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how to clean patio furniture

Have you ever tried to clean the dusty film off an outdoor patio table?

It's an exercise in futility. You wipe it, it dries, and streaks multiply.

The same type of challenges arise with other outdoor patio furniture. You're battling Mother Nature here, after all.

These 11 tips for cleaning outdoor furniture will help you keep your pieces looking good for the outdoor season ahead.

1. how to clean patio furniture cushions.

Most outdoor furniture cushions have synthetic covers and polyester fill and are designed to withstand the elements. Still, they could use some help if you'd like them to last for the long term (or at least a few seasons).

Here's how to take care of polyester-coated cushions with polyester fill (cotton, foam-filled, and floral acrylic covers require different care).

clean patio furniture cushions weekly.

  • Turn patio furniture cushion often for even wear and sun exposure, just like you do your couch cushions. 
  • Avoid getting sunscreen on patio furniture cushions. Hose off spills or sunscreen smears immediately.
  • For stubborn stains, use a spray enzyme cleaner. Set the cushions on their ends in the sun until they are completely dry.
  • If you detect mildew, put the cushions on an outdoor surface. Saturate with a solution of 1 cup of bleach, 3 gallons of warm water, and 1/4 cup of laundry detergent. Let the wet cushions sit in the sun for several hours. Rinse. Let them dry in the sun for several days if necessary to dry.
  • Be sure to wash away any remnants from the outdoor season before storing cushions for the winter. Set stains are nearly impossible to remove. 
  • Store clean patio furniture cushions in plastic bags for the winter.

2. clean patio furniture weekly when in use.

The problem with "outdoor living rooms" is that they get dirty a heck of a lot faster than the indoor ones.

Fortunately (or maybe wisely), outdoor furniture is constructed to take abuse - and soil.

If your outdoor furniture is near a pool or spa, hose it down once a week. Chlorine can damage most finishes, so your goal is to make sure it doesn't have time to set on your furniture.

If your patio furniture is near the pool, make an extra effort to clean patio furniture regularly - at least weekly.

3. cleaning aluminum patio furniture.

Wash aluminum patio furniture with mild liquid detergents; rinse and dry. Coat aluminum patio furniture with an automotive wax every six months. Be aware that sunscreens can stain aluminum and many other kinds of outdoor furniture. If you're wearing sunscreen, protect the chair you're sitting in with a towel.

4. cleaning resin patio furniture.

Resin patio furniture doesn't require much care or cleaning. Yay! Wash it with a mild soapy solution, hose it off, and towel dry. Avoid products with ammonia coming into contact with your resin patio furniture; instead use a diluted bleach solution for stains. Polish resin furniture with car wax to give it a clean, shiny finish.

5. cleaning teak patio furniture.

Teak patio furniture is popular because it weathers so well. Do not use teak oil on outdoor furniture, however, because it will act as a magnet for dust, dirt, and anything else that will stick. Buff teak furniture with a mild soap solution and a soft brush. Rinse well. Keep teak patio furniture in the sun, as dampness will cause teak furniture to mildew.

6. cleaning wicker patio furniture.

Clean wicker furniture once a year unless you have spills (ha!). For natural wicker, first tip the chair to one side and vacuum it well. 

Then wash with a stain removal solution of mild detergent and water, using a toothbrush to get at those hard-to-reach spots.

Rinse clean with a garden hose. Towel wicker furniture dry, and let it sit for 24 hours before using.

Polish wicker furniture with furniture polish occasionally. Natural wicker will rot in the sun, so place it in a shady spot, or beneath your umbrella.

Never cover wicker with plastic because it will trap moisture and encourage mildew. Wash synthetic wicker furniture in soapy water, and then rinse and dry. You can polish it with a spray-on polish.

7. cleaning wood patio furniture.

Wash wood patio furniture regularly with a mild detergent using a scrub brush. Store it indoors over winter if possible.

8. cleaning wrought iron patio furniture.

Clean patio furniture of wrought iron with soapy water; rinse and towel dry. Wax or polish it twice a year. Touch up any rust spots immediately. During the winter, either bring wrought iron indoors or cover it.

9. cleaning hammocks.

Cotton hammocks soak up water like a sponge.

When you first bring them out in spring, spray them with a water repellant to minimize water retention.

To clean hammocks, lay them flat and scrub them with a solution of hand dishwashing detergent in warm water using a nylon scrubber. Rinse and clean the other side. Rinse again and hang to dry.

10. cleaning outdoor patio tables.

Outdoor tables are really hard to clean flat. The trick to cleaning an outdoor table is to turn it on its side (very carefully, if you're dealing with glass), and hose it down first.

Then wipe it off with a sponge dipped in soapy water. Hose again. Then wipe dry. If you can't turn it sideways, move the chairs back and hose from the traditional angle (but it might take a couple of tries.)

11. cleaning patio umbrellas.

To really refresh a patio umbrella, take it apart and put the top part back into the stand so that it's within reach.

Crank the umbrella open and wash it with a liquid dish detergent solution and a sponge.

If your umbrella's vinyl, use the detergent made for convertible car tops. It works wonders on these sun-beaten skin-savers.

Dry your patio umbrella open in full sun for a day or two. Never put patio umbrellas away even slightly damp. That's a recipe for mildew.

Visit the Clean Organized Home Store for the patio furniture tools and products you'll need for cleaning outdoor furniture.



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About the Author

Tara Aronson

Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.