Outdoor furniture can transform your patio into an outdoor entertainment center, perfect for garden parties and private retreats. While these pieces are designed to withstand the beating sun and pouring rain, harsh outdoor elements can damage furniture.
There are several reasons why your patio furniture needs protection, especially during the summer. Know how to take care of your outdoor furniture to protect it through severe weather and the wear of time. Proper storage, monthly spot cleaning, and annual deep cleaning can make your furniture last for years to come.
Find out how to clean your plastic, wicker, metal, wood, teak, and fabric furniture below.
How to Clean Your Outdoor Furniture
How to your clean your furniture depends on what it is made of. Never power-wash your patio furniture or use corrosive cleaners like bleach unless directed by the furniture manufacturer. Whenever you are using a new solution, test it on a piece of the furniture that cannot be seen before using it on the whole piece.
Keep your outdoor furniture in good repair with a light cleaning at least once a month, even if it doesn’t look like it needs it. This can be as easy as wiping it down with a wet rag or dusting it off with a soft-bristle broom. If you see bird droppings, sap, or a stain starting to develop, clean the area immediately. Bird droppings can be corrosive and cause damage if not cleaned immediately.
- Rinse your furniture with a hose to wash off the first layer of dirt.
- Mix ¼ cup of gentle dish-washing liquid or mild detergent in a gallon of warm water.
- Scrub the furniture with a soft-bristle brush or sponge.
- Rinse and then leave your furniture in a sunny spot in your yard to dry.
Wicker and Synthetic Wicker Furniture
Before you start washing your wicker furniture, check to see if it is natural or synthetic. Natural wicker will chip and break over time so take extra care when washing. Only wash authentic wicker twice a year to keep the material from splintering and the glue joints from weakening.
How to Clean Authentic Wicker Furniture:
- Create a mixture of a few drops of mild soap in a gallon of water.
- Using only enough of the solution to dampen a soft cloth, gently scrub the furniture.
- Rinse thoroughly with a light, misty spray from your hose.
- Dry the wicker immediately with a soft towel.
How to Clean Synthetic or Resin Wicker Furniture:
Synthetic wicker (also called resin wicker) is much stronger than authentic wicker. With UV and weather resistant coatings, it will not splinter or fade over time. Simply wash this furniture down with a hose. If your furniture is very dirty, use a mixture of mild soap and cold water to scrub down your furniture. Dry it completely with a towel.
Most often, metal furniture is made of iron, steel, or aluminum. Since iron and steel rust, most metal furniture has a rust-resistant coating. But bird droppings can still destroy your furniture’s protective finish. Wash off any droppings as soon as you see them. You can use naval jelly or paste wax to protect it from corrosion and rust after washing with a mild soap solution.
If your furniture has rust or mold, use fine-grit sandpaper to remove it from the furniture. Wipe it clean with a soapy solution. If needed, apply touch-up paint in multiple thin coats. Give the paint time to dry between each layer.
If your wooden patio furniture has been coated with exterior-grade varnish, you can clean it with a solution of oil-based mild soap and water. Just a few drops of soap will do the trick!
Soft woods, like cedar, should be scrubbed with the direction of the wood grain. Wipe the furniture with a wet rag; never hose it down, this can cause mold and mildew. Dry it with a towel.
With most wood furniture, you should give it a coat of oil after cleaning, but check with the manufacturer first.
Teak is a type of tropical hardwood that makes stunning outdoor furniture, but it needs extra care. Dirt and grime that coat teak furniture can cause mildew to grow over time. To keep furniture in tip-top condition, scrub it with a solution that is made of equal parts of water and mild detergent.
Unlike most wood furniture, you shouldn’t oil teak. Oiling will trap moisture in the wood, which will cause mold.
Fabric Furniture and Cushions
Outdoor fabrics for patio furniture undergo chemical treatments to increase moisture and stain resistance. While these fabrics are hardy, that doesn’t mean you should leave them outside.
One rain storm can ruin cushions, making the padding clumpy and adding grime. Worse yet, if the water seeps down into the cushion padding, mold can start to grow.
If there is a chance of rain, you have a few options: bring your cushions and pillows inside, cover your patio furniture, or place your cushions and pillows in a cushion storage bag.
Outdoor fabrics are extremely durable but that doesn’t mean you can wash them any way you like. Before using a new solution on your cushions, test it in a small, unnoticeable section.
Spot-clean your cushions using a solution of ¼ cup mild detergent in a gallon of water. Do not machine wash or dry your pillows and cushions unless the manufacturer lists otherwise. Be sure pillows and cushions are completely dry before storage to avoid mold and mildew.
Clean fabric furniture such as cloth chairs and hammocks in your washing machine using a gentle cycle. To avoid shrinking your fabric, hang it outdoors to dry. Before it is completely dry, stretch it over the furniture frame.
Read How to Clean Outdoor Cushions for home-made cleaning solutions and in-depth instructions.
How to Store Your Outdoor Furniture
Whether you live in a mild or harsh climate, using patio furniture covers will prolong the life of your furniture and keep it looking like new. If you are planning to leave your cover on for an extended period of time, make sure you clean your furniture before covering it. This will help keep the cover itself clean on the inside, and reduce the work you'll have to do when you are ready to use your furniture again.
Tip: Whenever you aren’t using your patio furniture, keep it covered. Having covers handy whenever you aren’t using the furniture is a good idea whether it’s for the busy work week or while away on vacation. This will keep your furniture in tip-top condition.
How to Take Care of Your Patio Furniture Covers
Properly maintaining your patio furniture covers will help keep your furniture well-protected and clean.
Wash your covers using mild soap and warm water. Lightly scrub the cover with a soft-bristled brush. You could also invest in a fabric guard spray to keep your cover strong. Hang them out to air dry completely before putting them back on patio furniture or storing.
For easy storage, check out one of our cover storage bags to easily keep your cover out of the way when it isn't in use.