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Alfresco living is one of the greatest joys of warm weather, but how important is it to clean your outdoor furniture? If it's been ages since you've seen the original color of your teak porch sofa, the good news is that it's an easy chore to add to your next weekend task list. Cleaning your outdoor furniture isn't as intuitive as cleaning your living room chairs or dining table—and how you clean it will depend on where it lives and the material it's made from.
If you don't have any cushions, your outdoor furniture can look brand new in just a few minutes. If you do have textiles (cushions or pillows), expect to spend a little more time scrubbing those down for a deep clean. Keep in mind that the exact materials and supplies will depend on what type of furniture you're cleaning.
Below, learn how to clean outdoor furniture whether your favorite set is made from wood, plastic, resin, or even specific types of iron and metal.
How Often Should You Clean Outdoor Furniture?
It's best to clean your outdoor furniture once every three months, so for a simple reminder, schedule a deep clean at the beginning of each season. Keep an eye on your furniture during spring, as excess pollen in the air may create the need for extra rinses each week.
Things You'll Need
- Gallon bucket
- Empty spray bottle
- Warm water
- Soft brush
- Clean rag
- Dishwashing detergent (cushions)
- Baking soda (resin furniture)
- WD-40 (resin furniture)
- Mild, oil-based soap (wood and wicker)
- White vinegar (metal or iron)
How to Clean Outdoor Furniture
Step 1: Start With the Cushions
If your patio furniture has cushions with removable covers, you're in luck. The washing machine will be your best bet for attacking seasons-long grime.
If your cushion covers aren't removable or you'd rather avoid the wash, mix one teaspoon of dishwashing detergent with a quart of warm water. Pour the mixture into your spray bottle, then spray thoroughly across the entire cushion. Let it dry for about 10 minutes before hosing the cushions off and air-drying them in the sun.
Step 2: Hose It Off
No matter what your furniture is made out of, the first step is to get all of the easy-to-remove dirt and grime off. Set the nozzle on your hose to a strong flow that can easily dislodge soil, dust, pollen, or sand (depending on the region you live in). If you don't have easy access to a hose or your furniture is placed in an enclosed porch, you can skip this step—but expect a deep cleaning to take a little more time.
Step 3: Choose Your Cleaner
The best cleaner for your outdoor furniture depends on the material it's made from. Wood furniture can be more difficult to maintain, as this natural, porous material requires additional steps to stay in tip-top shape. Iron and metal materials are easier—though you'll want to watch for signs of oxidation—while plastic and resin furniture is the most low-maintenance. Below, find specific steps for deep cleaning your furniture by material:
For wood or wicker furniture, the best way to clean stuck-on grime is with a mixture of warm water and an oil-based soap, such as Murphy Oil Soap. Gently rub the furniture down with a soft rag or sponge. If you have heavily soiled wicker furniture, you may need to use a soft brush, such as a toothbrush, to remove grime from crevices.
Plastic and resin outdoor furniture are not only incredibly popular, but they're also among the easiest types of outdoor furniture to clean. A mild cleaner works best to avoid scuffing or scratching the furniture. Start by sprinkling baking soda on the surface to create a mild abrasive to remove stains. Wipe it down with a washcloth and warm water. If you have a stubborn stain, distilled white vinegar is a great deep cleaning solution that won't harm the material.
Restore shine to your resin or plastic furniture by spraying on a coat of WD-40 and wiping the surface clean with a rag.
Cleaning Iron or Metal
If your once-beautiful iron patio furniture is oxidizing, a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water can help remove stains and blemishes before cleaning. After you've removed any imperfections, a gentle solution of dish soap and water will thoroughly clean your iron furniture without scratching the varnish. Overly abrasive cleaners can remove the rust-proof layer and expose your metal to the elements.
How to Keep Outdoor Furniture Clean Longer
Once you've cleaned your outdoor furniture, the best way to save time in the future is to make it more difficult for your patio set to get dirty in the first place. Investing in good-quality canvas covers for your outdoor pieces will help protect them from the elements and keep them clean. Between deep cleans, hose down your furniture with water weekly to monthly (depending on the season and the amount of dust or pollen building up).
To help protect your hardwood furniture, annually sanding and applying a coat of polyurethane or oil can help better protect it against the elements and make cleaning easier. For iron and metal furniture, plan to wipe down the surface with equal parts white vinegar and water at least once per year (even if you haven't noticed signs of oxidation yet).
How to Get Rid of and Prevent Smells on Outdoor Furniture
Mold and mildew are common agents that cause unpleasant smells on outdoor furniture. For wood furniture, add vinegar as needed to a solution of warm water and Murphy Oil Soap. Furniture made from iron, other types of metal, plastic, or resin is less susceptible to bad smells since it's constructed with less porous materials.
Your outdoor cushions may also be the source of musty smells. If the washing machine or mixture of dish soap and water isn't enough to remove odor, try spritzing the cushions with an even blend of distilled white vinegar and warm water in a spray bottle. Let the cushions dry in the sun, then repeat if necessary.
DIY Cleaning Solution
For a DIY outdoor furniture cleaning solution, mix one gallon of warm water with 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda. Scrub the area thoroughly with a scrub brush, and use an old toothbrush to reach small crevices between materials like synthetic rattan (made from plastic). To handle stubborn spots with mildew buildup, add 1 cup of ammonia to your cleaning mixture before scrubbing.