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How to Clean Your Outdoor Furniture

An outdoor furniture set beside an in-ground pool.
logonesia/Shutterstock

Outdoor furniture, like everything else out in the elements, gets dusty, grimy, and eventually needs a good cleaning to be ready for that home and garden magazine spread. Here’s how to spiff it up.

There’s more than one way to clean your outdoor furniture. How you go about it depends on the material your furniture is made of. Let’s look at how you can clean all your patio chairs and tables, even if they’re made of different materials.

Prep Your Work Area

All cleaning starts the same way—you need a debris-free cleaning surface. Brush off any dust, dirt, or leaves that have accumulated on your outdoor furniture. If you skip this step and just start cleaning, you might scratch some surfaces.

Rain can splash dirt on your furniture and, of course, regular usage means more grime. If you can, hose down your furniture to loosen any particularly stubborn debris. It’s okay to do this on wood, metal, plastic, and even most fabrics, if it’s meant to be used outdoors.

If you clean your outdoor furniture regularly, it will cut down the amount of work you have to do each time.

How to Clean Different Types of Furniture

The process for cleaning plastic resin lawn chairs is vastly different from the one for cleaning teak lounge chairs. Let’s take a look at different material types and how you can clean them effectively.

Plastic

Plastic furniture is the cheapest option, and it’s pretty easy to care for. You can wipe it down with a damp cloth and some dish soap or all-purpose cleaner. Don’t use anything abrasive, which could scratch the plastic.

If your plastic furniture is really grimy, you can use a power washer. Always use a low-pressure nozzle with a wider spray pattern. A high-pressure nozzle with a tight pattern might carve into the plastic, or flip the furniture over and damage it. It’s best to spray furniture on a flat surface and always spray away from your home and windows.

Metal

Metal furniture is generally easy to care for, although you have to watch out for rust. It usually comes with a rust-resistant coating, but that can wear off. If your metal furniture has gotten rusty, you can use some steel wool to clean it off, and then repaint it.

To clean stainless steel and wrought iron furniture, you can use mild dish soap with some water and a sponge. If your furniture has loose pain, don’t use a pressure washer on it, as this will peel it off. However, if you’re planning to repaint anyway, your power washer can help you strip the paint much faster.

Teak, Wicker, and Wood

Colorful deck chairs, sitting on a wooden deck.
Jelena Yukka/Shutterstock

Your power washer (and the low-pressure nozzle) can clean your hardwood outdoor furniture (like picnic tables) in a snap. However, you could easily damage softwood furniture, like wicker, with this cleaning style.

To hand clean hardwood furniture, like teak, use a mix of laundry detergent and water to sponge off the dirt. For wicker, use an old toothbrush to clean within the weave of strands.

Fabric

If you have removable seat covers on your patio furniture, you might be able to do some of your cleaning in the washing machine. Be sure to read and follow the care tag instructions. If there’s no tag, use warm water and some dish soap to handwash your fabric seat covers, and then hang them to dry.

For unremovable items, you can use the same soap and water mixture with a sponge. Your power washer can take care of the grimiest fabric pieces.

Follow the same instructions in the plastic furniture section but with an extra dose of caution: the intense blast of water will clean the fabric, but it can fray the fibers. Always test with a less intense spray pattern on the underside of the fabric-covered area before you proceed.

How to Deal with Mildew

It’s not uncommon for outdoor furniture to get mold and mildew on it. Between rainstorms and general high-humidity days in the summertime, your outdoor furniture—and cushions, especially—spend a lot of time damp.

You can use a brush to remove any surface mold from your furniture, and then clean it with white vinegar. Diluted bleach also removes mold, but it could discolor your furniture.

If the material is safe to power wash, add a little detergent to the reservoir (if your machine has one) and watch that mildew disappear in no time.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »

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