Keeping patio furniture clean 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 outdoor pieces - you're battling Mother Nature here, after all!
Here are the dirty little secrets to mastering the art of cleaning patio furniture.
Most cushions today have plastic 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).
Hose down cushions occasionally. Turn them often for even wear and sun exposure, just like you do your couch cushions.
Avoid getting sunscreen on the cushions. Hose off spills or sunscreen smears immediately.
If you detect mildew, put the cushions on the driveway and saturate them 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.
Be sure to clean away any remnants from the outdoor season before storing cushions for the winter because set stains are nearly impossible to remove.
Store clean cushions in plastic bags (I use trash bags) for the winter.
Wash aluminum furniture with a few squirts of mild liquid detergent; rinse and dry. Coat with an automotive wax every six months.
Warning: Sunscreens that contain PABA 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.
This substance doesn't require much care. Wash it with a mild soapy solution, hose it off, and towel dry. Avoid products with ammonia, but use a diluted bleach solution for stains. Polish resin furniture if desired.
Teak is a popular choice for outdoor patio furniture because it weathers well. Do not use teak oil on outdoor furniture because it will act as a dust magnet.
Clean teak with a mild soap solution and a soft brush. Rinse well. Keep teak furniture in the sun because dampness will cause it to mildew.
Clean vinyl furniture with warm soapy water. Never use bleach because it can damage the finish, allowing the porous material to stain, fade, and weaken faster.
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 the winter, either bring wrought iron indoors or cover it.
These are 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!).