How To Clean And Maintain Outdoor Furniture To Keep It In Top Shape (2024)

Having an inviting outdoor conversation set or dining set is like having an extra room that’s always ready for an al fresco dinner party or celebration—until it’s not. Between sun, rain and a few too many backyard barbecues, patio furniture can start to look worse for wear over time. So how do you keep your pieces in tip-top shape so they last for more than one season?

According to the pros we consulted, the secret lies in regular upkeep and smart protection—think gentle cleaning instead of power washing, using UV-resistant treatments and investing in durable covers. Storing your furniture properly can also make a world of difference. “The biggest mistake that people make with their outdoor furniture is neglecting to maintain it throughout the summer,” says Sean Cassidy, professional product designer at West Elm. “They pull it out and leave it uncovered all season.”

From preventing UV rays from fading your favorite pieces to investing in some durable covers, here's how to clean outdoor furniture and keep it looking brand-new.

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Clean Your Furniture Gently And Regularly

Keeping your outdoor furniture clean is the first step in preserving its look and quality. According to Zachary Dettmore, founder of Dettmore Home Improvements and carpenter on This Old House, the trick is to avoid harsh methods. “Using a pressure washer with a tip that is too powerful can damage the furniture,” he says. “And aggressive chemicals can also deteriorate the furniture’s longevity.”

A gentler approach, such as soft washing with regular cleaning products, is often more effective and less harmful. A simple mix of water and mild dish soap works great on plastic and metal furniture, while a specialized wood cleaner keeps wooden pieces looking like new. “I cannot say enough about mild soap and water,” Cassidy emphasizes. “For the majority of materials, wood aside, a gentle soap such as Dawn and a hose will do wonders.”

Dawn Ultra Free & Clear

Regular cleaning—especially during pollen-heavy seasons or when leaves are falling—can help prevent a buildup of grime that can lead to stains and wear. For tough spots, consider using a soft brush to gently scrub away dirt without damaging the surface of your furniture. Keep a regular schedule to ensure your pieces stay in great condition all year round.

Invest In High-Quality Covers And Keep Cushions Dry

Investing in durable outdoor furniture covers is one of the easiest things you can do to protect your patio dining set and sofa from the elements. “All the big retailers sell matching covers for their sets,” Cassidy says. “They’re small investments but greatly extend the lifespan of your pieces.” These covers act as a shield against rain, sunlight, wind and more. Most importantly, they should be used regularly throughout the summer season—not just when the weather is bad.

Ultcover Heavy-Duty Patio Furniture Set Cover

You may not think to cover up your patio set on a sunny day, but durable covers should be used whenever the furniture isn’t in use. And when a storm does roll through, make it a priority to keep cushions and fabrics clean and dry. Moisture can lead to mold and mildew, which can quickly ruin cushions. Even if you have covers, it’s best to bring cushions indoors during harsh weather to prevent damage.

Strategically Position Your Furniture

Where you position your outdoor furniture can make a big difference in how well it holds up over time. “Protecting your outdoor furniture from UV light is crucial,” says Dettmore. “So placing it under a covered area is the best option.” Consider setting up your furniture under a pergola or canopy to provide constant protection from the sun. And if you want to create movable shade, a patio umbrella is your best bet, as they’re easy to adjust as needed throughout the day. If you have limited covered space, prioritize placing your most vulnerable pieces like wooden furniture and cushions under these structures.

Purple Leaf Retractable Pergola

It’s also important to think about what you put on your furniture. “For tables, avoid placing candles, plants or other items that can cause permanent stains,” Dettmore advises. This is particularly relevant during or after rainstorms, when moisture can collect and sit between the objects and the table surface.

Apply UV-Resistant Treatments

Again, the sun accounts for “most of the damage” to outdoor furniture, warns Cassidy, so it’s critical to protect your pieces from those harmful UV rays. If you don’t want to use covers or place your furniture in shaded areas, applying a UV-resistant finish or paint is another great way to protect your pieces from the sun. These treatments act like sunscreen for furniture and help prevent fading, cracking and other damage caused by UV exposure.

SunGuard UV Protectant Spray

First, clean your furniture thoroughly to remove any dirt and debris. Once it’s dry, apply the UV-resistant treatment evenly, following the instructions on the product label. Make sure to cover all the nooks and crannies for maximum protection. Regular reapplication is key, especially if your furniture is in a sunny spot. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for how often to reapply the treatment and watch for signs of wear throughout the season.

Refresh And Refinish Wooden Furniture

Don’t forget to give some extra love to your wooden furniture to keep them looking new and extends their lifespan. Just keep in mind that the material needs special treatment. "Choosing the right finish for your patio furniture depends on whether a protective coating is necessary,” Dettmore explains. “For instance, wood like teak requires oil to maintain its original color, while recycled plastic-based outdoor furniture does not need any products to preserve its appearance."

Furniture Clinic Wood Teak Oil

It’s also important to consider the level of maintenance when choosing a finish. Certain oils are easier to reapply since they don't require excessive sanding or stripping. On the other hand, durable products like varnish may last longer but often need some muscle to sand and strip them before recoating. "If you want your wooden patio furniture to look new and fresh, you must frequently apply the appropriate finish,” Dettmore says. “However, if you prefer a more weathered look, you can let the elements take their course, and the wood will typically develop a silver patina similar to an old beach house."

Properly Store Furniture During The Off-Season

When the temperatures drop and patio season ends, it's time to think about where to store your outdoor furniture. “Cold and wet winter conditions will ravage your patio sets,” Cassidy warns. “Outdoor furniture is made to withstand tougher conditions, but there are constraints.” The best solution? Tuck everything away in a shed, garage or under a deck. A temperature-controlled space is ideal, but a dry spot with minimal humidity works, too. “Protecting furniture from rain, snow and UV exposure helps maintain its appearance and contributes to its durability,” Dettmore says.

Sterilite Clear Plastic Latch Box (66 Quarts)

With cushions, you want to bring them inside and store them properly, says professional organizer Tova Weinstock. "I see a lot of outdoor cushions tossed half-tucked into garbage bags and thrown into a boiler room or unfinished basem*nt,” she adds. “If you want them to last, you have to treat them better by storing them in fully sealed plastic bins or bags." Remove the covers to wash them, then store the pillow inserts separately. Vacuum storage bags are also great for saving space and keeping things mold-free.

If indoor storage isn’t an option, durable covers are the next best thing to protect both your frames and cushions. Just be prepared for a bit of extra cleaning and prep work come spring.

Regularly Inspect And Repair Your Furniture

Routine inspections are key to keeping your outdoor furniture in good shape. Catching small issues early can prevent them from becoming major problems. Check for rust on metal pieces and tackle it with rust remover and a fresh coat of paint. For wooden furniture, sand down rough spots and apply a fresh finish to keep it looking like new.

Don't forget to inspect cushions and fabrics for mildew, stains or tears. A quick wash and some minor stitching can go a long way in extending their life. If you notice stains, treat them immediately with the appropriate cleaner to prevent permanent damage. Regular maintenance helps your outdoor furniture stay ready for every backyard hangout.

How To Clean And Maintain Outdoor Furniture To Keep It In Top Shape (2024)
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