How To Clean, Protect, and Care For Your Outdoor Furniture Year-Round

Ed Wike
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Basic Care Tips

There are some basic cleaning, maintenance, and protective care tips that are good for all of your outdoor furniture regardless of the type. This will help keep it in great shape all year long.

Wipe down cushions and fabrics regularly. Wipe down the frame of your furniture at the same time to prevent dirt and dust from accumulating in the cracks. If you find parts of your furniture getting scratched or rusted, you may need to re-paint them to prevent permanent damage.

Cover furniture up if you aren’t going to be using it for a long time. This could be done with a tarp, plants, or something fun that personalizes it.

If you want to know more about the care of outdoor furniture, it is a good idea to check out the blog of a reputable outdoor furniture retailer. They will provide you with useful and trustworthy information and tips. It is a lot easier for them to give advice on outdoor furniture than someone trying to sell you some.

Plastic Furniture

Plastic furniture covers protect wooden outdoor chairs and tables from the damaging effects of the sun. They also preserve the color and texture of the furniture. With the proper maintenance, a cover may last eight to 10 years. Some covers have elastic bottom edges that enclose the bottom of the furniture piece. Others have drawstrings that close and secure the cover.

To use a plastic cover, remove it from the big, baggie it comes in. Before using it for the first time, wash it with a mild soap solution. Now you're ready to put it on your furniture. The elastic models are easy to slip on. You'll need to hold them in place while you pull the drawstring. After you set them on the furniture, adjust their edges with the drawstrings so they press the fabric against the sides of the furniture. The drawstring is a little more tedious but still easy. Draw it like you would draw a shade.

There are four basic types of plastic furniture covers:

Elastic Bottom Covers: Use these covers on furniture with standard or flat bottoms, such as patio chairs and tables. Draw-string Covers: These covers stretch over the edge of the furniture and have drawstrings to secure the cover. Elasticated Back Covers: These have elastic around the furniture's back and sides. All-In-One Covers: These slip over a furniture piece and zip shut for easy use.

Wooden or Wicker Furniture

To clean wooden furniture or wicker furniture for this time of year, in the winter, you can use Murphy's Oil Soap to clean it and then use a teak protector called TeakGuard. It's often used to protect boat decks and that kind of thing from the elements. It's a clear coat sealer that basically waterproofs your wood. Spray it on all the high points and all the low points and joints. You'll find that you don't have to use varnish or oil or anything else at all.

In the spring, summer and fall, you can use a teak cleaner like Neptune's Wood Cleaner that will work about the same way. It's much more economical, it cleans with the wood grain. It's also much healthier for the environment, because when you put an oil or a varnish on, then, over time, water runs off the wood and goes into the ground.

If you care about the environment, actually the best thing to do is to leave your wood natural. If you take good care of your wood, and you keep your wood clean and keep it protected from weather and sun damage, you'll find that you can leave it natural for the life of your wood. I always say that if you're happy to oil or varnish every twenty years, that's great. But most of us haven't found the time to do that yet, and we're running out of time.

Table Tops

Table tops are the most vulnerable to less-than-ideal weather conditions. They are also the hardest of any patio furniture components to clean and protect. Fortunately, wiping down after a spill or cleaning with soap and water is a cinch, and fairly fail-safe. A few finish-specific tips follow, so you can take care of your table top on a regular basis.

You can remove wine, soda, ketchup, or other unsightly spills with a white cloth and a stack of white, brown, or black paper towels. Wipe up under the edge of the table top, then fold and squeeze the cloth to remove the stain and liquid … or repeat.

If you want to protect your table top and to remove any blemishes, you can use Vaseline or furniture wax on it. Apply it with a soft cloth and remove any excess with a clean, soft cloth.

Another tip to keep your table top protected: Oil the table two times a year, when it begins to get colder and then when it starts to get warmer again. For this job, you can use linseed oil, or another sealant that isn’t petroleum-based.

Cushions and Fabric Care

Cleaning and treating fabric is the most labor-intensive part of protecting your outdoor furniture. However, it is important to clean and pre-treat fabric so that it retains its full color life and helps it resist staining and fading.

If you are unable to do it yourself, you should have the cushions and fabric professionally cleaned and treated with a leather protector.

Again, you should perform this maintenance before each season to make sure your furniture is in the best possible condition for each season.

How To Clean, Protect, and Care For Your Outdoor Furniture Year-Round

The second component in protecting your outdoor furniture is to apply a finish to the wood.

There are a variety of wood finishes on the market, but the best is a preservative that seals the pores of the wood.

It protects against mildew, sunlight and even termites, and it helps the wood resist stains and water damage.

But these finishes have to be reapplied, usually once a year.

You can take care of indoor upholstered furniture the same way.

How To Clean, Protect, and Care For Your Outdoor Furniture Year-Round

Caring for your outdoor chairs and tables is just as simple as protecting your upholstery.

One of the most important things to do is to patch and repair any holes, cracks, or splits in your tables and chairs.

A Note About Hammocks

If you own an outdoor hammock stand and hammock, be sure to read the sections below on cleaning and protecting your outdoor hammock for information specific to protecting and cleaning your hammock.

To keep your outdoor furniture in great shape, from spring through fall, follow these tips:

Clean your furniture once a week: Wipe off dirt, dust, and soot with a damp cloth.

Wipe off dirt, dust, and soot with a damp cloth. Protect your outdoor furniture from the elements: Use a waterproof or weather-resistant cover on your furniture. You can also create a barrier by placing towels or old sheets over your outdoor furniture.

Use a waterproof or weather-resistant cover on your furniture. You can also create a barrier by placing towels or old sheets over your outdoor furniture. Remove sunscreen and bug spray: Sunscreen and bug spray can damage your outdoor furniture. If you’ve used either, be sure to clean it off your furniture quickly.

Sunscreen and bug spray can damage your outdoor furniture. If you’ve used either, be sure to clean it off your furniture quickly. Protect your outdoor furniture from the elements: Protect your furniture with a table cover, outdoor tablecloth, or UV-protective furniture covers.

With this information in mind, here are the steps you’ll want to follow to clean various types of outdoor furniture…

Stain Removal

A major advantage to plastic resin furniture is its ability to be cleaned. Any liquid can be removed with a cloth and some water. However, make sure to rinse stain remover or soap off promptly. If allowed to sit, it could start to eat a hole right through the plastic. If a stain remains, dilute it with warm water and scrub with a small brush and rinse again.

If you’re dealing with rust stains, make a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water. Rub gently into the fabric with the end of a toothbrush. To revive faded plastic furniture, mix two parts No. 1 Wood Bleach Cleaner in one part water. Dip a clean sponge in the solution, rub into the affected area, and rinse.

In the case of persistent stains, you might have to resort to stronger measures. To remove these kinds of stains, get a stain-removing product at the grocer or hardware store. If chlorine was responsible for the discoloration, use a chlorine remover, such as 3% Hydrogen Peroxide.

To remove tar or candle wax, use a solvent, such as mineral spirits, turpentine, or paint thinner on a clean cloth or paper towel. Test on a small, hidden section first. Never allow these chemicals to dry on the surface or they could damage the finish.

Seasonal Furniture Care

It takes approximately 15 minutes to wipe and clean a patio table and chairs. It takes approximately 30 minutes to mop and clean your patio floor. It takes approximately 15 minutes for your patio floor to dry, and approximately 15 minutes to clean and polish your patio table and chairs. This means that you can have fresh, clean outdoor furnishings in only one hour. However, you must take care of your patio furniture daily.

In the spring, your patio furniture will have been out in the weather. It's going to need a through cleaning and polishing to remove any grime and dirt.

In the spring, it's a good idea to clean your patio furniture thoroughly.

In the winter, all patio furniture must be thoroughly cleaned and protected, so that snow, salt and heavy rains do not allow the deterioration of your furniture.

In the autumn, your patio furniture will have been out in the weather for a longer period than in the other seasons, and it will need a thorough cleaning on a weekly basis.

In the autumn, it's a good idea to thoroughly clean and protect your patio furniture on a weekly basis.

In the summer, your patio furniture will have been out in the weather. It will have been through many heavy rains, as well as having had grit from the road splashed onto it. It needs to be cleaned and protected more frequently than in other seasons.


Cleaning: Outdoor Furniture

You just put your furniture outside, and it looks great. But soon you can look out and what used to be clean and fresh looking now sticks out like a sore thumb. To clean and reseason your patio furniture here's what you'll need:

{1}. Soft Scrub – A gentle, nonabrasive cleanser that can be used to clean multiple surfaces, including outdoor furniture. It removes spots, grease, and stains from metal, glass, plastic, and even fabric, and it's biodegradable.
{2}. Resealer – An acrylic or water-based sealer designed to change the molecular structure of its surface so that it's dirt and water resistant. When applied to an outdoor chair, it keeps the wood from absorbing moisture, which can cause the wood to crack and warp. Resealers are designed for a particular surface, so make sure you choose one that's meant for wood.
{3}. Tack Cloth – A paint stirring stick covered in a coarse fabric, that will gently remove dirt, moisture or debris from the surface of your outdoor furniture without leaving any behind.
{4}. Soft Towels – These soft fabric towels will keep you from scratching the finish on your furniture while you clean.


Exterior Furniture Wipe off patio furniture with a towel soaked in warm water once or twice a month during the summer. If built-in cushions are removable, take them off and place them in the washer, then re-insert them on the furniture. If they are not removable, wipe down the cushions and other components (such as sling chairs) with a damp towel.

Pay special attention to the outside of the chairs and cushions, as they tend to hold moisture and dirt. Additionally, you can also use a garden hose, or water from a bucket, to rinse off the patio, chairs, and cushions to remove dirt and dust.

Thoroughly dry outdoor furniture with a heavy-duty towel to minimize mildew from forming.


Here’s how to get your patio ready for a summer of fun:

  • Clear your yard of debris. Get a leaf blower to blast leaves, dead grass, dirt, and bugs away.
  • Clear dirt, leaves, and debris off of chairs, tables, and your grill.
  • Check for cracks and splits in seats and cushions, especially if you’ve had them for a while. The Sun will start to deteriorate your furniture.
  • Treat dirty, moldy, or mildewed cushions with baking soda and bleach, or a DIY bleach/water solution to get them ready to wash. Dry them in the sun on the patio.
  • Vacuum your cushions to get rid of extra dirt and dust.
  • Clean your patio, railing, table, and chairs with a bleach and water solution.
  • Fill any cracks or splits with wood filler.
  • Seal cracks, splits, joints, hinges, and screws with a wood sealer.
  • Put on a new layer of finish with either a polyurethane or an acrylic sealer to protect against moisture.


When temperatures begin to drop, you need to take special care of your outdoor living space. Not only do you want to ensure the safety of your family and pets, but you also want to maintain your furniture.

This means cleaning the furniture and sealing it to help it last.

If you have wood furniture, you should let the furniture acclimate to the temperature of the air. Never leave your wood furniture outside all summer. This leads to warping, cracking, and splitting of wooden furniture.

Rusting is a common problem for metal furniture in the winter. It’s important to keep all metal objects dry and clean to prevent this issue. If you contact rust, you need to immediately remove the rust and protect the metal so it doesn’t grow. If the metal has grown rust, it’s significantly harder to remove and you may need to replace the piece.

Clean your furniture to remove any stubborn grime. Use saddle soap or a mild cleaner to gently remove stains and dirt. Don’t forget to clean the tabletop. Remove scratches and scars by rubbing on a light bit of car wax. One tip that can help prevent rust and damage is to store your furniture inside or under a porch or roof overhang. This way, you don’t have to worry about it rusting or suffering damage.