How to Clean Outdoor Patio and Deck Furniture

Read on to learn how to care for all types of outdoor furniture. (alabn/Getty Images Pro)

Regardless of whether the outdoor furniture on your patio or deck is made of wood, aluminum, wrought iron, or plastic; it takes a lot of abuse from the elements including sun, rain, snow, and extreme changes in temperature.

Here are some tips on how to clean and protect the furniture on your deck or patio to keep it looking like new.

Metal Furniture
Iron and metal are prone to rusting. (ballycroy/Getty Images Signature)

Wrought Iron and Metal Furniture

How to Clean:

  • Mix up a squirt of dishwashing detergent with a bucket of warm water.
  • Scrub surface with a scrub brush.
  • Rinse furniture and allow to dry.
  • Use a wire brush or sandpaper to remove any rusted spots down to the bare metal.
  • Wipe off any metal reside with a clean cloth dampened with mineral spirits or naphtha.
  • Spray bare spots with a primer made for metal, such as those made by Rust-Oleum following the directions on the can (wear an approved respirator). Allow surface to dry for recommended time.
  • Spray furniture with paint made for metal of the desired color, following the directions on the can (wear an approved respirator).
  • Allow paint to dry thoroughly before using furniture.

Aluminum Furniture
Oxidation can be a hardy task to try to remove. Using automotive wax can help prevent it. (Kameleon007/Getty Images Signature)

Aluminum Furniture

How to Remove Oxidation:

  • Option #1: Remove light oxidation by rubbing the surface with a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water.
  • Option #2: Rub the surface with automotive rubbing or polishing compound to abrade away oxidation.
  • Option #3: Clean the surface with dishwashing detergent and water using a plastic scrubbing sponge or very fine steel wool. NOTE: Try first on hidden area to see if it scratches the aluminum.
  • All options: Rinse off the cleaning solution with a garden hose, and allow to dry.

How to Prevent Oxidation:

  • Apply a coat of automotive paste wax to the surface.
  • Allow the wax to dry for a few minutes.
  • Remove residue and polish surface with a clean cloth.

Plastic Furniture
Whether your plastic furniture is out directly in the sun or shade, colors can fade easily and the plastic can become very brittle. (Webkatrin001/Getty Images)

Plastic and Molded Resin Furniture

How to Clean:

  • Dip a sponge in warm water, and squeeze out any excess.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on the sponge to act as a mild abrasive.
  • Scrub furniture with sponge.
  • Rinse furniture with garden hose.
  • Allow furniture to dry.

How to Remove Mildew or Mold:

  • White Furniture: Apply a solution of one part bleach to four parts water in a pump up sprayer. Leave on for 10-20 minutes, rinse with a garden hose, and allow to dry in full sun.
  • Colored Furniture: Apply a solution of 1/4 cup white vinegar to one quart water in a pump up sprayer. Leave on for 10-20 minutes then rinse with a garden hose, and allow to dry in full sun.

How to Restore Shine:

  • Apply a coat of automotive paste wax to the surface.
  • Allow the wax to dry for a few minutes.
  • Wipe off any residue with a clean cloth.

Wood Furniture
Wood furniture, when worn down, can begin to decay from buildup of moisture and other weather related problems. (ogm)

Natural Wood Furniture

How to Clean (Redwood, Cedar, Pine):

  • Option #1: Scrub surface with soft scrub brush using special wood cleaner or brightener following the directions on container (wear protective clothing and rubber gloves). Rinse with hose and allow to dry in full sun.
  • Option #2: Scrub with mixture of 1/4 cup ammonia and two tablespoons white vinegar in one quart water. Rinse with garden hose and allow to dry in full sun.

How to Clean (Teak):

  • Option #1: Apply teak cleaner, following the directions on the container.
  • Option #2: Apply mixture of 1/4 cup laundry detergent and one quart bleach to one gallon water. Allow to remain on for 10-20 minutes. Scrub with soft bristled brush and rinse with garden hose.

How to Refinish Teak Furniture:

  • Gray Patina: When left unfinished, teak will develop a natural silver patina over time.
  • Natural Color: To retain the natural brown color of new teak, apply a special teak protector, teak oil, or teak sealer following the directions on the can. Reapply as needed.

Outdoor Cushion
Your furniture isn’t the only thing that needs to be cleaned! Those lovely cushions you have get just as dirty, or more, because the fabric traps all the grime and dirt. (g01xm/Getty Images Signature)

Fabric Cushions

How to Clean Removable Covers:

  • Remove covers and follow machine washing instructions on tag.
  • Put covers back on cushions while still damp and allow to dry.
  • Allow fabric to dry in place to reduce shrinkage.

How to Clean Attached Covers:

  • Dissolve a squirt of dishwashing detergent and a teaspoon of borax in one quart warm water.
  • Wet down the fabric with the solution and scrub lightly with a sponge or soft bristled scrub brush.
  • Allow to soak for 10-20 minutes.
  • Rinse cushions using a garden hose with sprayer.
  • Allow cushions to fully dry.

How to Remove Mold and Mildew:

  • White Fabric: Remove mildew by applying a solution of one part chlorine bleach to four parts water. Allow to soak for 10 minutes, then rinse off with garden hose, and allow to dry in full sun. If cushions are machine washable, add recommended amount of bleach to washer. NOTE: Do not use chlorine bleach on colored fabrics.
  • Colored Fabric: Wash in machine or soak with diluted color safe, non-chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry in full sun.

Further Reading


  1. Is linseed oil good to use on outdoor benches? Will it protect it like Thompsans or am I better off using thompsons? I was thinking about applying a cherry stain to out door natural teak colored bench. If I do, can I use linseed oil as a cover or Thompsons.

    • Hi Kevin,
      Oils like linseed and Tung do not make a very durable exterior finish, tend to mildew, and will need to be reapplied often if the bench will be out in the weather. Exterior varnish (marine or spar) holds up better, but will breakdown after a few years. Bottom line is that it’s hard to find a natural finish that holds up well outside over time due to constant sun and rain.

  2. I would like to paint my Muskoka chairs. Would I prime first? and what paint would be required to hold up to the elements?

    Thanks so much

  3. Hi,
    How can I bring the luster back to my wrought iron patio furniture without painting it? It is the standard brown heavy woven metal type. It looks dull and dusty. Is there an oil I can use that will not course a sticky build up?

  4. Hello,

    Me and my husband start to clean our outdoor area again and our furniture too! Sometime it can be fun but some-time it is so annoying (scrubbing the floors, cleaning outdoor furnitures with sponge etc.).
    Are there some battery powered cleaning tools? I just see some in the shop but most of them are garden tools with battery. It would help me a lot.

  5. We have the wrought iron table and chairs. The backing is coming off the backs of the chairs. What is an easy fix. Chairs are still good except back.

  6. I have a grey metal patio set and it has a whiteish film on the table and chairs and I cannot seem to restore it. What can I use to restore the set as I feel it looks like the finish is fading. Thank you for any advice you can give me.

  7. Hi,
    How can I bring the luster back to my wrought iron patio furniture without painting it? It is the standard brown heavy woven metal type. It looks dull and dusty. Is there an oil I can use that will not course a sticky build up?

  8. My woven look iron outdoor table and chairs have become dull from sitting in the sun. What can I do to get them to the luster they had when I bought them?

  9. For wrought iron furniture, we just clean with stiff brush using soap and water, use wire brush for any rust that forms over winter or just a scrubby, apply thin coat of linseed oil and buff it off with a drill attached buffing wheel, and an old cotton cloth on the legs. No paint to worry about and like the garden tools, it’s been around for decades. This year I think I will use a garden sprayer on the metal table my brother built about 30- 40 years ago as the top is a metal diamond mesh.

  10. Thank you for the help. I am hoping to buy some wood patio furniture. I assumed that it would be necessary to scrub the furniture, as you mentioned. How often do you think that it needs to be cleaned that well?

  11. I tried this on my resin chairs which were badly oxidized. Vinegar didn’t do a thing. Neither did baking soda. What worked was a Brillo Pad and Barkeepers Friend with a lot of scrubbing. What was much easier was Clorox Pro Outdoor Bleach. (Sodium hypochlorite and Sodium hydroxide – generic brand $4/gallon). Hose off large dirt first. Wipe it on with a damp sponge. I wore nitrile or vinyl gloves with the cuffs duct-taped to rubber gloves. By the time I had two chairs wiped down with the viscous solution, the first chair was ready to wipe down with a Scotch Brite Pad (kept damp). Hose off. The solution will ruin clothing – wear old work cloths. Bad spots take 2 treatments. The chairs look almost new, except they are still a bit chalky. I rubbed the residue off with a plastic cleaner such as Armor All.

  12. I have been using a green sponge that has a white netting covering it to clean my patio furniture. It’s come to the end of it’s life and I can’t remember where I bought it. Any ideas please

    • Hi, Sheila!

      There are so many wonderful cleaning products out there matching this description, we’re opening this question to the community.

      Any ideas?

  13. Thank you so much for helping me prepare for my nice new deck furniture; it’s really helpful knowing how to take care of different kinds so I can keep that in mind when I go shopping for the furniture later this weekend. I’m hoping to get a lot of wrought iron and metal furniture for my yard, and it seems easy enough to take care of them with just some laundry detergent and maybe a wire brush if it gets rusted. The tips on washing fabric cushions, though, will be especially invaluable, because I figured those wouldn’t work well in the washing machine, but I still want to have some nice padding on the metal furniture.

  14. I have plain aluminum furniture. We have cleaned and polished.
    The gray residue still wipes off on a damp cloth.
    Does the furniture need to be sealed to prevent this?

    • Hi, Kathy,
      Preventing oxidation is easy!
      For clean furniture, just apply a coat of automotive paste wax to the furniture’s surface.
      Allow the wax to dry for a few minutes and then remove the residue.
      Finally, polish the surface with a clean cloth.
      Hope this helps!

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  16. I am inheriting my grandma’s dining room table. Round with claw foot. Anyway, I don’t want to strip it or restain it. Definitely not painting it. But it has been in storage for 20 years and needs a good cleaning but I’m afraid it will have that sticky feel to it after washing it. What can I do? Thanks!

    • Hi, Rauf!
      We’re always looking for homeowners to call into our radio show and ask questions directly to Danny and Joe. We’ve reviewed your question and shared it with our radio producer, Marc, for consideration.
      Need immediate help? Connect one-on-one with a home improvement pro immediately through JustAnswer, a Today’s Homeowner partner:
      Take care. 🙂

  17. I am having problems getting the stain to set on a wooden deck. I have sanded the deck with a drum sander, applied a brightener, let dry, restrained the wood and still the stain is coming off in most of the deck. This is not a cheap stain. Help please .


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