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The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Patio Furniture

Castlery   |   Jan 24, 2024

Outdoor furniture adds comfort and style to your outdoor spaces, making them perfect for relaxation, gatherings, and leisurely activities. However, exposure to the elements can take a toll on your furniture's appearance and longevity.

To ensure your outdoor furniture remains in tip-top shape, regular cleaning and maintenance are essential. In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through effective (and often-neglected) techniques to clean various types of outdoor furniture materials so you can enjoy the beauty of your urban outdoor oasis for years to come.

Assessing the debris and damage

Before you embark on your patio furniture-cleaning expedition, it's crucial to take stock of the situation. Examine each piece for signs of wear, mould, rust, or any other issues that may require special attention. Identifying these challenges from the outset will guide your cleaning strategy and ensure no surprises pop up along the way.

Recommended read: Mould on Furniture: Causes, Removal, and Prevention

Knowing your outdoor material

Patio furniture comes in a myriad of materials, each with its own cleaning approach. From teak to wicker, understanding the nuances of your furniture's construction is key. Let’s take a look at how you should be cleaning each type of outdoor material:

How to clean wooden outdoor furniture

Wooden outdoor furniture exudes a natural charm and sophistication, but it requires special care to maintain its allure and prevent deterioration.

Supplies needed: Soft-bristled brush, mild soap or wood-specific cleaner, microfibre or soft cloth, sandpaper (if needed for deeper stains)

Cleaning technique: Begin by removing surface dirt and debris with a soft brush or a cloth. For stubborn grime, a mixture of mild soap and water works wonders. Scrub gently in the direction of the wood grain. Dry the wood furniture thoroughly to prevent any mould or mildew growth.

Stain removal: Address stains promptly with a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar. For more persistent stains, a baking soda paste can be effective. You can also lightly sand the affected area and reapply the cleaning solution. Sanding helps restore the wood's surface and removes any blemishes.

Sealing and protecting: Apply a quality wood sealant or protective oil to shield your furniture from the elements. This not only enhances its appearance but also prolongs its lifespan.

A teak dining table set decorated with a table runner, candles, and plates. The Rio Teak Dining Table Set features high quality teak wood. Picture credits: @homewithchrissym

How to clean wicker outdoor furniture

Wicker is a style of weaving, not a material itself. It can be crafted from various materials such as rattan, bamboo, or synthetic fibres like resin wicker. Understanding the type of wicker used in your furniture is crucial, as different materials require slightly different cleaning approaches.

Recommended read: Rattan vs Cane vs Wicker

Let’s take a look at how to clean wicker furniture:

Supplies needed: Soft brush or vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment, mild soap or wicker cleaner, soft cloth, a toothbrush or small brush.

Cleaning technique: With its intricate weaves, wicker furniture often harbors dust. Use a soft brush or the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to remove dust and debris from the crevices. For stubborn and lodged dirt, use a toothbrush to gently scrub in a circular motion, being careful not to unravel the weave.

Soap and water solution: A mild soap and water solution is ideal for cleaning wicker. Use a soft cloth or sponge to gently scrub the surfaces.

A wicker 2-seater sofa, lounge chair, and coffee table. The Malta Outdoor Lounge Set features a curved wicker frame. Picture credits: @peonyandhoney

How to clean metal frames and legs

Metal outdoor furniture, such as aluminium, wrought iron, and steel, is known for its durability and sturdiness. Despite this, it's still important to clean it regularly to prevent dirt build-up and rust.

Supplies needed: Mild soap or all-purpose cleaner, soft sponge or cloth, wire brush or sandpaper (if needed for rust removal)

Rust removal: Metal furniture, especially if it's not rust-resistant, may develop rust over time. Use a wire brush or sandpaper to remove rust, and then apply a rust-resistant primer and paint to protect against future corrosion.

General cleaning: A mild detergent and water solution can be used for routine cleaning. Wipe down the metal surfaces with a soft cloth to maintain their shine.

Aluminium care: If your furniture is aluminium, avoid abrasive cleaners. Instead, use a mixture of water and a gentle dish soap for cleaning. For added protection, apply a coat of car wax to create a barrier against the elements.

A dining chair with its seat cushion removed to reveal an aluminium frame. The Sorrento Dining Chair features a black aluminium frame.

How to clean resin wood outdoor furniture

Resin wood is not technically plastic, but is often considered a type of composite material that combines wood fibres with a synthetic resin.

While it has some properties of both wood and plastic, the cleaning process for resin wood furniture is usually more akin to caring for traditional plastic furniture than solid wood. Here's how you can clean resin wood furniture:

Supplies needed: Soft brush or sponge, soft cloth, mild soap, white vinegar

Simple soap and water: A mixture of mild soap and water is usually sufficient for regular cleaning. Dip a soft brush or sponge into the soapy water solution and delicately scrub the resin wood surfaces.

Mould and mildew removal: A water and white vinegar mixture serves as a gentle yet effective solution for cleaning and preventing fungal growth.

A resin wood tabletop with six dining chairs. The Sorrento Dining Table features a resin wood tabletop, while the Sorrento Dining Chairs have an aluminium frame. Picture credits: @sunday_collector

How to clean outdoor fabric and upholstery

Patio furniture isn't just about frames and legs – it's also about the cushions that cradle you in comfort. Keeping outdoor fabrics in pristine condition prolongs the longevity of the furniture without needing replacements. Here’s how to clean outdoor fabric and upholstery:

Supplies needed: Mild detergent, white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide (if needed for stain or mildew removal), soft brush, microfibre cloth, fabric protector (if weatherproofing upholstery)

Spot cleaning: For fabric cushions, promptly attend to spills by blotting rather than rubbing. Use a mixture of mild detergent and water for spot cleaning.

Mildew removal: If mildew appears, create a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Apply to the affected area, let it sit, and then use a soft-bristled brush to scrub gently.

Weatherproofing: Consider applying a fabric protector or waterproofing spray to shield cushions from the elements. This preventive measure goes a long way in maintaining the vibrancy and longevity of your outdoor fabrics.

Two black 2-seater sofas atop a black area rug on a patio. @lynetteyoder_ creates a tropical outdoor oasis with the Maui Outdoor 2-Seater Sofas and Ventura Jute Area Rug.

Outdoor furniture maintenance tips

Prevention is the best cure, and nowhere is this truer than in the realm of outdoor furniture. Beyond the regular cleaning routines, maintaining the longevity and aesthetic appeal of your patio furniture involves thoughtful care and preventive measures.

Let’s explore a range of maintenance tips that ensure your outdoor oasis remains inviting and resilient against the elements.

Use protective outdoor covers

Shielding your patio furniture from the harsh elements during off-seasons is crucial for preventing weathering, fading, and potential damage. That said, invest in quality, weather-resistant furniture covers. Ensure they fit snugly to provide comprehensive protection against rain, snow, and UV rays.

Two outdoor lounge chairs covered by outdoor furniture covers under an umbrella shade. Outdoor furniture covers help to protect your outdoor pieces from the elements.

Do routine inspections

Detecting and addressing issues early can prevent small problems from turning into major headaches. Regularly inspect your furniture for signs of wear, loose bolts, rust, or other damage. Tighten screws, address rust spots promptly, and replace worn-out components to maintain structural integrity.

Consider UV protection

Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause fading and deterioration of materials. Other than furniture covers, consider applying UV protectants or sealants to your furniture, especially for wood outdoor furniture and fabric cushions. This helps maintain colours and prevents sun-related damage.

Avoid direct contact with ground

Ground contact can lead to moisture absorption and faster degradation of materials. Elevate furniture, especially wooden pieces, slightly off the ground using furniture pads or risers. This reduces direct contact with moisture and minimises the risk of decay.

Store during harsh weather

Extreme weather conditions, such as heavy storms or winter freezes, can take a toll on outdoor furniture. Consider storing your patio furniture in a garage, shed, or covered area during harsh weather conditions. If space is limited, at least cover the furniture with protective tarps.

Regular cleaning and maintenance are essential to preserving the beauty and longevity of your outdoor furniture. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can enjoy your outdoor oasis to the fullest, whether it's wooden or wicker furniture. With the right care, your outdoor furniture will continue to provide comfort and style for years, enhancing the charm of your outdoor spaces.

FAQs

How to clean teak outdoor furniture?

Cleaning teak outdoor furniture is similar to cleaning regular wood furniture. The only difference is using teak oil after the cleaning process to maintain its natural beauty and protect it from the elements.

Recommended read: A Guide to Cleaning Teak Outdoor and Patio Furniture

How often do I need to clean outdoor furniture?

Regular cleaning is essential. Aim for a thorough cleaning at the start and end of the season, with periodic spot cleaning as needed.

Can I use bleach to clean patio furniture?

While some outdoor furniture is more resistant to the effects of bleach, such as plastic, it is still not recommended to use such harsh cleaners as they can weaken the integrity of the furniture. It's better to use mild soap and water which can still effectively remove surface dirt without the potential risks associated with bleach.

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