Cleaning patio furniture can be a challenge.
Have you ever tried to clean a glass patio tabletop? It's an exercise in futility.
You wipe it, it dries, and streaks appear. Dirty streaks. You wipe it again, it dries, and the dirty streaks multiply.
The same types of challenges arise with other patio furniture - you're battling Mother Nature here, after all!
Here are the 11 dirty little secrets to mastering the art of cleaning patio furniture.
Most cushions today 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):
Fortunately (or maybe wisely), outdoor furniture is constructed to take abuse - and soil - which makes cleaning patio furniture a breeze for the most part.
If your patio furniture is near a pool or spa, hose it down once a week - chlorine will damage most patio furniture finishes.
Wash aluminum with mild liquid detergent; rinse and dry. Coat with automotive wax every six months.
Warning: 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.
Resin patio furniture doesn't require much care to keep it looking good:
Teak is a popular choice for outdoor furniture because it weathers well, no teak oil required. To clean outdoor teak furniture, use a mild soap solution and a soft brush. Rinse well.
Keep teak furniture in the sun because dampness will cause mildew.
Wicker patio furniture only needs to be cleaned about once a year, unless you have spills (ha!). For natural wicker, first tip the chair to one side and vacuum it well.
Then wash it with a solution of mild detergent and water, using a toothbrush to get at those hard-to-reach spots. Rinse the wicker furniture with a garden hose and towel dry. Let it sit for 24 hours before using.
Clean outdoor wooden furniture at least once a year. Wash it with a mild detergent and scrub brush. Store it indoors over winter if possible.
Wash wrought iron with soapy water; rinse and towel dry. Wax or polish it twice a year.
Touch up any rust spots immediately. During winter, either bring wrought iron indoors or cover it.
Cotton hammocks soak up water like a sponge. When you first bring them out in the 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. Never use bleach on these natural relaxers - it will rot the fibers.
Outdoor patio furniture tables are really hard to clean flat. The trick to cleaning a patio 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!).
To really clean an outdoor umbrella, you'll need to take it apart and put the top part back into the stand so that it's within reach. Then, crank the umbrella open and wash it with a liquid cleaner and a sponge.
If your umbrella is vinyl, use the detergent made for convertible car tops. It works wonders on these sun-beaten skin-savers. Dry the umbrella open in full sun for a day or two. Never put an umbrella away even slightly damp. That's a recipe for mildew.
Now that you've got the cleaning down, go care for your outdoor investment!