A practical guide to cleaning outdoor furniture

Whether it's to get it out for the summer or put it away for winter, using the hose to clean outdoor furniture is your best bet. So pick a warm day and wear appropriate clothing. Here are the tools and techniques you'll need for almost any type of furniture.

A practical guide to cleaning outdoor furniture

1. Start when dry

  • Begin by brushing off any large matter, such as leaves, sticks and bird droppings.
  • You can put on a glove and use your hand or use a nylon-bristled brush.
  • Doing this while the furniture is dry is easier and leaves less chance for staining.

2. Bring out the hose

  • To remove dirt, pollen, tree sap and other grime, use a hose to spray down your outdoor furniture and then scrub it with a nylon-bristled brush dipped in a bucket of warm water with a squirt or three of dishwashing liquid.
  • Use an old toothbrush for cleaning out small crevices.
  • Rinse by spraying with the hose.

3. What about mildew?

  • Mildew grows only on organic material, which means that if you have mildew-covered vinyl seat cushions, the mildew has probably sprouted on pollen and other organic droppings that have accumulated.
  • It also means that you don't need to use bleach to kill it. Just scrub off the organic matter and the mildew will be gone, too.
  • However, if mildew is a recurring problem, your hardware store will sell you a cleaner that is specifically made for outdoor furniture. This cleaner not only inhibits mildew but also cleans and protects a variety of materials, such as plastics, resin, vinyl, PVC, canvas, wrought iron, wicker and rattan, from fading and discolouration.

4. To protect patio furniture frames

  • Polish them with a car wax. Following the manufacturer's instructions, lightly wax the frames' arms, legs and other exposed areas.
  • Two thin coats are better than one thick coat.
  • Use it on painted metal, aluminium and plastic.
  • Car wax gives the furniture a nice shine and protects it from rain, dust, tree droppings and other harmful substances.
  • Be careful, however, not to get the wax on the vinyl. It can stain vinyl and get gunked in the vinyl mesh that commonly covers patio seat cushions. And since vinyl, like leather, needs to breathe to stay pliant and strong, the wax is bad for it because it clogs its pores.

5. To restore aluminium furniture's shine

  • Wipe it down with a cloth soaked in a one-to-one solution of vinegar and water. Aluminium does not rust, but it can tarnish when exposed to airborne pollutants. The vinegar solution helps, as does coating the frame with car wax.
  • Don't clean aluminium with alkaline cleaners, such as ammonia, bicarbonate of soda or sugar soap, which will discolour it.

6. Wooden outdoor furniture

  • This furniture is usually made of teak, western red cedar or other hardwood and although it is designed to withstand the weather, a little care and cleaning will keep it looking good for much longer.
  • Grey or mildewed hardwood tables, chairs, benches and barbecue trolleys can be restored to their former natural wood colour by scrubbing with a deck cleaner.
  • Once completely dry, the clean timber should be protected with a wood oil.
  • This should be applied annually, to protect and preserve the wood's natural finish.

7. Canvas director's chairs

  • Keep these in good condition by treating spills and stains as soon as possible.
  • Scrub dirt with a nylon brush dipped in soapy water and rinse.
  • Treat stubborn stains with a paste of bicarbonate of soda, leave for five minutes, then rinse off.
  • Allow the canvas to dry thoroughly in the sun before folding the chair for storage.
The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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