How To Clean Outdoor Furniture

With the warmer weather here, we cannot help but fantasize about summer barbeques, al fresco lunches and lounging on our decks and patios. But before we can enjoy the weather, the dreaded task of outdoor cleaning must be completed!

I know that most of us hate cleaning (or have a penchant for not doing it), but ultimately love the feeling of a clean home – whether it’s an indoor or outdoor space. With a few basic cleaning recipes and tools you likely already have at home, cleaning the furniture can be a breeze (now that patio season is in full swing). Here is a quick how-to guide that will have your patio furniture looking spiffy in a jiffy.


To start, you’ll need double-sided non-scratch scrub sponges and a scrub brush. The recipes involve vinegar, castile soap and water. These ingredients keep the yard safer for the “users” of your lawn (small insects, birds household pets), and it won’t discolor or rust your furniture like certain chemicals can.

Read more about using food scraps to help your garden thrive

Plastic, Resin Wicker, Steel/Metal and Fabric Outdoor Furniture Cleaning Recipe

½ cup of castile soap
1 cup of vinegar
2 gallons of warm water

Mix these ingredients together in a large bucket and fill a clean spray bottle with the solution. Prior to applying the solution, use a scrub brush to loosen dirt or debris by gently brushing off anything easy to remove from the surface (it will mean less scrubbing later on). Remove any cushions - these will be cleaned separately. Spray the solution liberally onto each piece. Let the mixture sit on the furniture for a few moments (5-10 minutes). If the solution has dried, re-spray the area.

For woven pieces such as resin wicker, use the scrub brush to 'brush out' the dirt. Rinse the sponge often so that dirt is not re-distributed back onto the furniture. Hose the pieces down until all suds are gone to avoid any lingering residue on the furniture. Then, let the sun do the rest and air-dry them beautifully for you. 

Teak, Wood and Wicker Furniture Cleaning Recipe

1 tablespoon of castile soap
1 gallon of warm water

For teak and wicker furniture, try a gentler method. Use a dry scrub brush to quickly dust off any loose debris. Then, dip the clean scrub brush into the bucket and gently scrub away the dirt and debris, being especially careful not to scrub too hard on the wicker (or else it can lose its shape). Hose the surface off when done to remove all bubbles and residue. Only apply oil to teak if the manufacturer's instructions call for it. Usually to maintain the amber glow it needs to be re-oiled about twice annually; if not, it becomes weathered and silvery.  

Cleaning rugged cushioned pieces with permanent covers

First, brush any debris off with the dry scrub brush. Spray the solution onto the cushions liberally and allow it to sit for 15 minutes. This will allow the product to saturate the material and break down dirt. Wipe soiled areas well with the non-scratch sponge to agitate and lift the dirt up. Use a cellulose sponge so that it can lift the dirt up without ruining the fabric of the cushions (a scouring pad could). Ensure both sides have been cleaned this way. After 15 minutes have passed, hose down both sides of the piece and lay it flat to dry in the sunshine. Flip the cushions over when the top is dry so that the bottom side can dry as well. If the covers cannot be washed down for whatever reason, take a shop-vac out and vacuum up debris to keep it clean. When necessary, stains can be spot cleaned with warm, soapy water and a clean cloth.

Cleaning cushions with removable canvas slipcovers

These can be cleaned twice a season. Remove slipcovers and place in the wash with regular laundry detergent on a regular cycle. When the slipcovers come out of the wash (i.e. do not place in the dryer), place them back onto the cushions to re-shape and stretch the covers out. This is an important step to ensure that the cushion covers maintain their shape.

Cleaning outdoor pillows and cushions

These pillows and cushions can be cleaned annually, usually at the beginning of the season. Most are machine washable (if they fit into the washer). Launder on a gentle cycle and tumble dry on low. Toss a couple of tennis balls in the dryer to help beat out the excess moisture and promote quick drying.

Cleaning outdoor umbrellas

If you notice mildew on the umbrella, act fast and clean it well to prevent more growth. The simple way to accomplish this is to brush off as much mildew as possible using a scrub brush and then spray the umbrella with a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water on the affected area.  Leave it for 30 minutes to soak. Take a clean scrub brush and remove the remaining mildew from the umbrella by gently scrubbing. Hose it down when done to remove the solution and mildew. Re-spray the area with the vinegar and water solution to protect against mildew build up and repeat this monthly. (In fact, this is a safe solution that can be sprayed on all outdoor furniture to keep mildew away.)

If no mildew is present, clean the umbrella at the beginning of the season by brushing off any loose debris, spraying the interior and exterior well with the solution, soaking it for 15 minutes and then hosing it down. Leave it open to dry for at least a (sunny) day.

Read more about chemical-free household cleaners you can make at home

For regular maintenance, nothing more than a quick spray from the garden hose once a week is all that is needed to maintain the furniture throughout the season. Keep your furniture, your lawn, and your own little ecosystem clean by employing these simple patio furniture cleaning techniques!

Image: Chris Clogg

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By Melissa Maker| May 02, 2015
Categories:  Live
Keywords:  Cleaning GreenLive

About the Author

Melissa Maker

Melissa Maker

Melissa is passionate about making living environments cleaner and greener. She has been featured in newspapers and televisions shows. Melissa has even been featured as an expert in eco-friendly cleaning tips and techniques in interviews and speaking engagements. Melissa is the owner and operator of Clean My Space, which focuses on cleaning condo suites for busy urbanites. Melissa’s clients and staff are encouraged to use green cleaning products and techniques whenever possible and she is always researching new products and techniques to share with readers.

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