June 18, 2024

How to clean outdoor furniture for long-lasting use

Proper care, cleaning and storage of outdoor furniture is an important part of keeping those pieces looking their best and ensuring they last a long time.

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

Kelly Bradley, the merchant of patio for The Home Depot, says, “While patio furniture is meant to be outside, protecting your set from the elements will help extend its life.” Bradley offers step-by-step instructions for cleaning outdoor furniture, noting that you should always consult manufacturer instructions if they were provided.

Using a garden hose fitted with a spray nozzle, spray the pieces to loosen and remove dust and dirt. Bradley recommends turning the nozzle to its strongest setting.

Dawn Ultra Original Scent Dishwashing Liquid

Mix 1/4 cup liquid dishwashing soap with water in a cleaning bucket. When cleaning outdoor furniture, do not use abrasive cleaners.

QEP Extra-Large Grouting, Cleaning and Washing Sponge

QEP Extra Large Grouting, Cleaning and Washing Sponge

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

Harper Long Handle Soft Bristle Wash Brush

Harper Long Handle Soft Bristle Wash Brush

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

Rust-Oleum Specialty Epoxy Touch-Up Paint

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

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

  • Move cushions to a cool and dry location when not in use for prolonged periods to avoid collection of dirt.
  • Letting dirty cushions sit for a long amount of time makes it hard to remove the dirt later. Bradley recommends cleaning outdoor furniture cushions as often as needed to extend their life span.
  • Bradley says that cushions, cushion covers, sling backs and outdoor umbrellas should never be machine-washed, unless specifically permitted by the manufacturer.
  • Always consult the product guidelines for cleaning instructions; if those are unavailable, Bradley says, “Play it safe and hand-wash to prevent shrinkage or damage.”

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

The experts we spoke to said the frequency with which outdoor furniture needs to be cleaned depends on its 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 two to three months.

Sarah Smith, Serena & Lily’s product education manager, offers the following tips for extending the life and good looks of your outdoor furniture:

  • If your home is near the ocean, rinse any outdoor furniture monthly with water to remove salt buildup from the ocean air.
  • Blot any spills immediately and wipe the surface with a clean, damp cloth.
  • Be sure to rinse off all soap residues with fresh water after cleaning.

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

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

Hampton Bay Rectangular Outdoor Patio Table with Chair Cover

Bradley recommends this weather-resistant rectangular furniture cover because its generous dimensions provide coverage for a complete dining set. She notes that the simple design makes setup easy.

Hampton Bay’s Chaise Outdoor Patio Cover

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

Classic Accessories Veranda Offset Patio Umbrella Cover

Classic Accessories Veranda Offset Patio Umbrella Cover

“Cushions and umbrellas should be clean and completely dry before storing them. Placing the fabric in a dark place while still damp will invite mold and mildew,” Bradley says. “Also, never let water build up inside the frame — this can lead to corrosion and could result in freeze damage in cold weather.”

Classic Accessories Veranda Patio Cushion Storage Bag

Classic Accessories Veranda Patio Cushion Storage Bag

For those for whom storage space is limited, Bradley recommends using high-quality storage bags, which offer a simple solution without taking up a lot of space.

$248.00 at Serena & Lily

Capistrano Hanging Chair Protective Cover

When it comes to selecting a furniture cover, ask at the time of purchase if the brand offers a protective covering designed specifically to fit it — especially if it is an unusual shape. “For maximum protection from the weather elements,” Smith says, “we would recommend an outdoor protective cover that is specifically made for the furniture piece. A tailored fit can really make the difference in preserving outdoor furniture.” The brand offers an assortment of outdoor protective covers designed to fit each piece in its outdoor furniture collection.