Outdoor patio furniture

Wandering barefoot into your yard and settling into a comfortable Adirondack chair with a glass of lemonade or a cold beer 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.

Protect the investment you made in outdoor furniture by keeping it clean and ready to use. How you do that depends on which type of furniture you own.

Fabric

Outdoor cushions are usually made of synthetic material and treated so they resist fading and mildew. As a result, they’re typically pretty 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.

“For standard outdoor cushions, I like to prepare my own cleaning solution,” says Brian Rhodes, of Daniel’s Lawn Service in Orlando, Florida. “In a spray bottle, mix 1 teaspoon of dish detergent, 1 quart of warm water, and 1 teaspoon of Borax. Spray down the cushions and let them sit for 15 minutes.”

Theodore Beasley, a professional landscaper at Landscaping London in Britain, echoes that advice. He suggests using a garden hose to rinse off the solution after 15 minutes are up. Hosing down the fabric will also remove any traces of dirt or debris still clinging there. 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.

“Canvas can usually be machine washed, but if it cannot be removed, a mild soap and a scrub brush works wonders,” said Rhodes. And table umbrellas, which bear a lot of the brunt of the wind and sun, should also be cleaned, according to instructions on the label.

Wicker or Wood

Just like your indoor wood furniture, cleaning outdoor wicker or wood 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 or wood 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.”

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 hose to loosen debris. From there, spray on a mixture of water and dish detergent, or 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.

Plastic

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 furniture with a mixture of water and mild washing detergent,” says Beasley. “Rinse with water and let it dry.”

Metal

Wrought iron furniture can stand up to being hit with a hard blast of water, so some people opt to pressure wash it. Set your pressure washer to its lowest setting before turning the hose on a piece of wrought iron furniture.

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

Use the same mixture of water and detergent or liquid 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 them 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.

Keeping Furniture Clean

You can’t always anticipate when a perfect summer evening will happen or when friends will unexpectedly stop by to visit on the patio. Keep your outdoor furniture ready to use by investing in fabric covers. They’re pretty easy to maneuver so you can easily throw them on furniture when you’re not using it. And treating your outdoor furniture well during the off-season helps keep it looking new longer.

“If you didn’t do so this year, consider storing your outdoor furniture away during the winter,” said Rhodes. “This will cut down on the amount of summer cleaning you will need to do.” Protecting pieces from the elements also extends their lifespans, meaning you can replace them less often.

Do you have any tips or tricks to cleaning your outdoor furniture? Share them with us in the comments section!

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