Outdoor furniture is durable, not indestructible. There’s a few thing you need to know to keep outdoor furniture clean. While outdoor furniture is built to withstand the elements, that doesn’t always mean it makes it through the colder months without coming out a little disheveled. With a little tender loving care, your outdoor living spaces can be lounge ready for summers on end — no matter what the weather brings. We try to dedicate two days to cleaning our outdoor furniture each year, usually at the beginning of spring, when we set everything up, and in the fall, shortly before we pack up for the winter.
If you invest in even one annual cleaning, you’ll transform your outdoor space for the better. The most important part is selecting durable all-weather furniture, but after that these tips will keep your chairs, stools, umbrellas and tables looking fresh season after season.
General Tips for Taking Care of Outdoor Furniture
- Review your manufacturer’s care instructions. Care varies from product to product. You can usually find this information with the packaging, online, or you can contact the maunfacturer for more information.
- Use furniture covers whenever possible, especially during incremental weather, to preserve and protect your furniture. Many manufacturer’s make covers specifically designed for their products, but you can find generic covers here. Don’t forget to let your covers dry out completely before storing them as they can develop mold. You’ll want to clean your furniture covers periodically, as well.
- Consider moving furniture indoors when not in use for an extended period. We move all of our furniture inside during the extremely cold winter months, but it might not make sense to move your large pieces inside if you live in a mild climate. In that case, consider moving small pieces and cushions to a garage or shed to protect them from the elements when not in regular use.
- Utilize proper sealants whenever necessary and re-seal at least once per year.
- Vacuum outdoor rugs regularly and spot clean as needed.
- Use a dry, soft dusting cloth to clean all lighting. Don’t use household liquid cleaners or polishing agents on lighting as these can discolor or damage metal finishes.
How to Keep White Outdoor Cushions Clean (Or any color, really!)
Solution-dyed acrylic fabrics are your friend outside or in! This fabric withstands UV radiation, mold, mildew, and staining. We usually spray our cushions down with a little water when they are looking dingy or ¼ cup dishwashing detergent to 8 cups of lukewarm water if they’re really dingy. We recommend using Dawn dish soap for your detergent. Thoroughly clean all our outdoor cushions at the start and end of each outdoor season using these steps:
- Prepare a solution of 1 cup bleach and 1/4 cup dishwashing liquid per gallon (8 cups) of clean water.
- Spray on entire area and allow the solution to soak into the fabric.
- Scrub vigorously with a soft bristle brush, sponge, or clean towel.
- Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
- Allow fabric to air dry in a well-ventilated, clean, dry area.
- If stain and/or mildew persist, bleach quantities may be increased.
- Continue to spot clean with a gentle cleanser throughout the season.
How to Clean Wood Outdoor Furniture
Some outdoor woods fare better than others outdoors. Teak, acacia and eucalyptus are solid and resilient. But keep in mind, wood is impacted by the weather, just like in nature. Teak and acadia develop a silver patina, but that’s 100% okay! We strongly believe patina adds to the beauty of outdoor furniture.
If you prefer to keep a little bit or most the warmth of your wood, we recommend cleaning and oiling your furniture one to two times per year. This will also help prevent cracking. We use Watco Teak Oil in the spring to refresh our own teak furniture, and we oil our foldable wood chairs with Tung Oil.
For everyday maintenance, simply wipe away dirt using a damp, non-abrasive cloth. For stubborn spots, use a cleansing solution of ¼ cup dishwashing detergent and 8 cups of lukewarm water.
How to Clean Metal Outdoor Furniture
Steel and aluminum are one of the easiest materials to care for outdoors, but are susceptible to rust. A rag and soapy water will usually do the trick. If you discover rust, use a silicone spray, like this, too lubricate. Never use bleach or chlorides on aluminum as they could lead to staining and pitting. You’ll also want to avoid abrasive cleaning pads or concentrated alkaline base solutions.
How to Clean Stone and Ceramic Tables
We love our indoor/outdoor composite coffee table but it does require a little maintenance to use it outside. For stone tables, apply a sealer every three to six months to give the surface extra protection. If you notice the temperature dropping, it’s a good idea to bring your piece inside to avoid a natural reaction like cracking. To clean, simply use a soft-bristled nylon brush or soft cloth to wipe away dust and debris. Blot surface with a few drops of a neutral pH cleaner or mild liquid dish washing detergent and warm water. But rinse the surface thoroughly after washing with the soap solution, as too much cleaner or soap may leave a film or cause streaks. Do not use products that contain lemon, vinegar or other acids. For everyday care, use coasters, trivets or placemats to protect the finish.
How to Clean Rattan & Wicker Outdoor Furniture
As like many of our favorite things, rattan is admittedly a little high maintenance. Rattan is often described as wicker, but there is actually a big difference between the two. Rattan is a material, while wicker is a weaving technique. While strong, natural wicker furniture made from rattan is susceptible to the elements. We recommend keeping natural rattan indoors or under a covered porch, unless you’re using it temporarily for a dry afternoon outdoors. However, sometimes we bend our own rules! We couldn’t resist the beauty of a rattan planters outside, so we tucked ours under a slightly covered area for a little protection. It shows notable patina, but we are okay with that.
If you love the look of rattan, but don’t want to maintenance. There are a ton of great of all-weather wicker furniture available, like our egg chair.
For wicker and similar frames, wipe with a soft, dry cloth in the direction of any rows rather than diagonally, which can force debris under the woven material. When dust and debris is left to accumulate it can grind into the furniture fibers, causing unnecessary wear and dirty discoloration. A vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment can help dislodge and remove any soil within the weave.