Are You Cleaning Outdoor Furniture Correctly?

Outdoor furniture is out of hibernation! Preparing your outdoor areas for use after winter can be quite an overwhelming task, especially if you’ve invested in furniture that you really love. Are you sure it’s getting the specialized treatment that it deserves, and the care that it needs to last? It’s easy enough to wipe away debris and water with a dry cloth, which you should do on a regular basis. But how do you get a good clean on something that’s been in storage for months? (Well, hopefully, it’s been covered or put away because leaving furniture exposed to elements like snow and rain does damage to pieces that aren’t meant to withstand exposure.)Because outdoor furniture comes in a variety of materials, each type requires different methods for cleaning. We discuss the top four materials used for outdoor furniture here. Two common things that make all four so popular for use outside is that they are durable and easy to maintain. But maintain you must if you want to keep your outdoor furniture looking fresh and clean from season to season!

Here are our top cleaning tips broken down by material…


  • Be aware that power washing can damage softwoods.
  • Instead, use a mild, oil-based soap mixed with warm water and a soft brush or sponge.
  • Avoid using a metal brush as it will damage the wood’s surface and opt for plastic instead.
  • Work in small sections.
  • Dry thoroughly when finished.
  • There are commercial products on the market that are meant specifically for this job, but be sure to read directions carefully before using these.
  • Teak oil is great when used on teak but avoid using it on hardwood because this can encourage mildew.
  • There are also homemade cleaning solutions for teak, such as a mixture of vinegar and warm water.

teak poolside

It’s worth noting that you can clean wicker furniture in a similar manner. But first, use a vacuum for a dry clean because of all the crevices. Also, avoid using foam cleansers on wicker because the foam can get into the woven strands and begin to collect, causing it to deteriorate. After cleaning, be sure not to sit on wicker furniture until it is completely dry, or else you may cause the piece to stretch and sag.

Wrought Iron

  • Because the downfall of this material is its potential to rust, keep an eye out for any oxidation and use steel wool to remove it.
  • To begin the cleaning process, hose furniture down to remove the loose dust and dirt.
  • Use a sponge or brush with a quarter cup of mild dish soap added to a gallon of warm water.
  • If the furniture is particularly dirty, use a scrub brush to get the hard-to-reach areas.
  • Hose down again when done with the soapy water to rinse.

wrought iron dining


  • Like its metal counterpart wrought iron, aluminum may rust; but steel wool is not the solution here as it will likely scratch this material.
  • Try removing any oxidation with a metal polishing paste or a 1:1 solution of white vinegar and water.
  • Regular cleaning can be done with a soft cloth dampened with a nonabrasive cleaning product.
  • Avoid using alkaline cleaners that contain chemicals such as ammonia and trisodium phosphate (TSP) as these can cause oxidation.

aluminum poolside


  • Hose down to remove surface dust.
  • Don’t use abrasives as they can easily scuff synthetic surfaces.
  • An all-purpose cleaner and a damp sponge or cloth should suffice.
  • You can also make your own mild cleanser by mixing 1/2 cup baking soda with 1 gallon of warm water.
  • White distilled vinegar is good for getting out stubborn stains on these materials.
  • You can use a toothbrush to clean spaces that are hard to reach.
  • When finished cleaning, thoroughly dry the furniture with a towel to avoid leaving watermarks.

mgp poolside

Additional Tips

  • When it comes to any fabrics on your outdoor furniture, be sure to consult the manufacturer’s instructions for recommended cleaning methods. If those are unavailable, it’s usually safe to use a solution of dish soap and warm water, then leave to air dry. Applying a water-repellent protector to clean fabric can make maintenance easier.
  • Another material often used to make outdoor furniture, such as tabletops, is glass. Be sure not to use abrasive cleaners and hard scrub brushes when cleaning this material as they will leave scratches.

Once you’re confident in your outdoor furniture cleaning routine, it might be worth it to take some preventative measures. Consider sanding appropriate surfaces and applying a fresh coat of material-specific protective finish, polish, and/or paint annually to prevent future problems and to keep everything looking good as new. Cleaning your furniture correctly and regularly can save you money, and it will certainly make your outdoor spaces much more attractive and welcoming.

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