Skip to content
Outside the Home

How to Clean Outdoor Furniture

Outdoor furniture can pick up all sorts of dirt after continuous use. Read on for a handy guide on how to clean different types of outdoor furniture.

After a long, hot summer, it’s time to clean your garden furniture. After weeks and weeks of continuous use, those chairs and tables are sure to be covered in dirt and grime, and even the odd greasy stain from cooking up shish taouk on the mangal. It’s always very tempting to put your outdoor furniture into storage and clean it next year, but this could actually damage your table and chairs, as some stains and bacteria could slowly eat away at the materials, weakening the joins and making your furniture less robust. When you’ve got friends and family round and have laid out a spread of lavash bread, kabobs, and tabouli, a collapsed table is the last thing you want. Here’s how to quickly and easily clean your outdoor furniture, leaving it fresh and clean:

Upholstered Chairs

Upholstered outdoor chairs and sofas with removable covers are so quick and easy to clean. All you need to do is remove the covers and wash in your washing machine using your regular laundry detergent. Be sure to check the care labels first, as this will indicate if you need to use a lower water temperature than normal to protect delicate fabrics, or whether detergents with bleaching agents can or cannot be used. Allow the covers to dry naturally, but keep an eye on them. When they become almost dry to the touch, but are still slightly damp, replace the inner cushion to ensure the cover dries in the correct shape to avoid looking out of place.

Metal Furniture

Using steel wool, lightly scrub any areas of the exposed metal that have become rusty, dirty, or old and tired looking – this will give the metal a much-needed lease of life, helping it to look bright and vibrant once more. Next, make up a bowl of soapy water using warm water mixed with either dishwashing soap or liquid laundry detergent, and use a sponge to wipe down the furniture, taking care to get in between any decorative cut outs. Rinse using clean water. Once dry, you may wish to apply a coating of metal paint which can add an extra layer of protection from the elements.

Special advice for aluminium: Take care when using steel wool, and test on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure the metal doesn’t become scratched. Aluminium can rust very easily, so a coating of a rust-proof sealant is highly recommended.

Plastic Furniture

Plastic is very easy to clean, although you want to take care not to scratch or produce dents in the material. To do this mix up a bowl of warm water and dishwashing soap and laundry detergent as you would for metal furniture, dip your sponge in, and then sprinkle a generous helping of baking soda (the very same stuff that’s in your kitchen cupboards) over the sponge. Baking soda acts as a very mild abrasive, which means it’s effective at removing even the most stubborn of dirty marks and stains, but is gentle enough to not pose a risk to the plastic. Wipe your furniture down in this manner until it’s clean, then rinse and allow to dry naturally.

Wooden Furniture

Softwood furniture is a very cost effective option, but cleaning it can be a nightmare. Wood really shouldn’t be saturated, even during the cleaning process, as it can cause rotting which will eventually break down the material, leaving you with little more than a pile of damp sticks. At the end of the summer, wipe your wooden furniture with a slightly damp cloth and allow to dry before treating with a waterproof wood paint or gloss to create a barrier between the wood and the air’s moisture.

Hardwood furniture is typically much more costly than softwood, but in terms of outdoor furniture, it really is worth paying out the extra. Hardwood tends to have a very high oil content which adds a mild waterproof effect, largely protecting it from the effects of moisture in the atmosphere. In autumn, all you need to do to your hardwood furniture is give it a light spraying of clean water from a spray bottle (wiping down any stained areas), and leave it to dry.

Maintenance

If you don’t fancy spending hours cleaning your outdoor furniture at the end of the summer months, you can help to reduce the amount of dirt and damage to your tables and chairs by keeping them under cover, away from the harsh elements, whenever the furniture is not in use. Over the winter, you could store your garden furniture indoors, in a shed, or in a garage, while in the summer you could place a plastic tarp over the furniture to limit its exposure to rainfall. This way, you can be sure you’ll always have a strong, robust, and great-looking furniture set to use whenever the sun is shining.

Top Tip


When living in a humid climate it’s likely mildew will start to grow on wooden outdoor furniture. Try using a spray bottle filled with white vinegar to tackle these stains. Simply spray the mildew as soon as you spot it and stain should wipe straight off!

Key Steps:

 

  1. Be sure to identify the material your outdoor furniture is made of and select the appropriate cleaning method for the type of furniture – some materials will need special care.
  2. Clean your furniture at the end of the day so no one will want to sit on it when it’s wet! This will allow it to dry naturally overnight.
  3. Store your outdoor furniture in a shed, or garage during the winter months to protect it from the elements.