How to Clean Outdoor Furniture

How to Clean Outdoor Furniture

Maintaining outdoor furniture can be a daunting task, especially when you have to deal with various materials and unexpected stains. Fear not! This guide will walk you through the best methods to clean and care for your outdoor furniture, ensuring it remains inviting and durable for years to come.

Why Cleaning Outdoor Furniture is Essential

Outdoor furniture endures a lot—sun, rain, wind, and even the occasional bird dropping. Regular cleaning not only improves the appearance of your patio or garden but also extends the life of your furniture. Over time, dirt and grime can degrade materials, leading to discoloration, weakening of the structure, and ultimately, the need for replacements.

A clean set of furniture can transform your outdoor space, making it a welcoming area for relaxation and entertainment. Whether you’re hosting a summer barbecue or simply enjoying a quiet evening, well-maintained furniture enhances the overall ambiance. Plus, it reflects well on you as a homeowner who takes pride in their living spaces.

Additionally, cleaning outdoor furniture can prevent the buildup of allergens like pollen, mold, and mildew. This is particularly important for those with allergies or respiratory issues. By keeping your furniture clean, you contribute to a healthier outdoor environment.

General Cleaning Tips for All Outdoor Furniture

Before diving into the specifics for different materials, let’s cover some universal tips that apply to all types of outdoor furniture:

  • Regular Dusting: Use a soft cloth or a vacuum with a brush attachment to remove dust and loose debris. This simple step can prevent the buildup of dirt and grime, making deeper cleaning sessions easier and less frequent.
  • Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Stick to mild soapy water for most cleaning jobs. Harsh chemicals can damage finishes and materials. For instance, bleach can discolor fabrics and corrode metals, while ammonia-based cleaners can strip the protective coatings from certain surfaces.
  • Protective Covers: Invest in good-quality covers to protect your furniture from the elements when not in use. Covers act as a barrier against rain, sun, and snow, significantly reducing the wear and tear on your furniture.
  • Spot Test: Always test cleaning solutions on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure they won’t cause damage. This is especially important for materials like fabric and painted surfaces, where unintended damage can be costly to repair.

Regular maintenance, including these general cleaning practices, will save you time and money in the long run by reducing the need for extensive repairs or replacements.

Cleaning Metal Furniture

Metal furniture, including aluminum, steel, and wrought iron, is popular for its durability and classic look. However, it can be prone to rust and corrosion if not properly maintained.


  • Cleaning Solution: Mix mild dish soap with warm water.
  • Procedure: Use a soft cloth or sponge to wipe down the furniture with the soapy water. For tougher stains, use a non-abrasive scrubbing pad. Regular cleaning prevents oxidation, which can dull the metal’s finish.
  • Rinsing: Rinse thoroughly with a hose and dry with a soft towel. Avoid leaving water to air dry as it can leave spots and encourage oxidation.
  • Protection: Apply a layer of car wax to protect the surface and maintain its shine. This creates a barrier against moisture and pollutants, extending the life of your furniture.

Steel and Wrought Iron

  • Cleaning Solution: Similar to aluminum, use mild soap and water.
  • Procedure: Scrub with a soft brush to remove dirt and rust. For rust spots, use a rust remover or a mix of vinegar and baking soda. Pay extra attention to joints and crevices where rust is likely to form.
  • Rinsing: Rinse well and dry immediately to prevent rust. Drying is crucial as lingering moisture can lead to rust formation.
  • Protection: Touch up paint chips with rust-resistant paint to keep your furniture looking fresh. Consider using a rust-inhibiting primer before repainting to provide extra protection.

Metal furniture is an excellent choice for outdoor spaces due to its strength and durability, but it requires regular upkeep to prevent rust and corrosion. By following these cleaning and maintenance tips, you can keep your metal furniture looking great for years.

Cleaning Wooden Furniture

Wooden furniture adds a natural charm to any outdoor space but requires specific care to avoid damage from moisture and sunlight.


Teak is a popular choice for outdoor furniture due to its natural resistance to water and pests. However, it still needs regular maintenance to retain its beauty.

  • Cleaning Solution: Mix water with a teak cleaner or mild soap.
  • Procedure: Use a soft bristle brush to clean along the grain of the wood. Avoid using hard brushes or scrubbing too vigorously, as this can damage the wood fibers.
  • Rinsing: Rinse with water and let it air dry. Do not use high-pressure water, as it can strip the wood of its natural oils.
  • Protection: Apply teak oil to maintain its natural oils and prevent drying out. This helps keep the wood looking fresh and prevents cracking or splintering.

Other Woods (e.g., Cedar, Pine)

Other types of wood used in outdoor furniture, like cedar and pine, also require careful maintenance.

  • Cleaning Solution: Mild soap and water usually suffice.
  • Procedure: Gently scrub with a soft brush. Avoid soaking the wood, as excessive moisture can cause swelling and warping.
  • Rinsing: Rinse thoroughly and dry completely. Leaving wood wet can lead to mold growth and rot.
  • Protection: Apply a water-repellent finish to protect against moisture. Consider using a UV-resistant sealant to prevent sun damage and fading.

Wooden furniture adds warmth and elegance to outdoor spaces, but it needs regular care to withstand the elements. By cleaning and protecting your wooden furniture, you can enjoy its natural beauty for many years.

Cleaning Plastic Furniture

Plastic furniture is lightweight, affordable, and easy to clean, making it a favorite for many homeowners.

General Cleaning

  • Cleaning Solution: Mix dish soap with warm water.
  • Procedure: Wipe down with a soft cloth or sponge. Regular cleaning prevents the buildup of dirt and grime, which can make plastic look dingy.
  • Rinsing: Rinse thoroughly and dry with a towel. Avoid leaving water to air dry, as it can leave streaks or spots.
  • Stubborn Stains: Use a paste of baking soda and water or a non-abrasive cleaner. For more persistent stains, consider using a specialized plastic cleaner.

Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew can be a problem for plastic furniture, especially in humid climates.

  • Cleaning Solution: Mix white vinegar with water.
  • Procedure: Spray the solution on the affected areas and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before scrubbing with a brush. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and helps kill mold spores.
  • Rinsing: Rinse thoroughly and dry. Ensure the furniture is completely dry to prevent mold from returning.

Plastic furniture is an excellent choice for its versatility and ease of maintenance. With regular cleaning, you can keep it looking new and extend its lifespan.

Cleaning Fabric and Cushions

Cushions and fabrics can be the most challenging to clean due to their exposure to outdoor elements and the potential for mold and mildew.

Removable Covers

Removable covers make cleaning easier, but they still require proper care.

  • Cleaning Solution: Check the manufacturer’s instructions first. Generally, a gentle cycle with mild detergent works well.
  • Procedure: Remove covers and machine wash. Avoid using bleach or fabric softeners, as they can damage the material.
  • Drying: Air dry to prevent shrinkage. Using a dryer can cause the fabric to shrink and lose its shape.

Non-Removable Cushions

Non-removable cushions need a different approach.

  • Cleaning Solution: Mix mild soap with water.
  • Procedure: Use a soft brush to scrub the fabric. Focus on areas with visible stains or dirt.
  • Rinsing: Rinse with a hose and let it air dry in the sun. Sunlight helps kill bacteria and freshens the fabric.
  • Stubborn Stains: Use a fabric cleaner or a mixture of vinegar and water. Apply the solution and scrub gently until the stain is gone.

Cushions and fabrics add comfort and style to your outdoor space, but they need regular cleaning to stay fresh and inviting. By following these tips, you can keep your outdoor cushions looking great and extend their lifespan.

Cleaning Glass Tabletops

Glass tabletops are elegant but can easily show fingerprints, water spots, and other marks.

General Cleaning

  • Cleaning Solution: Use a commercial glass cleaner or a homemade solution of vinegar and water.
  • Procedure: Spray the cleaner on the glass and wipe with a microfiber cloth. Microfiber is effective at removing streaks and lint.
  • Stubborn Spots: For tough spots, use a mixture of baking soda and water applied with a sponge. This gentle abrasive can remove stuck-on debris without scratching the glass.

Dealing with Scratches

Minor scratches can be buffed out with a glass repair kit or a mixture of toothpaste and baking soda.

  • Procedure: Apply the paste to the scratch and rub gently with a soft cloth. This can minimize the appearance of scratches and restore the glass’s smooth surface.

Glass tabletops add a touch of sophistication to outdoor spaces, but they require regular cleaning to maintain their clarity and shine. By keeping them spotless, you enhance the overall aesthetic of your outdoor area.

Seasonal Maintenance Tips

To keep your outdoor furniture looking its best year-round, follow these seasonal maintenance tips:


  • Deep Cleaning: Start with a thorough cleaning to remove winter grime. Use the tips mentioned above for each type of furniture.
  • Inspection: Check for any damage or rust that needs addressing. Repair or replace any broken parts to ensure your furniture is safe and ready for use.


  • Regular Maintenance: Wipe down furniture weekly to prevent the buildup of dirt and pollen. This simple routine helps keep your furniture looking fresh.
  • Cushion Care: Store cushions when not in use to prevent fading and mildew. Use a storage box or indoor space to keep them dry and clean.


  • Pre-Winter Cleaning: Clean and dry furniture before storing it for the winter. Removing dirt and moisture prevents damage during storage.
  • Covering: Use protective covers to shield your furniture from harsh weather. Covers help protect against snow, ice, and cold temperatures.


  • Storage: Store furniture in a dry, sheltered place if possible. Garages, sheds, or basements are ideal storage spots.
  • Protection: For items that must stay outside, ensure they are properly covered and off the ground to avoid water damage. Elevate furniture with bricks or pallets to prevent direct contact with wet ground.

Seasonal maintenance is essential for preserving the appearance and longevity of your outdoor furniture. By following these tips, you can ensure your furniture remains in top condition, ready to enjoy whenever the weather permits.


Cleaning outdoor furniture may seem like a chore, but with the right approach and tools, it can be a manageable task that greatly extends the life and appearance of your pieces. By following these tips and maintaining a regular cleaning schedule, you’ll be able to enjoy your outdoor space in comfort and style for many seasons to come.


1. How often should I clean my outdoor furniture? 

It’s best to clean your outdoor furniture at least once a month during the active use seasons (spring and summer) and perform a deep cleaning at the beginning and end of these seasons. Regular cleaning helps prevent the buildup of dirt and prolongs the life of your furniture.

2. Can I use a pressure washer on my outdoor furniture? 

While pressure washers can be effective, they can also damage certain materials like wood and softer plastics. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations before using a pressure washer. For metal and hard plastic, use a low-pressure setting to avoid damage.

3. What’s the best way to prevent mold on outdoor cushions? 

To prevent mold, store cushions in a dry place when not in use, and ensure they are completely dry before storage. Regular cleaning and using a mildew-resistant spray can also help. Consider using breathable cushion storage bags to keep them dry and mold-free.


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