How to Clean Outdoor Furniture

If your outdoor furniture needs a little TLC, follow these cleaning tips to freshen plastic, wood, metal, and glass.


Caring for Outdoor Furniture

Routine cleanings are the key to keeping your outdoor furniture in pristine condition. For best results, you should clean outdoor furniture four times a year: Once at the beginning of summer, once at the end of summer, and a couple of times in between.

Tip: Store furniture indoors during winter months to prevent additional weathering and staining.

Wood (includes teak and wicker)
  • Use a mild oil-base soap, such as Murphy Oil Soap, mixed with warm water.
  • For a do-it-yourself cleaning solution, mix 1⁄4 cup ammonia, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 1 quart warm water.
  • Commercial wood cleaners are often the most effective, but be sure to read directions carefully. Wicker and painted woods might require diluting the solution.
  • For hard woods, consider annually sanding and applying a fresh coat of protective finish, such as oil, stain, or a polyurethane coating.
  • Hose down wicker every few weeks to prevent dirt buildup in crevices.
  • Regularly wiping down wood to remove dirt, debris, and excess water is the best way to protect it.
Metal (includes wrought iron, cast iron, and aluminum)
  • Oxidation is the most common problem with aluminum furniture. Before cleaning, remove as much of the imperfection as possible using a metal polishing paste or a 1:1 solution of white vinegar and water.
  • Avoid chemicals such as ammonia and trisodium phosphate (TSP); alkaline cleaners cause oxidation.
  • Wash aluminum frequently to preserve its natural luster.
  • Remove scuff marks from aluminum with a soft cloth dampened with a nonabrasive product, such as Soft Scrub.
  • Combat rust by sanding it off along with damaged paint. Wipe off metal residue with a cloth dampened with mineral spirits or naphtha. Use a rust-resistant primer before painting with a rust-resistant paint.
  • Consider having your wrought-iron furniture sandblasted or powder-coated for added protection.
  • To protect after cleanings, apply a coat (two for iron) of automotive wax.
Glass
  • Dish detergent and home cleaning solutions are the most effective cleaners.
  • Remove any stuck-on debris with a glass-safe, nonabrasive material. Many scrub brushes will scratch glass, so opt for one designed to tackle tough cleanup jobs without marking your furniture.
  • After an initial cleaning, spray on white vinegar or glass cleaner and wipe away with a microfiber cloth or paper towel.
  • Clean the underside of a glass table at least once a month to prevent irreversible grime.
  • Cover a glass table when it's not in use. Commercial window cleaners can't always keep your glass tables clean.
  • Fix small scratches and chips in glass with a glass-repair kit from an automotive retailer.
  • Clean frames of glass tables according to their material type.
Plastic (includes hard-resin materials)

Cleaning Solutions:

  1. 1/2 cup washing soda mixed with 1 gallon warm water
  2. 3 tablespoons automatic dishwasher detergent (contains mild bleaching agent) mixed with 1 gallon warm water
  3. For colored plastic: 1⁄4 cup vinegar mixed with 1 quart warm water
  • For white plastic, avoid chlorine and bleach because they eat away at the material.
  • For stubborn stains, dampen a clean rag with white distilled vinegar and wipe down the piece.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on a wet sponge to create a mild abrasive that will peel away stains but won't scratch surfaces. (Don't use abrasive cleaners; they will scratch plastic.)
  • Use WD-40 to restore shine; spray onto plastic and wipe clean with a dry cloth.
  • After washing your plastic furniture, protect it with a coat of automotive paste wax.

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