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

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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)

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  • 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)

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  • 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

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  • 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)

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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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