In a nutshell….warm water and Dawn liquid detergent. That’s right. Ninety percent of all fabrics and frames can be effectively cleaned by this solution. Of course it’s always wise to read the label when possible just to make sure you’re not dealing with the exception to the rule fabric. Whether the furniture is Aluminum, High Density Polyethylene, Wicker or PVC, the first steps are always the same. Brush or vacuum off loose debris. Then you can wash down surfaces with warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Use a hose equipped with a nozzle, NOT a power washer. Yes, using high-pressure water might save you a few minutes of scrubbing time, but there’s too much risk of damage. Particularly with the smooth finish on the High Density Polyethylene. (HDPE) and the threads on cushions and slings.
Use a quarter cup of clear dish washing liquid meant for hand washing, such as DAWN, in a gallon of water. In general, warm water dislodges grime better than cold water. But not too hot! Many manufacturers of outdoor fabrics warn against using anything hotter than 100 degrees. Why use DAWN dish washing liquid, rather than a creamy type? Creamy formulas contain ingredients you don’t need. And laundry /dishwasher detergents are more caustic than formulas made for skin contact. If the frames look good, polish with paste wax, like you’d use on a car. The slick surface helps repel dirt and makes the pieces easier to clean next time. Don’t forget to spray the bolts with WD-40 so when you go to replace the slings on your chairs or chaises, the bolts are easier to remove. You can also use a product sold in many of the Home Improvement stores called, “Alumaslick”. Spray it directly on your faded aluminum and in most cases it will bring back that lost luster.
If the standard cleaning with dish washing soap and water still leaves pieces looking grubby, put on some rubber gloves and clean again. This time pouring the liquid soap directly on the stubborn areas. You may also try putting two tablespoons of oxygen bleach ( such as OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover) per gallon of water. Dishwasher detergent and oxygen bleach contain a chemical, which reacts in water to form hydrogen peroxide. To lighten any mildew stains that remain even after all that, use 1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water. Rinse and let dry. You can also apply wax to PVC for the same reasons stated earlier.
High Density Polyethylene
This type of furniture can be cleaned the same way as PVC with the exception of applying wax afterwards. Do not use a pressure washer on this type of furniture as you may cause damage to the smooth surface. We recommend with the white furniture that you use a small white handle plastic brush with plastic bristles. Do not use a wooden handled brush as the wood handle will leave light brown streaks from the banging motion used when getting into the tight spots. You can also use a spray bottle with a 1 to 3 ratio of bleach to water and let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing. Spray off mixture with a hose.
Aluminum Framed Wicker
Traditional wicker is made from plant materials, often topped by paint. But today a lot of wicker-type furniture is made from synthetics, usually vinyl. For the basic cleaning, use only a sponge or a rag on traditional wicker that’s painted so you don’t chip the paint. You can scrub more on unpainted or synthetic wicker. If you spot loose strands, tuck them back in. Natural wicker becomes more pliable when damp so it’s the perfect time to make these easy repairs. If bigger areas are coming loose, you might need a pro to do the work.
Outdoor cushions, slings, seat covers and umbrella covers could be cotton canvas or other thick, natural material but are more likely a synthetic such as acrylic. Sunbrella is a well-known brand we carry. Other types include vinyl or polyester. If the manufacturer’s tag is still attached, follow the instructions. If not, and you don’t know what kind of material you’re dealing with, a safe choice is to use a warm solution of Dawn liquid detergent. If fabric is removable, you can use a washing machine set to a gentle cycle, NEVER use a dryer. Re-install covers while the fabric is damp so it stretches to fit.
If mildew stains remain, check the care label to see whether you can use chlorine bleach. Always test in an inconspicuous place. Try 1 tablespoon in 1 cup of water to remove the stain without messing up the color or texture of the fabric. If it does not, then you can make a 1 cup to 1 gallon mixture.
We ALWAYS recommend that you further protect your new cushions with a water repellent such as Scotch Guard. You can find it in any Auto Parts store. This works great on most fabrics but not vinyl or synthetic suede. When applying, pay particular attention to the welt and button areas. That’s where mildew tends to form first so an extra coat of water repellent goes along way in preventing growth.
Outdoor cushions should have filling that resists mildew but it’s still a good idea to get them dry as quickly as possible. If the covers have zippers, ( apply some petroleum jelly to prevent zippers from sticking ) we recommend opening the zipper and then placing the cushion zipper side down, to allow the water to drain easily. If there’s no zipper, just place the cushion with one end down.
Keep it looking good
To keep it looking like new for as long as possible, always spread a towel down when possible if you’re applying suntan oils or lotions. Whenever you go indoors for the day, cover the cushions or bring them inside with you. Don’t cover them with plastic as that invites mildew.