How To Clean Outdoor Furniture - Backyard Boss
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How To Clean Outdoor Furniture

Outdoor furniture is essential for patios and decks alike. Unfortunately, it is more exposed to the elements. It’s not just the sun and the weather that it has to contend with either. There are more things like dust, pollen, vegetation, and even bugs that could dirty up that furniture before it’s an outdoor season. And don’t forget the general wear and tear that follows people and pets around.

The good news is that the best patio furniture is designed to stand up to these conditions, and cleaning your outdoor furniture should be a breeze. Let’s learn how to correctly clean your outdoor furniture for a full summer of socializing outside.

Materials Needed

  • Bucket
  • Warm water
  • Detergent
  • Bleach (optional)
  • Stain remover (optional)
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Stiff bristled brush
  • Hose
  • Chamois
  • Zipper lubricant
  • Washing machine

All outdoor furniture is built differently with different materials. The following guide is a gentle and general cleaning process for all outdoor furniture.

Some materials require special care. Teak, for example, has a full maintenance rigmarole that can get quite complicated. And if you use the wrong products or incorrectly use them, you risk ruining the material. It means you’ll have to strip all the furniture back to bare wood and refinish it.

If you’re unsure, refer to the manufacturers’ instructions before using any detergents or stiff-bristled brushes on your furniture.

Step One: Remove Any Detritus

Collection of old leaves
Image credits: Jesse Dodds via Unsplash

First thing’s first, remove any vegetation or associated detritus that may have accumulated on your furniture. You can do this after you’ve removed the covers and while you’re removing the cushions.

If the cushions are fastened to the furniture (with push snaps, for example), remove them gently. They may have seized up over time.

Step Two: Remove The Cushions

Light blue garden furniture
Image credits: tzahiV via Canva

The cushions and their covers should be cleaned separately from the furniture itself. It ensures that any detergents you may use on the cushions don’t discolor the furniture.

Remove the cushions and put them aside. While you’re at it, you may remove the cushion covers as well.

Step Three: Spot Treat The Cushion Covers

Woman in Face Mask and Gloves Cleaning
Image credits: Narith’s Images via Canva

With the covers off the cushions, it’s a good time to spot treat any stains on the cushion covers. Use your preferred stain remover and add to any stains you want to remove. Set the covers aside. Leave the stain remover on while you follow the next steps.

Step Four: Scrub The Furniture

Hand size scrubbing brush
Image credits: webandi via Pixabay

With the cushions out of the way, it’s time to scrub. Fill a bucket with warm water (cold will work, but less effectively. Plus, it’s cold).

Add a few drops of your chosen detergent. Start with the soft-bristled brush and gently scrub any dirt off the furniture. If your furniture is wooden, it’s a good idea to scrub against the grain of the wood. It will wear the wood down less.

Scrubbing with the grain will open up grooves in the grain that will trap more dirt, later on, meaning you’ll have to clean the furniture more often.

Only use the stiff-bristled brush on tough stains that won’t come off with the soft-bristled brush.

Step Five: Rinse

Blue hose with water coming out
Image credits: gregkorg via Pixabay

Once you’re satisfied with your scrubbing, rinse the furniture with fresh water. You may have to scrub some more after you’ve rinsed. It is when you use your best judgment. If you give your furniture a good clean this time around, hopefully, you’ll only need to do this once a season.

Make sure any detergent is rinsed off the furniture, as the dried detergent can ruin the finish on your furniture.

Step Six: Dry

Stack of yellow towels
Image credits: Alexas_Fotos via Pixabay

Drying your furniture might seem like an unnecessary step, but you don’t want to ruin all your hard work by not drying it. Wet furniture will collect dust, which will turn to mud when wet.

Also, if you have ‘hard’ water, the calcium deposits will be left behind on the furniture when the droplets dry, leaving white marks everywhere. Drying prevents this.

Use a chamois (the drying utensil, not the animal) for this task. It is very absorbent and easy to use. Once most of the water is off, you can prop the furniture up in the sun to finish off the drying.

Step Seven: Wash The Covers

Washing machine in a laundry room
Image credits: PlanetCare
via Unsplash

Next up, those covers need a wash, too. This step depends on the material and type of covers that you have. Although most cushion covers nowadays are machine washable, so you can probably do that. As always, check the manufacturer’s instructions first.

Step Eight: Put It All Back Together

Tropical resort outdoor cushions
Image credits: Kanawa_Studio via Canva

Now comes the fun part, putting it all back together. If your cushions have snaps or zippers, apply some zipper lubricant to prevent them from seizing up over time.

Don’t worry! Your cushion covers have (probably) not shrunk. They are just designed to fit exactly on the cushions, so putting them back on can be a struggle.

It’s recommended to always cover your outdoor furniture with the provided covers when not in use. Most of us don’t, and that’s understandable, but covering your outdoor furniture will keep it looking fresher for longer. Alternatively, you could brainstorm some outdoor furniture storage ideas to keep your furniture in good shape.

Pro Tip: There’s no easy way to put cushion covers back on, and this doesn’t work with all pillows, but here’s a trick to make it less difficult.

Fold the cushion in half lengthways before inserting it into the cushion. You’re trying to make the bare cushion look like a hard shell taco.

Once the cushion is completely inside the cover and you let go, it should be a wee bit easier to wrestle the cushion into the corners. Good luck!

Wrap It Up

Whenever you’re cleaning something, it’s a good idea to start with the most gentle approach first. Use a soft-bristled brush and a mild detergent. Slowly increase the severity of your tools when you encounter tough spots, and stop when you’re satisfied.

The reason for this is that cleaning anything can be harsh, and if you choose the harshest approach every time, you’ll greatly reduce the lifespan of your furniture.

By following this approach, you’ll have clean furniture for many years to come.


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