Brightly painted wood lawn chairs.

How To Clean Outdoor Furniture The Right Way

Emma Tomsich5-minute read
UPDATED: November 08, 2022

Wandering barefoot into your yard and settling into a comfortable Adirondack chair with a cold drink feels like the quintessential summer experience. But walking outside and finding that your furniture has been used as a bathroom by neighborhood birds? That’s not part of the fantasy.

Outdoor furniture is the perfect way to enhance your outdoor living space. But it’s important you care for it properly so you can host guests and make the most of your outdoor oasis. Protect the investment you made in this furniture by keeping it clean and ready to use. How you do that depends on what pieces you own. We’ll give you all the tips necessary for cleaning outdoor furniture the right way.

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What To Use As Outdoor Furniture Cleaner

Depending on what your outdoor furniture is made of, you’ll need to use specific products for cleaning. We’ll break this down in the next section, but for now, here are the best products and materials needed for cleaning mildew, mold and other invasive substances.

  • Garden hose
  • Cloths; some furniture will require a damp cloth, but others will need a microfiber dusting cloth.
  • DIY cleaning solutions; these will vary based on the type of furniture. The most common cleaning solution is a mixture of water and mild dishwashing detergent. Another is made by mixing water and a mild, oil-based soap. To make the next cleaning solution, mix 1 teaspoon of dishwashing detergent, 1 quart of warm water and 1 teaspoon of Borax in a spray bottle. A more natural cleaning solution is a simple mixture of half-water and half-white vinegar.
  • Soft brush
  • Vacuum with crevice tool or other attachment
  • Pressure washer
  • Wire brush
  • Fabric protector
  • Regular glass or window cleaning solution
  • Sponge

Tips For Cleaning Outdoor Furniture 

We spoke to professionals and gathered tips for keeping the furniture on your front porch or in your backyard clean and tidy, based on the material the furniture is made of.

Plastic Furniture

Plastic outdoor furniture is usually pretty easy to clean and doesn’t require a lot of special care. “Use a damp cloth to wipe the plastic furniture with a mixture of water and mild washing detergent,” says Theodore Beasley, a professional landscaper at Landscaping London in Britain. “Use a garden hose to rinse with water and let it dry.”

Wood Or Wicker Furniture

Just like your indoor wood furniture, cleaning outdoor wicker, wood or teak furniture calls for extra care. If furniture is just dusty, try wiping it down with a microfiber dusting cloth, or run a dry soft brush over it. You can even haul your vacuum outdoors and use a crevice tool or other attachment to get dust and dirt out of the nooks and crannies.

But when wicker, wood or teak gets really dirty, you can get a little tougher.

“Make a solution of water and mild oil-based soap,” Beasley says. He recommends using a soft brush to gently scrub the solution into the furniture. “Rinse with water and let the chairs and table dry completely.”

Clean wood, wicker and teak furniture the right way by keeping crevices clean and using the right cleaning equipment and strength.

Metallic Furniture

Wrought iron furniture can stand up to being hit with a hard blast of water, so some people opt to pressure wash it. If you go this route, set your pressure washer to its lowest setting before turning the hose on it. If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can use the most powerful setting on your garden hose.

“You can also clean it manually with a solution of water and mild dishwashing detergent,” Beasley says.

Use the same mixture of water and detergent or liquid dish soap to clean aluminum furniture and wipe down with a soft cloth or nonabrasive brush.

Aluminum furniture, especially older pieces, are prone to oxidation. If you see any patches of reddish-brown rust, you can try scrubbing with a wire brush — but test the brush on a hidden patch of the metal first to make sure you won’t do more harm than good.

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Fabric Materials

Outdoor cushions are usually made of synthetic material and treated to resist fading and mildew. As a result, they’re typically durable and stand up to being scrubbed clean. If your cushions have removable covers, remove the pillow forms before you start working on the fabric itself.

When cleaning the fabric, use the above-mentioned solution of borax, dishwashing detergent and warm water and leave on the fabric for a few minutes.

Beasley echoes that advice, suggesting using a garden hose to rinse off the solution after about 15 minutes. Hosing down the fabric will also remove any traces of dirt or debris still clinging to the fibers. Let the fabric dry in the sun.

“Finish by spraying with a fabric protector,” Beasley says. If your cushion covers are removable, he says you can even try ironing them using a low setting.

Check the manufacturer’s instructions before cleaning fabric furniture and accessories. Outdoor cushions aren’t all made of the same fabric and therefore can’t all be washed the same way. Additionally, some fabric, like canvas, can even be machine washable.

When it comes to outdoor fabrics, don’t forget about table umbrellas, which bear a lot of the brunt of the wind and sun. Those should also be cleaned, according to instructions on the label.

Cleaning Glass 

Use the same technique to clean outdoor glass tables that you use to wash windows or other glass surfaces indoors. If tables are really dirty, you might want to first spray them with a garden hose to loosen debris. From there, spray on a mixture of water and dishwashing detergent or dish soap. You can also stick with a simple mixture of half-water and half-white vinegar. Scrub the table using a soft sponge or microfiber cloth and rinse with clean water.

Once the table is free of dirt, you can use a regular glass or window cleaning solution to take care of streaks. Make sure to clean the underside of the table, too. And remember to scrub in-between crevices.

How Often Should You Clean Your Lawn Furniture? 

You can’t always anticipate when a perfect summer evening will happen or when friends will unexpectedly stop by to visit on the patio.

Depending on what type of outdoor furniture you have and how prone it is to getting dirty, how often to clean your furniture will likely vary.

We recommend cleaning after inclement weather or whenever the space is messy. Try to do a quick sweep and wipe before entertaining guests or using your outdoor furniture. Quick, frequent cleans will prevent larger deep cleans in the future.

Keep your outdoor furniture ready to use by investing in fabric covers. They’re typically simple to maneuver so you can easily throw them on furniture when you’re not using it. Treating your outdoor furniture well during the off-season helps keep it looking new longer.

You should also consider storing your furniture during the off season to better protect it from winter elements. This can extend their lifespans, meaning you’ll have to replace them less often.

The Bottom Line: Do Your Outdoor Furniture Cleaning Right

By now, you have everything you need to keep your outdoor patio furniture clean in the summer and all year-round. If you’re interested in revitalizing your living spaces by purchasing new pieces, look at the best furniture stores to freshen up patios and other areas of the home.

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Emma Tomsich

Emma Tomsich is a student at Marquette University studying Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations. She has a passion for writing, and hopes to one day own her own business. In her free time, Emma likes to travel, shop, run and drink coffee.