How to clean outdoor furniture for long-term use?

Proper care, cleaning and storage of outdoor furniture is an important part of keeping it looking its best and ensuring it lasts a long time.

Exposure to the elements can leave patio, patio and outdoor furniture dirty and damaged, but simple routine maintenance — including using outdoor furniture covers — will keep patio furniture looking good all year round and for many years to come. Moving on, with the help of experts, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about cleaning and maintaining outdoor furniture so that your outdoor space is as inviting as possible.

How to clean outdoor furniture?

Kelly Bradley, the patio dealer for The Home Depot, says, “While patio furniture is meant to be outdoors, protecting your set from the elements will help extend its life.” Bradley provides step-by-step instructions for cleaning outdoor furniture, pointing out that you should always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions if they are provided.

Melnor Rear Trigger Mouthpiece with 8 Cartridges

$10.98 at Home Depot

Use a garden hose with a spray nozzle to loosen the pieces and remove any dust and debris. Bradley recommends setting the mouthpiece on the strongest setting.

Dawn Ultra Original Scent dishwashing liquid

From $3.49 at Target

Dawn Ultra Original Scent dishwashing liquid

Mix ¼ cup liquid dish soap with water in a cleaning bucket. Do not use abrasives when cleaning garden furniture.

QEP Extra large grout, cleaning and washing sponge

$4.47 at Home Depot

QEP Extra large grout, cleaning and washing sponge

Dampen a sponge or soft cleaning cloth in the soapy water and wipe the furniture, scrub if necessary. Rinse the furniture by spraying with the garden hose.

Harper Long Handle Soft Bristle Wash Brush

$14.53 at Home Depot

Harper Long Handle Soft Bristle Wash Brush

Stubborn areas may require the use of a soft-bristled brush, but Bradley cautions that “even soft-bristled bristles can damage some finishes, so be careful when using a brush on painted or wood furniture. Be careful with all-weather wicker.” and for wrap sets, as the bristles can damage the surface and fray the fabric.”

Rust-Oleum special epoxy touch-up paint

$4.98 at Home Depot

Rust-Oleum special epoxy touch-up paint

If there are nicks or chips on the surface of outdoor metal furniture, use touch-up paint to help prevent the possibility of rusting.

Cleaning cushions for outdoor furniture

“Patio cushions, slingbacks, and umbrellas can all be cleaned by hand with a scrub brush and the same simple solution of soap and water used for the outdoor furniture frames,” says Bradley. She gives the following tips when caring for outdoor furniture cushions:

  • Move cushions to a cool, dry place when not in use for an extended period of time to prevent the build-up of dirt.
  • If you leave dirty pillows for a long time, it will be difficult to remove the dirt later. Bradley recommends cleaning outdoor furniture cushions as often as necessary to prolong their life.
  • Bradley says pillows, cushion covers, slingbacks, and umbrellas should never be machine washed unless specifically authorized by the manufacturer.
  • Always refer to the product guidelines for cleaning instructions; if those aren’t available, Bradley says, “Play it safe and hand wash to avoid shrinkage or damage.”

For complete hand-washing instructions, check out our guide to hand-washing clothing and accessories, including home textiles.

How often to clean garden furniture?

The experts we spoke to said the frequency with which outdoor furniture needs to be cleaned depends on the material, but in general, all-weather resin outdoor furniture should be cleaned once or twice a year, while powder-coated aluminum furniture should be cleaned every 2 -3 months.

Sarah Smith, Serena & Lily Product Education Manager, offers the following tips to extend the life and appearance of your outdoor furniture:

  • If your home is near the ocean, rinse your patio furniture with water monthly to remove salt buildup from the ocean air.
  • Immediately blot spills and wipe the surface with a clean, damp cloth.
  • Be sure to rinse off any soap residue with clean water after cleaning.

“Protecting furniture with furniture covers when not in use is key to preventing rust, mold, or mildew,” says Smith. “Wiping away the water that is sitting on the furniture surfaces immediately can also help to prevent this.”

Covers for outdoor furniture

Furniture covers are crucial for the maintenance of outdoor furniture. “To extend the life of outdoor cushions,” Smith says, “always use furniture covers when not in use.”

Hampton Bay Rectangular Outdoor Table with Seat Cover

$34.98 at Home Depot

Hampton Bay Rectangular Outdoor Table with Seat Cover

Bradley recommends this weatherproof rectangular furniture cover because its generous dimensions cover an entire dining area. She notes that the simple design makes installation easy.

Hampton Bay Chaise Patio Cover

$34.98 at Home Depot

Hampton Bay Chaise Patio Cover

Bradly recommends this durable rain, wind and snow resistant patio cover for its built-in handles that make moving furniture a cinch. She also praises the “soft beige color that gives a natural look to match your other outdoor decor.”

Classic Accessories Porch Offset Patio Umbrella Cover

$54.01 at Home Depot

Classic Accessories Porch Offset Patio Umbrella Cover

“Pillows and umbrellas must be clean and completely dry before storing. Placing the fabric in a dark place while it is still damp will lead to mold and mildew,” says Bradley. “Also, never allow water to build up in the frame – this can lead to corrosion and lead to frost damage in cold weather.”

Classic Accessories Porch Patio Cushion Storage Bag

$35.83 at Home Depot

Classic Accessories Porch Patio Cushion Storage Bag

For those with limited storage space, Bradley recommends using high-quality storage bags, which provide a simple solution without taking up a lot of space.

Capistrano hanging chair protective cover

$248.00 at Serena & Lily

Capistrano hanging chair protective cover

When it comes to selecting a furniture cover, when purchasing, ask if the brand offers a protective cover specifically designed to fit it — mainly if it is an unusual shape. “For maximum weather protection,” says Smith, “we recommend an outdoor protective cover made specifically for the piece of furniture. A custom fit can really make all the difference when preserving outdoor furniture.” The brand offers a range of outdoor protective covers designed to match every piece in its outdoor furniture collection.

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