How to Clean Outdoor Furniture

Person wiping a wicker chair with a sponge
Last Updated November 6, 2023

Outdoor garden furniture gets dirty sitting out in the elements. The cushions are exposed to rain, wind, dust, leaves, bird droppings, and even rodents and insects. Lack of regular maintenance of your outdoor couches, cushions, and frames can age your furniture quickly, so maintaining your patio furniture’s longevity with regular cleaning is necessary.

But with so many garden furniture materials, ranging from metal to plastic to wood, it is difficult to know how to clean your outdoor furniture and cushions properly. Use our following expert tips to clean different patio furniture types.

Preparing for Cleaning

Cleaning outdoor furniture requires a great deal of time and effort, as well as a number of tools and cleaning products. To make cleaning patio furniture more efficient, gather all these items in advance. Here is what you’ll need:

  • Garden hose
  • Bucket
  • Soft-bristle brush and sponge
  • Mild detergent
  • Towel
  • Vinegar or bleach
  • Protective sealant or outdoor furniture oil for wood items

We also advise that you stretch out your body before cleaning outdoor furniture as this task requires a great deal of bending and twisting.

How to Clean Outdoor Cushions

Patio furniture covered for weather outside

Cover your garden furniture during rain, as well as during winter and fall, or store your cushions indoors to maintain their integrity. High humidity, rain, and snow will render outdoor cushions vulnerable to mold and mildew.

Do the following to clean your outdoor cushions:

  • First check the care instructions for your specific cushion or fabric type.
  • Follow manufacturer instructions. Most fabric covers can be removed and machine-washed according to the label.
  • Treat mold problems—on cushions without removable covers—with 1/2 cup bleach. Dilute with one gallon of water or use a spray bottle filled with full-strength white vinegar.

How to Clean Metal, Iron, and Aluminum Outdoor Furniture

Metal patio furniture set

Stainless steel and wrought iron are popular patio furniture materials because of their durability and heft. That being said, rust is quite common with metal furniture kept outside. If you face this problem, rub the corroded areas with steel wool or a ball of crumpled-up aluminum foil to remove the oxidation. Consider applying rust-resistant paint to this area to reduce future problems. If you just want to clean the dirt and grime off your metal furniture, here is how:

  • Wipe off any loose dirt or dust with a soft cloth.
  • Create a cleaning solution by mixing mild dish soap with warm water.
  • Clean the furniture with soapy water using a soft brush or sponge.
  • Use clean water and thoroughly rinse.
  • Dry with a cloth to prevent water spots.

How to Clean Plastic and Hard-Resin Outdoor Furniture

Person cleaning plastic patio chairs with a sponge

Plastic and resin outdoor furniture is the most straightforward material to clean, but will still take significant time and effort. Do not use abrasive scrubbers on plastic because they could scratch the material. Here is how to clean your plastic or resin furniture:

  • Begin by removing loose dirt and debris with a brush or cloth.
  • Mix a solution of mild dish soap mixed with warm water.
  • Use the soapy water to scrub the furniture with either a sponge or soft brush.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water and allow it to air dry.

Treating Teak and Other Woods

Woman staining wood patio furniture

Teak starts out a golden-brown color and naturally weathers into a silver-gray tone. Recognize that the silver-gray tone is natural and you won’t get back the original color through cleaning.

To clean your teak or other wood furniture, you’ll also need to get a protective sealant or outdoor furniture oil in advance to ensure you get the best results possible. Once you have this ready, do the following steps:

  • Remove loose dirt with a brush or cloth.
  • Mix a solution of mild soap or wood cleaner with warm water.
  • Gently scrub the furniture with the soapy water using a sponge or soft brush.
  • Add a small amount of bleach to your cleaning solution for any visible mold.
  • Rinse well with clean water and allow it to dry completely.
  • Apply a protective sealant or outdoor furniture oil to maintain the wood's integrity.

How to Clean Mesh Fabric Patio Chairs

Upholstered outdoor furniture is soft and comfortable but gets dirty quickly. The safest way to clean fabric patio chairs is with warm water and dish soap. If you can find a tag on the upholstery, this should offer more specific cleaning tips based on the type of fabric you’re dealing with.

In some cases, you may be able to remove the fabric and launder it in the washing machine. Let the fabric air dry to avoid damaging it in the high heat of the dryer. Consider applying a water-repelling product after cleaning to help your outdoor fabrics last longer.

How to Clean Wicker

Person wiping wicker patio furniture with microfiber cloth

Wicker is a woven construction technique typically made from plant-based fibers such as rattan, bamboo, seagrass, or synthetic plastic. These materials require care while cleaning or you might harm them. To clean wicker patio furniture, do the following:

  • Vacuum or brush off loose dirt and dust.
  • Create a solution of mild soap and warm water.
  • Use a soft brush or cloth to clean the wicker with the soapy water, making sure to reach all the crevices.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water and allow it to air dry.

Help When You Need It

You’re likely feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of cleaning your outdoor furniture, but don’t worry—the pros at Molly Maid are here to help with the rest of your home. Our work is backed by the Neighborly Done Right Promise™, guaranteeing your satisfaction. We’re ready to tackle the toughest chores, so you don’t have to.

To request a free estimate in your area, please contact your local Molly Maid today.