We hate to see summer end around here, just on general principle. It means...kids going back to school, it means cooler weather, and it means "clean up and put away the patio furniture".
Yes, "clean up"! If you spent a small fortune on your outdoor living space, you definitely want to maintain it and take good care of it! Plus, if you have your lawn chemically-treated regularly, all that spray stuff settles eventually--and if your furniture is anywhere in the general vicinity, it's going to settle on it, too. While those chemicals are "safe" to be around, over time, they can also dull your furniture frames and discolor the cushions or slings. So a good "furniture wash" is really important, at least once or twice a year. That might sound daunting, but the nice thing about patio furniture is that it tends not to be a problem if you get it all wet. So that fall cleanup will probably not be as tough as you think (unless you have a lot of furniture). Still, it helps to have some tips and tricks under your belt before you get started, so today's topic is "Cleaning-Up Patio Furniture--The Basics".
Keep in mind, first and foremost, that you can't do this cleanup "quick and easy" with a power washer. While materials like wrought-iron would seem to be easier to clean that way, you don't want to do that unless you don't mind losing a lot of paint off the frames! Similarly with most cushion and sling fabrics--a power washer can tear holes or runs into the fabric. Some wickers can be cleaned with power washers, (particularly if you're actually trying to get the paint off an older set), but you have to be really careful not to get the wicker too soaked through with water. It'll look like it's starting to fray afterward, and when it dries, it may feel like you're sitting on a porcupine.
Your big car-wash sponge is actually perfect for this chore, but in a pinch, an older hairbrush or another brush with soft bristles works great, too. You really only need that, a bucket and/or a hose, and some gentle dish soap or laundry soap. A word about soaps--if you've got the scented kind of dish or laundry soap, and it smells like flowers or otherwise perfume-y? Use something different, or every bee on your property will start hovering around and interfering with your work! The "free of additives" soaps are your best bet there. There are patio furniture cleaners, but those tend to be good only for your plastics (plus they're usually more expensive).
Before you start wetting-down and scrubbing, take a look at the seats and at the underneath side of your cushions first (particularly if you forgot to flip them at least once this year). If you see pollen or dirt or pine needles, and you have an outdoor vac, use that to suck up the "big stuff" before you break out the soap and water.
Most cushion and sling fabric dries quickly, of course. So you don't want to soap up a large area or multiple pieces at a time, as the soap can dry on the furniture, making it dull. Do them one or two pieces at a time--wash, rinse, repeat. If you've got some really stubborn stains, soap them up and let them soak, then rinse, wash again, and then a final rinse. For mold or mildew removal, it depends on the type of furniture--outdoor bleach can be used (Clorox makes one), but you want to be careful of your cushion fabrics! For plastics (and particularly on the underneath sides of some patio umbrellas), though, this is the ticket! Mix some of it into your water and watch the green crud disappear!
If you have metal (ex: aluminum) in your chairs or chaises, did you know you could use car wax to clean those parts up? You would use it just like you would on your car--apply it, let it sit for a few minutes, and then wipe it down. It really does a nice job of shining it up, plus the next time the furniture gets wet, the water will bead right off!
Once everything is all nice and clean and dry, you want to put the furniture away if possible. If you don't have an inside space for it, there are a number of options for outside storage. Deck boxes are very handy for this purpose--you can store your cushions and umbrellas in those. You can also get some really good outdoor furniture covers (and we have these in an array of sizes, styles and prices here).
All in all, a little TLC for your outdoor patio furniture at the end of each season will make next spring's patio setup--when you pull it all out again--easy-peasy! Plus, taking good care to clean up your furniture regularly will enhance it and keep it looking beautiful for years to come. Happy scrubbing! :)