Humidity, precipitation, and tree debris can do a number on outdoor furniture. Here's what you need to know to clean mold off outdoor furniture and prevent it from coming back.

By Alicia Chilton
August 05, 2020
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Moisture from precipitation and humidity can produce mold and mildew on outdoor surfaces, and it will take more than just a light cleaning to tackle the problem. But with a little knowledge and the right tools and cleaners, you’ll know exactly how to clean mold off outdoor furniture. Since materials can vary greatly, you’ll want to use a cleaning method that’s suitable for your furniture. Visit the manufacturer’s website for any specific instructions, then read our materials guide below.

Take extra care when cleaning mold and mildew, and keep safety top-of-mind as you clean. Wear gloves and a safety mask, and work in a well-ventilated area. Do not mix cleaners and follow all the manufacturer’s instructions on any products you use.

person cleaning an outdoor white chair
Credit: miguelangelortega/Getty Images

Expert Cleaning Tips for Removing Mold from Patio Furniture

Mild cases of mold can be cleaned off of most outdoor furniture with a mixture of water, soap, and a little bleach, says James Conner, vice president at Molly Maid. Note that bleach may cause discoloration on certain fabrics, so spot test an inconspicuous place before using. Spray the mixture onto the furniture surface and agitate the area with a nylon-bristle brush ($7, Amazon), and rinse thoroughly with water. Avoid using a brush with metal bristles, as it can scratch surfaces such as wood, glass tabletops, painted surfaces, and more.

Chlorine bleach is a common household cleaning product used on mold. It is effective at removing the stains caused by mold, but it doesn’t kill the mold. To effectively kill mold, turn to an enzyme cleaner, says Doug Hoffman, CEO of the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors (NORMI). Mold and mildew on outdoor furniture (and anywhere in the home) is a particularly tricky problem and can become a health hazard. Certified mold assessors and remediators are trained to assess the presence of mold and treat the problem effectively, and with professional-grade cleaning products. 

If you are working near your garden, landscaping, or grass, take precautions to ensure your cleaners do not end up on any plants. When working outside with bleach, it’s important to hose down and completely saturate all vegetation in the immediate area, says David Flax, vice president at Window Genie, a home service company that specializes in window cleaning. Any runoff that comes into contact with vegetation will severely damage or even kill plants and grass.

Once your furniture is clean, preventative measures, including regular cleaning, can help keep mold at bay. If your furniture doesn’t get enough sunlight to dry it, move it into the sun or dry your patio furniture with towels to remove standing water.

backyard stone patio seating
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

How to Clean Mold Off Plastic Outdoor Furniture

To tackle mildew on plastic patio furniture, use a cleaning product designed for removing mold ($11, Lowe's). Be sure to read the label to ensure it is safe to use on plastic and follow all application instructions and safety guidelines. 

You can also turn to vinegar to clean mold on plastic outdoor furniture. Spray white distilled vinegar onto the mold and let it sit for an hour. Rinse with warm clean water and follow up with a second application of vinegar. Let the vinegar dry without rinsing it away. 

Bleach can etch white plastic outdoor furniture. For other plastic furniture colors, test bleach on a hidden spot to ensure it won’t discolor or harm the material. Once confirmed, apply the bleach mixture noted above.

outdoor furniture sitting area of deck tree privacy
Credit: Keller and Keller Photography Inc

How to Clean Mold off Outdoor Wood Furniture

Knowing how to clean mold off of outdoor wooden furniture starts with understanding your furniture. Different characteristics require specific cleaning methods and products. Bleach can discolor stained wood. If you choose to use bleach, test it on an inconspicuous spot first to see how it affects the finish.

If your furniture passes the bleach test, follow the basic bleach, soap, and water method noted above. Cleaners specifically for removing mold stains from outdoor wood surfaces ($14, Lowe's) can be purchased at big box and hardware stores. Read the specifications on the label to ensure the cleaner is formulated to work on your type of wood furniture and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  

If you’re looking for tips on how to clean mold off of teak outdoor furniture, know that gentle scrubbing is a must, and be sure to rinse the furniture well after cleaning.

colorful throw pillows outdoor furniture set
Credit: Victoria Pearson

How to Clean Mold off Outdoor Furniture Cushions

Outdoor cushions and fabric accents bring a bit of indoor comfort to outdoor spaces, but these materials can be prone to mold and mildew. It’s important to invest in cushions and fabric that are not just easy to clean but engineered to resist water, mold, and mildew from the start, says Sarah Dooley, director of upholstery at Sunbrella

Check the fabric or cushion manufacturer’s website for recommendations specific to their product. Bleach will harm the color of some fabrics, but others, like Sunbrella fabrics, are engineered to not discolor. Test the underside of a cushion before cleaning to determine if bleach will not harm the fabric. 

Mix bleach and water according to the bleach manufacturer’s instructions. Spray onto the fabric surface or use a cloth to wipe the mixture onto the fabric. Let the bleach stand on the fabric for five minutes, then rinse thoroughly with clean water. To avoid water rings, clean the entire surface area of the fabric. Some outdoor cushions come with removable covers that can be laundered in your washing machine. Spot-treat as needed before washing according to the furniture manufacturer's instructions.

Comments (2)

Anonymous
August 31, 2020
Bleach should never be used to clean mold! This is outdated information. Bleach, if you don’t mind the toxic fumes, should only be used on non porous surfaces like metal, glass or tile. There are better, more effective and less toxic solutions to remove mold like borax and water, or vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide, or Benefact or HOCL.
Anonymous
August 31, 2020
Bleach should never be used to clean mold! This is outdated information. Bleach, if you don’t mind the toxic fumes, should only be used on non porous surfaces like metal, glass or tile. There are better, more effective and less toxic solutions to remove mold like borax and water, or vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide, or Benefact or HOCL.