Cleaning & Organization

Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Furniture Care: Tips for Cleaning & Maintenance

April 8, 2024

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Our outdoor living spaces are an extension of our home, in many ways. They’re where we host guests in warmer months, chill out with family, or grab a quiet moment away from the busyness of everyday life. In Idaho, we had a solid 3 months of outdoor living time before it got too cold, but since moving to North Carolina, I would say there are only 2-3 months out of the year where we AREN’T hanging out in our backyard. It’s been truly heavenly. But in case you don’t remember, here’s what it looked like before our DRASTIC renovation.

Chris Loves Julia Back Yard Before Renovation

We started this project about 7 months after moving into this home. We designed it with entertaining in mind, complete with pool, fire pit, outdoor living area and outdoor kitchen. We truly spend so much time out here! Here it is from a similar angle:

Chris Loves Julia | Outdoor black Adirondack chairs around a fire pit and pool chairs next to a pool
Shop The Backyard

And, to be honest, so does the furniture. In fact, it has been outside for an entire year, uncovered. It wasn’t on purpose, there was just never a long enough break from using it to make it make sense to store it. However, I do think we’ll get covers so the spring cleaning isn’t so intense next time.

All outdoor furniture is not created equal. To help us enjoy the outdoors more (and worry about the furniture less), we made sure to invest in high-quality outdoor furniture. Especially when it comes to upholstered furniture, you’ll want to find ones that are made to withstand the elements–all of our upholstered furniture and umbrellas are Sunbrella fabric from Frontgate (fabric color is Sailcloth Salt). Years ago, we bought really inexpensive outdoor furniture, and when the cushions got wet, they stayed wet for a long time. Which made enjoying them more difficult.

In the dryer climate of Idaho, we didn’t worry so much about mold developing on our outdoor patio furniture, but the wind meant we battled constantly with dirt and dust. (Pro tips: Easy-to-access outdoor cushion storage is your BFF, and an annual coating of Exterior Scotch Guard, even on weather-resistant fabric, makes a huge difference.) 

Taking stock of our furniture today after our North Carolina winter, the frames still look in perfect condition. But the cushions did get some really green mildew in the cracks. Fortunately, our cushions are Sunbrella fabric, so they’re made to withstand a good cleaning. 

Chris Loves Julia | Back patio of a brick home with wrought-iron furniture with white cushions

Loveseat | Ottoman | Sofa | Coffee Table

First and foremost, you should find and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you didn’t save them, try pulling them up online — in fact, I prefer this to keeping manuals!

Our go-to trick for cleaning outdoor furniture? Pressure wash all of it. This is a job that is fun and kind of mindless. We offered to pay the kids to do this chore. But Chris wanted to do it too, so I told him he could start, and show them how it’s done. Parent tip for ya: Everyone wants to do this job so we didn’t even need to offer money, ha!  

Often, people worry about white cushions, but I’m here to tell you the sun does wonders for outdoor cushions. It’s a natural bleaching agent, and it will lighten any dark spots, so stains will fade away.  

Here are a few more tips for caring for your outdoor furniture:

1. Prepare for a “big clean” day

As much as possible, keep your cleanup tools and tools at the ready to save yourself trips in and out of the house. (When you’re restocking wipes, sprays and sponges, always make sure you’re accounting for outside spaces.) Pick a day for cleaning when the forecast is clear and preferably has less humidity, so cushions dry more quickly. 

Chris Loves Julia | Back patio and in-ground pool surrounded by black iron furniture with white cushions

Shop The Backyard

2. Use the right cleaning products

If you’re not going to pressure wash, in most cases, your favorite gentle soap in warm water will be your go-to. If mold is threatening your teak table or favorite fabric cushions, a few drops of added bleach may be in order (but again, check manufacturer’s instructions). You’ll want soft brushes in different sizes (smaller ones are a bit more effective with wicker and rattan), a garden hose to rinse away the soap and debris, and microfiber towels for wiping everything down once you’re done. 

3. Maintenance is your friend

Prevention is key to avoiding extra work or even a patio catastrophe if a storm rolls in. Make a habit of lowering umbrellas, tipping chairs to keep rain from collecting, using furniture covers and cabinets for storage and securing lightweight items that might get carried away in the wind. If you don’t love the look of weathered wood, apply a coat of wood oil or paste wax early each spring. Watch for signs of rust on exposed metals. Plus, sand, prime, repaint and protect.

Chris Loves Julia | In-ground pool surrounded by black iron furniture with white cushions under black and white striped umbrellas

Chaise Lounge | Umbrella Stand | Striped Umbrella | Faux Cedar Tree

This all might sound like a lot of work, but it’s not bad if you keep up with it. Once you give your outdoor furniture a good start-of-season cleaning, you’ll need to maintain it throughout the season. I like to think of cleaning patio furniture as a routine part of your home maintenance beyond your spring-cleaning to-do list! 

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What do you think?

  1. KL says:

    Please advise on patio tables and chairs too! Is metal or teak more durable? I’d prefer to avoid plastic if I can. I’m in a dry climate similar to northern Idaho, just a little colder, and I’d prefer to leave the table out year-round with just a cover in the winter (but exposed to spring/fall rain and wild temperature fluctuations).

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      In your climate, I’d suggest metal over teak because of the maintenance on the teak. Steel is great; one downside can be paint chipping off which can cause rust. But you’ll get more life out of it being in a cold, drier climate. We have cast aluminum furniture in our backyard and it’s quite durable overall, but just note that it can be prone to dents and dings.

  2. Lauren says:

    Just be careful when pressure washing, I got a little too close with it and ruined some of the fabric 😬

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