Patio Furniture Cleaning and Maintenance

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Summertime and the living is easy! Relaxing nights with friends, vacation and time away from work or school…such bliss is the summertime! Rain washes away the dirt and the sun dries everything naturally. The patio furniture is durable and since it’s meant to be outdoors it can withstand the conditions, lessening your workload.

Not!

Don’t be fooled: just because something is designated to be outdoors doesn’t render it utterly invincible. Of course your patio furniture will be made to endure rain, sun and other conditions, but it is very important to the longevity of your furniture that you take care of it every once in a while.

Maintenance is that little word that sounds so easy but can be a real drag. However, if you don’t keep up with regular maintenance, then one day you’ll be left with one big giant mess that is too much to deal with.

We are here to help you with this. While we can’t actually do the physical work for you, we will provide you some tips to help ease the process and you’ll come to find that after just one afternoon you’ll feel miles ahead with shiny new furniture!

And come winter, when you go to store the furniture, you will be putting away fresh and clean pieces that will be easy to remove in the spring, like new. If you don’t take the time to clean and properly store your patio furniture in the winter, you will have a lot of work to do come springtime. We’ll go into detail about regular summer cleaning and maintenance as well as preparing your patio accessories for winter.

First off, the cleaning method you use will be determined by the material of the furniture. You will also have to take time to clean the cushion covers.

With a little bit of maintenance here and there, you will save yourself a lot of hard and unnecessary work later on.

We have dividied our cleaning guide into three sections: opening the patio in early spring, using the patio mid-summer and closing it in the late summer or early fall. This is a very basic guide and should be sufficient for keeping your patio and furniture in tip-top shape.

If you have the time and energy, you can clean more often, but patio furniture is meant to be outside so three cleanings a season should be more than enough.

Tools

For this job, you will need:

  • outdoor broom
  • soft bristle brush
  • bucket
  • white vinegar
  • water
  • mild dish soap
  • shop towels or soft rags for water spot removal and wipe-down
  • screwdriver for prodding wood/checking for rot

Early spring/opening the patio

Generic wipe-down

If your furniture is made of metal or plastic, for example, give everything a good wipe-down with a damp cloth. If you have wicker furniture, it is very helpful to first vacuum the furniture before wiping it down. Wicker has many cracks and crevices that dust gets trapped in: if you just wipe it you’ll just push the dirt further into the cracks.

Some people like to mix some mild dish detergent into their water for this job but it is not fully necessary.

Pillow covers

If you see rain in the weather forecast or in the sky, you should bring all pillows and cushions indoors or store them in the shed.

Of course they are outdoor accessories but we find that most fabrics – especially pillows, which are absorbent – are only water-resistant, meaning they do not have the ability to fully repel water and will unavoidably absorb some. You can always purchase a water repellant spray (typically for shoes) that will create a better water-resistant shell.

Or you can go ahead and leave everything out no matter the weather, see if we care. Just don’t come crying to us when the pillows are water stained and full of mildew.

Besides – soon as the rain is over – you’ll want to use the patio again, not wait three days for everything to dry!

The idea is to prevent build-up of any mineral deposit or dust, waste, etc. If you live in a rainy area, then the dust will be regularly washed away. However, keep this in mind: dust sticks extra hard to moisture and rain leaves water spots.

It all depends on your preferences. You can let the rain do its thing or you can wipe down all surfaces after each rainfall. This is a lot of work, but if you’re up for it, then by all means, charge ahead!

Big furniture (chairs, loveseats, tables)

You will want to give your tables a full wipe-down as well. Rain tends to leave calcium and mineral deposits known as water spots. It is good to remove these as soon as you see them because dust and other debris tends to stick to water.

Chimineas

You should regularly check on your chiminea, looking out for any rust spots or flaked paint. If you notice this, you can sand down the flaking paint and apply a new coat in that area, ensuring it’s smooth.

If your chiminea is clay, be sure to check it regularly for cracks. Clay cracks rather easily when dropped or exposed to extreme temperatures.

Mildew removal

Again, do not assume that because your furniture is meant to go outside that it is impervious to weather-related damage. This includes mildew growth, which can really become a problem if your furniture sits in shade most of the day. We recommend, if possible, setting the furniture out where it receives a lot of sunlight to dry it out and warm it up. If this is not possible, that’s quite alright. We have a simply recipe for cleaning and deodorizing mildew on plastic mesh furniture and patio umbrellas.

You will need:

  • 2 tablespoons liquid dish soap
  • two cups white vinegar, the almighty household cleaner
  • bucket of hot water
  • soft bristle brush

Mix the dish soap and vinegar into the hot water. Dip the brush in and scrub away at the material. You can use it on seating pads and any fabric that sits outside. This mixture will deodorize and stop the future growth of mildew.

It’s good to do this three times in the season if possible: when you open your patio for spring, in the middle of summer and then again when you close the patio for winter.

Deck boards and wooden outdoor accessories are prone to mildew as they retain moisture. To remove any mildew from deck boards, grab a plaster/putty knife and scrape off all excess build-up. You can buy a commercial deck cleaner for this purpose.

Vinyl surfaces can be cleaned with the formula recipe described above. Any composite material can be cleaned with a composite cleaner.

Be sure to seal your deck now that it’s been thoroughly cleaned. You can use a clear sealer, or transparent or opaque stain.

Middle of summer check-up

In the middle of the summer you should do a second thorough cleaning. This involves inspecting the furniture and deck for any signs of decay or wear. Shady areas tend to decay faster as they hold moisture; the sun does not reach these areas and therefore cannot dry out the moisture completely, unless you go through a week or two of solid, hot heat.

The easiest way to check for rot is to notice any darkened areas where the wood is soft. You can take a knife or screwdriver and poke the wood with it. If it is quite soft and the screwdriver goes in ¼ of an inch or more, then the wood is rotted and should be replaced for safety reasons.

Unless your deck has skirting, you should get under the deck and inspect there too. Use the same technique with your screwdriver to test for softened wood.

Give the umbrella, chairs and table a scrub-down using the recipe given above. Remove all pillow cushions and put them through the washing machine, allowing to fully dry. While they are drying, lay the pillows in direct sunlight to dry them out in case of any lingering moisture.

End of Season Clean-up
 

Be sure to close your patio at the end of the season. Usually this is mid to late September, before the cold and rainy month of October comes. Remove all soft goods from the patio including cushions, covers, rugs, the umbrella, pillows, et cetera. Fold them up and store in plastic or garbage bags over winter in a shed or your basement, garage, etc.

It’s a good idea to bring your furniture in, too, if you live in a very wintery climate. Leaving your furniture out in the snow will expose it to weather-related damage. Extreme temperatures are not good for furniture, especially tables with glass tabletops, etc.

Before the snow comes, be sure to sweep up any debris like leaves and twigs and dust. The idea is to leave a perfectly clean surface for the snow to fall upon: otherwise the snow will trap all dirt and will melt away to reveal a very stained deck in the springtime. Stains make things look dirty even when they are clean.

Final thoughts and notes

Ultimately, the amount of maintenance you do is up to you and your abilities or time allowance. As we mentioned earlier in the article, three big cleans per season – one at the beginning, one in the middle and one to close the patio – should be fully sufficient. Each clean can be done in one afternoon.

With the right headstart to the season it will be easier to maintain the patio along the way. When you close the patio for the winter, you don’t have to clean everything (pillows et cetera) since they will just be stored for winter, but you should give the deck a final sweep and keep it free of leaves or debris. Put all furniture away for the winter where it is safely housed from extreme outdoor conditions.

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