Between weather, food spills, and birds flying overhead, outdoor furniture can be tough to maintain. However, with the right techniques and cleaning solutions, you can easily rejuvenate your patio set back to like-new status. Even if you have older beat-up pieces, you can improve their appearance with a little TLC.
Check out some of our favorite tried and true tips on how to clean patio furniture. You can thank us later when you’re enjoying some lemonade on your freshly cleaned outdoor lounge chair.
To get started, thoroughly vacuum each piece of furniture with a Shop-Vac. Next, find cleaning instructions based on the type of furniture and outdoor accessories you own.
Cleaning Patio Furniture by Type:
White Plastic Furniture
Create a solution by mixing one gallon of warm water with three tablespoons of dishwashing detergent, using a soft brush or sponge to clean the plastic. Leave this on for 15 minutes, and then give it a good rinse and let it dry. It’s important to note, though, that this works well for white plastic because the detergent contains bleach. It should not be used on colored plastic.
Colored Plastic Furniture
Colored plastic furniture can be simply cleaned with an all-purpose cleaner and water. Don’t let the cleaner sit too long on the furniture, since the sunlight mixed with leftover residue will speed up the fading process.
Before cleaning, vacuum your wicker furniture to remove any traces of dirt and debris that may be stuck in between the nooks and crannies. Then, mix one-fourth cup of liquid dish soap with two cups of warm water, wiping the wicker with a soft cloth and rinsing away suds with a hose. If mold or mildew remains, add white vinegar to the solution, using a toothbrush to scrub it away.
Metal is often overtaken by oxidation, so remove as much as possible by scrubbing your furniture with polishing paste of a one-to-one solution of water and white vinegar. To remove scuff marks, wipe with a soft cloth and a non-abrasive cleaning product, such as Soft Scrub. For maximum protection, coat your furniture with automotive wax in between cleanings.
For wood, use a mild oil-based soap (such as Murphy Oil Soap) and warm water. If your furniture is made out of softwood, only scrub in the direction of the wood grain. If you have hard wood, you may want to consider sanding it annually and applying a protective stain finish.
Cleaning Outdoor Patio Accessories
Once you’re finished cleaning the main components, next you’ll need to clean all the extra accessories that make a patio feel comfortable and welcoming. Here’s how to keep these common patio extras clean:
If your glass tabletops are covered in melted candle wax (citronella candles can get messy!), remove the wax with a little rubbing alcohol. For general cleaning, using a standard glass cleaner. Just make sure you use a microfiber cloth or paper towel — since scrub brushes can scratch up the glass. And don’t forget to clean the underside of your table, since that can accumulate a lot of build-up over time.
Before cleaning your cushions, mix together one quart warm water, one teaspoon borax and one teaspoon dishwashing detergent in a spray bottle. Generously saturate the cushion, letting it sit for about 15 minutes. Then use a hose to spray the soap off, leaning up upright to dry. To finish, spritz your cushions with a fabric protector in order to keep it safer longer.
In most circumstances, canvas cushion covers or swing awnings can be removed and placed in the washing machine for a good clean (check the label for specific directions). If not, clean with a brush and Fels-Naptha laundry soap, which works well to remove bird droppings or stains.
Because umbrellas are often exposed to the harsh elements — and aren’t always left to fully dry — they are a common home of mold and mildew. Remove the canopy from the umbrella if you can and place it on a protective tarp. If not, open it as is and lay it down carefully. Harsh soaps will damage the finish of your umbrella (which has already been worn down by the sun), so swap them out for a gentle laundry detergent. Once it’s been washed and rinse, wait until it is fully dry before reattaching it.
Expert Tip: It’s important to note that the acid in bird droppings ruins fabric, so it’s best to remove these stains as soon as possible.
4 Natural Cleaning Alternatives for Outdoor Furniture
Although store-bought cleaners are effective, they can also release harmful chemicals into the environment (and your home). Here are some natural cleaning alternatives as you consider what you’ll use to clean your patio furniture:
1. Liquid Detergent
To replace store-bought dish soap or detergent, mix together three-fourths of a cup of washing soda, three-fourths of a cup of Lemi Shine, one-fourth cup baking soda, and one-fourth cup sea salt.
2. Carpet Refresher
Outdoor carpets tend to retain many odors over time. To refresh your rug, mix a half cup of borax (which also kills unwanted bugs), one cup of baking soda, and about 15 drops of your favorite essential oil in a container. Then, sprinkle it all over your carpet and let it sit for about 15 minutes, vacuuming it up at the end.
3. Grapefruit Scrub
To naturally remove any buildup on your furniture, you only need two ingredients: grapefruit and salt. Simply take half of a grapefruit and cover it with salt. Next, wet your surface, sprinkling more salt where it’s damp. You can then scrub the grime with the grapefruit, rinsing away the pulp and salt when it’s clean. And make sure you rinse well to avoid attracting bugs!
4. Wood Polish
Stir together one lemon, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a tablespoon of water — which you can then pour onto a cloth and use to wipe down your furniture.
We hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to clean patio furniture. Set aside fifteen minutes in the evening once the sun isn’t directly overhead to tackle your dirty outdoor set. Let us know how it went in the comments.