Outdoor Seating

How to Clean Outdoor Furniture

Follow these simple steps to keep your patio furniture in tip-top condition.


You might be tempted to pressure-wash furniture for a deep clean, but you shouldn’t. It’s too harsh on the wood. A solution of oxygen bleach and water applied with a soft-bristled brush is the best bet for cleaning most woods (but not redwood). Consider sanding and resealing the wood once the piece is fully dried for added protection against the elements.


Be careful when cleaning plastic and vinyl furniture: Harsh detergents can dull the surface of some materials. Instead, use a solution of water and a mild dishwashing detergent, and a sponge or a soft-bristled scrub brush. Cleaning the piece with ammonia may help with stubborn mildew stains.


Remove dirt from metal furniture with the hard-spray setting on your hose. Prepare a solution of water and car-washing detergent, and scrub the piece with a soft-bristled scrub brush. Rinse with clean water after scrubbing. Aluminum and chrome generally don’t need a topcoat, but cast iron or other enameled metals can benefit from a very thin layer of auto wax applied with a soft, lint-free cloth.


Start by brushing off dirt with a dry, soft-bristled brush or broom (you may even want to break out a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to get into all the nooks and crannies). Next, use a mild solution of dishwashing liquid and water to gently scrub the piece with a soft-bristled brush or a sponge. Rinse using as little water as possible to remove the soap (a sponge dipped in fresh water will work). Dry with a soft cloth so the wicker won’t soak up the excess water.


Regular dusting should keep bamboo and rattan porch furniture clean. If your pieces are looking extra-dirty, you can clean them with a sponge and a very mild solution of water and dishwashing liquid. Wring out the sponge after dipping it in the solution, so you’re using a minimal amount of water on the bamboo. Dry with a clean, soft cloth.


If the canvas is removable, throw it in the washing machine with detergent and cold water. Either air-dry the canvas or tumble it on a low setting until it’s damp to the touch but not sopping wet; put the cloth pieces back on the furniture while they’re still damp. If the canvas isn’t removable, use a soft-bristled brush to scrub the canvas with a solution of water and a few drops of laundry detergent; rinse with plain water and let dry.


Brush any excess dirt or debris off the mesh before attempting to clean it. Mesh can be scrubbed with a soft-bristled brush dipped into a mixture of two cups of white vinegar, a couple squirts of dishwashing liquid and hot (but not boiling) water. Use an old toothbrush to get to hard-to-reach spaces.

-- Laura Fenton