How To Clean and Maintain All Kinds of Patio Furniture

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Whether your patio furniture is made of metal, wood or plastic, keep it in top form with these tips for cleaning and maintaining.

Depending on how big your outdoor entertainment area is, you probably spent several hundred to several thousand dollars, maybe more, on patio furniture. And whether it’s been baked under a broiling sun, soaked with wet towels or jumped on by muddy dogs, patio furniture takes a beating unlike any other furniture. So it makes sense to protect your investment with a little TLC, in the form of cleaning and maintenance.

In the coldest, wettest seasons of the year, it’s best to store your patio furniture in a garage or shed. If that’s not possible, you can buy patio furniture covers to fit just about any type of outdoor furniture. If you live where harsh weather is a part of daily life — think the extreme desert heat of Las Vegas or the torrential rains of Florida — be sure to invest in patio furniture made to stand up to those tough conditions. If you’re looking to buy a new patio set this season, these are the best times to buy patio furniture for low prices.

No matter what type of patio furniture you have, these pro tips will keep it in top condition.

Tips for Metal Patio Furniture

Patio furniture is often made of metals like stainless steel, wrought iron, aluminum and tubular steel. “These common materials are used due to their durability and strength,” says Mark Feldman, chief home officer at online home furnishings retailer Riverbend Home. Of these, only aluminum won’t rust. But it’s so light it might get blown around the deck on a windy day.

  • To restore metal furniture to its prime condition, Feldman recommends washing it with soap and water, then drying it with a cloth. “If you see any wear, scratches, or chips in the painted finishes, use some steel wool to remove any rust or oxidation and repaint the furniture as needed,” he says.
  • If your metal furniture has a powder-coat finish and you notice scratches in the hard gloss surface, a touch-up pen will cover those flaws.
  • Unfinished aluminum furniture should be washed and dried. To buff out scratches and restore shine, polish it with metal polish and a microfiber cloth.

Tips for PVC, Resin or Plastic Furniture

“The easiest outdoor furniture to clean and maintain is typically made from PVC, resin or plastic,” says Feldman. “Think Adirondack chairs and patio dining chairs.” These are often some of the most affordable types of patio furniture, too. All but the cheapest patio furniture is made with high-density plastics that are durable, fade resistant and long-lasting.

  • Hose plastic or resin furniture down with a power washer (on a low setting) for a deep clean in crevices. “Use soap and water, any all-purpose spray cleaner and a sponge or damp cloth to clean it,” says Feldman.
  • “Skip any abrasive cleaners,” Feldman says, “since they can scratch and dull surfaces.” At the most, you can mix a little baking soda — about a half-cup to a gallon of water — to your soapy solution and use this to scour any stains.
  • Don’t use corrosives, like bleach or acid-based cleaners. These may eat into the plastic surface.
  • For an extra dose of shine and protection, treat clean, dry plastic, PVC or resin patio furniture with a plastic restorer and protectant. But if you have wicker or woven furniture made from synthetic materials, make sure any protectant or wax you use doesn’t build up in the weave.

Tips for Teak, Wood or Wicker Furniture

“Although using a power washer is fine for plastic furniture, it is not recommended for patio furniture made of teak, wicker or other types of wood such as ipe, acacia, pine or mango,” says Feldman. The high pressure can scar or damage the wood surfaces, or potentially tear apart a wicker weave.

  • Sweep away any caked-on dirt with a soft plastic scrub brush.
  • To clean wood furniture, use a mild oil soap formulated for wood, or soapy water and a soft brush or cloth to remove dirt and grime. Quickly wipe up excess water. “You can use a toothbrush to get deeper into the weave of wicker to loosen built-up dirt in the crevices,” says Feldman.
  • For porous weaves, such as true wicker made with rattan, bamboo, willow or other natural fibers, don’t saturate the furniture with water. Instead, wipe it down with a damp cloth.
  • After it’s cleaned, seal teak, oak and eucalyptus patio furniture with a lightweight wood sealant.
  • Tropical hardwoods, such as shorea or ipe, should be oiled rather than sealed.