Outdoor Life

Cleaning outdoor furniture

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Multi-colored baroque outdoor furniture awaits washing.
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It's time to scrub your outdoor furniture clean to prepare for summer.

The celebratory post-winter celebration has begun. The trees are in bloom, birds are tweeting, the brilliant pink tulips make your heart sing and, darn it, the grass needs cut. It is time for a neighborhood cook out. And it is time for cleaning outdoor furniture.


The lawn furniture that has been languishing uncovered in the back yard all winter will show the effects of being exposed to the weather. Lawn furniture that is covered accumulates less dirt, but will usually still have to be cleaned before using. Here are some tips for dealing with "dirt detail."

Most lawn furniture is made of resin plastic, which is inexpensive yet extremely durable; however, its finish is slightly porous, which is an invitation to stains. The stains are hard to remove. To discourage mildew growth on the mesh of plastic furniture, mix two tablespoons of liquid dish soap with two cups of white vinegar in a large bucket of hot water. Use a soft brush to get into the grooves of the plastic furniture. Coat new resin plastic furniture with automotive paste wax, which will make cleaning outdoor furniture easier and will repel waterborne dust.

Resin plastic lawn furniture can be cleaned using a combination of baking soda and water. Spray resin furniture with water and then scrub with baking soda or a mild detergent and warm water before rinsing off. Simply Wash, a product made by Biowash, is effective on plastic furniture. It is eco-friendly and will not kill your grass or plants.



Unfinished aluminum furniture will not rust but it will oxidize. Oxidization protects the metal from corrosion by the elements, but it also dulls the gloss of the furniture. To shine aluminum, use polishing paste containing fine abrasives that will remove the oxidation. Then, safeguard the aluminum by applying auto paste wax. Oxidation, although beneficial in some ways, causes pitting, which cannot be removed. Do not use alkaline cleaners because they cause oxidation in aluminum furniture. Ammonia found in Windex will exacerbate oxidation. If your piece of furniture is a little bit pitted, try applying a mix of water and white vinegar together and wipe it on the aluminum furniture. This may remove some of the pitting.


If your wood patio furniture has become mildewed, sponge with a mixture of one half cup white vinegar, one fourth cup baking soda, and one cup ammonia in one gallon of water. Do not use high pressure sprays on painted wood outdoor furniture because the paint may flake off. Redwood furniture may require a bit of extra care to preserve its rich wood tones. If you coat your wooden furniture with a durable protective finish, this will prolong the life of your furniture.


Metal furniture is going to rust. Sand the rust, along with any damaged paint, off of the metal furniture. Then prime it and repaint furniture with rust resistant paint. Wash the metal furniture, scrubbing it gently, not forcibly, using a mild detergent and then rinse the metal furniture using low water pressure. It is important to use gentle products and low water pressure when cleaning outdoor furniture. Consider applying two coats of auto paste wax, which keeps moisture away from the surface.


If your cushions are dirty, toss them into a tub of water filled with a mild detergent and hot water. If the fabric is white, add a little bleach, which will eliminate mildew. Let the cushions soak, rinse, and then allow the cushions to dry outdoors for a few days before utilizing. You can further protect your cushions by spraying them with fabric protector, such as Scotch Guard.

You can also scrub umbrella fabric and seat pads with this solution. Rinse with cold water and let the furniture or fabric dry in the sun. If the canvas on your outdoor director chairs is looking dingy, remove it, if you can, and wash it in your washing machine. Put the canvas back on while still damp to stretch the fabric back into shape. If you cannot remove the canvas use a brush and scrub it with water and a mild detergent and then rinse.


Before next winter, consider purchasing covers for your furniture, which should eliminate a lot of work cleaning outdoor furniture on your part.



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