How To Clean, Protect, and Care For Outdoor Furniture

Outdoor furniture care isn't the most exciting gardening task, but it is an important one. Stay on top of outdoor furniture maintenance and cleaning throughout the seasons with this guide.

Caring for outdoor patio furniture


After much hard work, you have a beautiful garden bursting with flowers and glorious harvests. However, an unsightly eyesore lurks in the corner. It has been long forgotten as the seasons have cycled from one to the next: your unloved garden furniture.

Perhaps you’ve used a tarp in an effort to protect the furniture from the elements (and yourself from having to think about cleaning). But luckily, outdoor furniture care is not difficult when you know the basics.

So whether wood, plastic, or something in between, don’t be daunted by outdoor furniture care, no matter the season. Follow these tips to bring life and beauty back to your forgotten picnic table or tired plastic seating.

Outdoor Furniture Care

Close up of a hand holding a paint brush, painting stain on a wooden patio chair.
Your outdoor furniture will last longer with frequent care and maintenance.

First, let’s go through some basic outdoor furniture care tips to keep everything in tip-top shape.

Plastic Furniture

Close up of several gray, plastic patio chairs around a round plastic table.
Warm water and a cloth towel will remove any stains or dust from your plastic patio furniture.

Plastic furniture has become a staple in many home gardens across the world. It’s cheap, reliable, and easy to clean. Resilient year-round, plastic garden furniture generally requires the least maintenance.

However, during summer it can become weaker or misshapen in direct sunlight. When not in use, plastic should be kept in a shaded area. The stackability of plastic furniture makes this easy to achieve.

If it’s heavier plastic or one of the commercial resins, it may have some sun protection. But it’s still good to try to keep it shaded whenever possible.

To clean plastics and resins, simply use a cloth dunked into a mix of warm water and dish detergent. Most dirt can be wiped away easily with this. If you have fine crevices, you can use a soft toothbrush and a gentle hand to get dirt out.

Avoid scourers or anything with the potential to scratch the surface of the furniture, as plastic tends to be soft. Similarly, power washers can damage the furniture and should also be avoided. Be sure to rinse with water once it’s clean, and let it air dry.

Wooden or Wicker Furniture

Four wood, slatted patio chairs around a wood slatted stable on a cement patio garden area.
Staining your wood patio furniture will help keep your furniture protected from the elements.

Wooden furniture is a beautiful addition to your garden, but it may need a little more work than your average plastic deck chair.

Yearly treatment with stains is recommended to maintain the beautiful appearance of the furniture. This treatment should mean your wooden furniture is safe to keep outside year-round. However, it’s still best to keep it under cover or in a shed during the wetter and colder months.

Softwood furniture – such as pine – needs treatment to protect it from the elements. Typically, your furniture will have been treated prior to you taking it home from the store. But a wood preserver as an added coat is excellent for maintaining the furniture. One can of this will last you a few years, so keep it in your shed for later.

When applying any wood treatment, make sure everything is clean, dry, and free of debris. There’s nothing harder than trying to remove dirt that you have accidentally painted onto the surface of your furniture. This is especially true in the nooks and crannies of wicker furniture.

Glass Table Tops

Small, square glass patio table with black, metal legs and four small stools with wood seats, on a wood deck surrounded by potted plants.
Dust and grit left on glass surfaces can create a stained, milky look over time.

Glass tabletops, while stylish, can be magnets for the dirt in your garden. Any household glass window cleaner can be used to remove this dirt regularly. Remember to clean the underside of the table as well as the top.

Cracks or chips can be fixed with an automotive window repair kit. If they grow too large, they can become dangerous, so keep an eye out for problems.

If you forget to clean your table too often, the grit on the surface can etch into the glass. This can cause a cloudy or milky look. While there’s no easy way to remedy this, occasionally applying automotive wax can help protect the glass’s surface from further damage.

If your table has a tile top, it can be cleaned like glass. However, dirt and dust may build up in the grout lines. Use a soft toothbrush to scrub out the grout lines.

Cushions and Fabric

Two oversized, wood patio chairs with white, thick cushions sitting side by side in front of a square wood patio table with a tea pot and small white mugs on the table.
Remove and wash your cushion fabric on high heat to remove dirt and bacteria.

Most garden furniture comes with cushions for comfort and style. However, fabric can easily attract dirt and general wear outdoors. That’s why regular fabric outdoor furniture care is essential.

During the summer, strong sunlight may cause discoloration from UV damage. Cotton and some yarn tend to hold color longer in the sunlight. Acrylic is also ideal as it is mold-resistant, perfect for the outdoors. Search for these materials if you want vibrant cushions throughout summer.

Regular washing of outdoor cushions is necessary to keep them fresh. Dirt can become embedded in the fabric, so wash on high heat to remove all dirt and bacteria effectively. This should be done regularly, especially before long-term storage over the colder months.


Close up of a white hammock in a shady area of a yard.
Over time the ropes and or fabric may need to be replaced in order to keep your hammock safe to use.

If you love hammocks, you’ll want to check the rope and the body regularly for weakened points. If there are any weakened segments, it may be time to pick up a new hammock or do some repairs.

Patching the body should be done with a sturdy cloth of the same type. It should completely cover any weak spots on both sides. Hand-sewing is fine, as long as you add reinforcement. Some hammock manufacturers make repair kits that come with patches, too.

If there are weak ropes, replace them. While you can use either natural or manmade fiber ropes, you need one rated to hold the right weight. You also want a flexible rope, as a stiff one won’t be comfortable.

Remove the ropes at one end of the hammock and use them to measure out your new rope. Using the old rope on the other end of the hammock as a guideline, replace them in the same way they were originally. Then remove the other side of the rope and replace that, too.

You’ll also want to check the hammock frame. If it’s metal, be sure that it isn’t rusting. Cover scratches with rust-prevention materials. If it’s wood, ensure it is free from cracks and thoroughly sealed to protect the wood’s surface.

Furniture Stain Removal

Small bird perched on an out door patio chair with several droppings of bird poop on the back of the chair.
Different types of furniture will require different methods when removing animal droppings.

Spills and stains should be avoided whenever possible, or you will have a long-lasting memento of the incident.

Wipe down any spills quickly with a dry cloth, then use a light soapy mixture to remove any discoloration. On wood or wicker, use a soft brush if necessary. On plastic, cloth is generally enough.

If your furniture does get stained by bird droppings or untended spills, it may stick around. While well-sealed wood generally won’t stain, unsealed wood definitely does.

If your wooden furniture is unsealed, sand the wood’s surface in the direction of the grain to remove the marking. Once you’ve done that and made sure your furniture is clean and dry, get a sealer on that wood to prevent further issues.

Wicker may also be susceptible to mildew issues which can stain and damage the wickerwork. If you find mildew on your wicker, gently wipe the affected area with a mix of water and white vinegar. Allow that to sit for a minute or two. Then use a clean, dampened cloth with water to remove any excess vinegar.

This should kill the mildew and help prevent further mildew buildup. Unfortunately, stains on wicker are hard to combat, but they can be managed.

Seasonal Changes

A snowy wood deck with patio furniture with a cover over it, covered in snow.
Covering your patio furniture during harsh weather conditions will help them last longer.

There are certain things you should do in each season to ensure you stay on top of outdoor furniture care. Here’s a checklist to follow.


Hose spraying down a wood, outdoor bench and small square table in the middle of a grassy area.
After removing your furniture from winter storage, it may need a deep cleaning.

Spring is the perfect time to get your garden furniture ready for the season of barbecues and backyard gatherings ahead.

Whether you have kept your furniture under a tarp or furniture covers, in a shed, or even under your decking, there will undoubtedly be a build-up of grime and cobwebs. Start by thoroughly wiping down and cleaning your furniture with water. Use a hose if there is a particularly bad build-up.

Then, fill a bucket with water to the halfway point. Add two cups of white vinegar and dishwashing liquid to tackle grease. Work this solution into the surface of your furniture with a cloth or soft brush. The mixture should successfully remove dirt and odors that build up after storage.

Rinse away the solution, again with your garden hose or a bucket of plain water. Avoid the temptation of using a power washer. This can be too strong, removing paint from surfaces and aggravating cracks in wooden furniture.


Two white, plastic patio chairs in the shade on a wood deck area and a closed, green patio umbrella in the middle of the two chairs.
Re-locate your plastic furniture to a shady area to protect it from the harsh, hot summer months.

As summer begins, your furniture will see a lot of wear and tear. This includes stains, possible bug infestations, and occasional damage.

It’s best to be prepared for weekly outdoor furniture care and maintenance. Think of it as part of your gardening routine. Water the plants, mow the lawn, and then clean the furniture. Keep your eyes open for potential cracking that may need repair. If necessary, clean the fabric of your cushions or hammock.

On the hottest days of the month, move any plastic furniture to the shade during the peak heat of the day whenever possible. This will increase the longevity of your plastic chairs and tables.


Four maroon colored, plastic, patio chairs around a matching, round table, covered in fall leaves.
Store your furniture in a protected are when the weather conditions start to turn.

Although temperatures dip, fall may not be the right time to put your furniture into storage for the season. With plenty of opportunities for bright days in the garden, it would be a shame to lose the opportunity to lounge outdoors. But you should be prepared for quick changes in the weather.

Sudden winds, rain, thunderstorms, and dramatic temperature dips can spring up when you’re not aware. Keep a close watch on weather reports and ensure you have time to put your furniture away before the bad weather starts.

If it persists, this may be the ultimate sign that you are ready for winter outdoor furniture care.


Close up of a black, wicker, patio chair and table covered in thick, fresh snow.
Plastic covers, a storage area or placing your patio furniture indoors will help protect them from harsh winter conditions.

Putting your furniture indoors in winter is the safest option to keep it in top condition. But there are also a few other tricks you can use.

A weatherproof plastic cover can be placed over a carefully stacked selection of your garden furniture. This is better if it’s possible to secure the sheet to the ground, allowing you to close the gaps as tightly as possible.

Bugs will still find their way inside, but hopefully, the weather will not. You can also purchase commercial furniture covers that will fit your furnishings. Those are great for wooden or wicker products that don’t stack well.

If you have a storage shed, this is the best home for your outdoor furniture over the cold months. Otherwise, keep them indoors where possible.

Final Thoughts

Outdoor furniture care isn’t the most exciting gardening task, but it is an important one. Whether you’re working with plastic or wood, follow this guide to ensure your furniture lasts for years to come.

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