of the most important cleaning tips for plastic outdoor furniture is to avoid using abrasive cleaners that can scratch the smooth surface and ruin the appearance of white or colored plastic.

Wood Patio Furniture

Wood, teak, and wicker furniture shouldn't be power washed, as the high water pressure can damage the soft wooden material. Instead, you'll need to use warm water, a gentle cleaning solution, and a little elbow grease to get the job done.

To remove more serious stains, residue, and signs of wear, you may want to lightly sand your wooden furniture with a piece of sandpaper from time to time. Additionally, it may need to be restained every few years to give it new life, prevent staining, and provide added protection from mother nature.

Wicker

Thanks to its versatility and durability, all-weather wicker (also known as HDPE wicker) is one of the most common materials for outdoor chairs and tables. To clean wicker furniture, scrub it in small circular motions with a soft-bristled brush dipped in soapy water. Afterward, you'll want to hose off the dirty water and soap and gently towel off excess water. Let the furniture air dry completely before replacing any cushions or pillows.

Teak

While it may be tempting to use teak oil on your outdoor teak furniture, doing so is strongly discouraged, as the oil can encourage mildew to grow. To avoid damaging the delicate wood, clean off build-up using a clean cloth dipped in warm water and a splash of white vinegar. Instead of using circular motions, gently rub the furniture going with the grain of the wood. Immediately rinse off the entire piece of furniture using a regular pressure hose and wipe away any standing water.

Outdoor Cushions and Fabrics

First things first, it's imperative to use pillows, cushions, and other fabric decor designed specifically for outdoor use. Unlike indoor fabrics, these durable fabrics are typically made using synthetic materials that are water-repellant, machine-washable, and specifically designed to withstand constant sun exposure. Ideally, you should bring your cushions and other fabric items inside between uses, especially during inclement weather like heavy rain or snow.

Taking care of most cushions is relatively easy. Most cushion covers can simply be removed and tossed in the washing machine to remove stains. Instead of tossing them in the dryer, leave them to air dry outside. Be sure to read the cleaning instructions on the care label to ensure you don't accidentally shrink or damage the fabric.

Outdoor Umbrellas

To clean your outdoor umbrella, simply mix a gallon of warm water with a small amount of detergent or mild soap. Then, using a soft-bristled brush, scrub in small circular motions to loosen up dirt and grime. Leave the cleaning agent to sit for fifteen to twenty minutes before hosing the umbrella off thoroughly.

Outdoor Tables with Glass

Before cooking, barbecuing, and eating at your outdoor table, you'll want to remove any dirt from the tabletop. Many dining and end tables have a glass surface that can be cleaned with a microfiber cloth and any basic glass cleaner. Remember to avoid using any abrasives that can scratch the glass.

Should You Cover Patio Furniture Every Night?

While cleaning outdoor furniture is undoubtedly important, protecting your patio furniture is equally as necessary to help keep it in good shape. To keep your furniture looking good for longer, you'll want to cover it in between uses. This is especially important if you live somewhere with extreme weather conditions. While it may be a bit of a pain to bring your cushions inside or take your furniture covers on and off every day, it can dramatically extend the life of your patio furniture and save you money in the long run.

Additionally, you'll want to bring your patio furniture in during the winter months or rainy season. If you let your furniture sit outside for too long during wet weather, it may rot or grow mold.

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