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How To Care For and Update Your Outdoor Furniture

How To Care For and Update Your Outdoor Furniture

Outdoor furniture can give your yard a whole new look, turning a basic patio into a living or dining room. What’s more, these pieces are designed to withstand environmental factors, ensuring you have a stunning outdoor living space for years to come. However, even the heartiest furniture requires care – maintaining your furniture will help it last longer and keep its original beauty. And what about updating the look of your pieces?

How To Care For And Update Your Outdoor Furniture
Painting your outdoor furniture could give it new life.

Here are tips for making sure your outdoor furniture looks great and serves you well as long as you own it:

How to clean

How you clean your outdoor furniture comes down to the materials it’s made of and the piece you’re working on. Cushions and wood chairs, for instance, should receive slightly different treatment. Here are best practices for washing various furniture types:

Composite - Clean composite wood patio furniture as dirt and debris accumulates with a damp cloth and a mild soapy solution; rinse and dry thoroughly afterwards. Be sure to speedily clean up spills, grease and grime to prevent unsightly stains and mold from occurring. It’s important to note that using a pressure washer on composite furniture is not recommended.  

“Plant wicker tends to be more fragile than synthetic versions, so you’ll have to clean gently.”

Wicker - Before getting to work cleaning wicker furniture, double check to see whether it’s synthetic or natural. For synthetic options made from resin wicker, you can easily spray them clean with a hose. If they have more stubborn dirt, use a soft-bristle brush with a mixture of mild soap and water. Plant wicker tends to be more fragile, so you’ll have to clean gently. Use a slightly damp soft cloth with a mixture of mild soap and water – scrub gently to avoid chipping paint or scratching the material. In both cases, be sure to rinse thoroughly and dry right away.

Wood - Using a mixture of oil-based mild soap and water, scrub your wood furniture. If it’s a soft wood, such as cedar, scrub in the direction of the wood grain. Teak and other hardwoods don’t require this step. Use as little water as possible, and don’t hose down your furniture. Additionally, some woods should get a coat of oil after cleaning. Double check what kind of wood your chairs are made of – teak should not get a coat of oil because it can trap moisture and cause molding.

Metal - As with most other outdoor furniture pieces, you can use soap and water to scrub metal furniture. Make sure to work on areas where rust is present until you’re left with bare metal. Wipe down the furniture with mineral spirits, paying attention to those spots where rust used to be. If you had rust spots, you’ll likely have to paint your piece. Prime first, then paint. Let the metal dry. If there was no rust, a simple clean will do.

Plastic - Create a mixture of gentle detergent and water. Rinse your furniture with a hose, then scrub it using a sponge or cloth. Avoid using a scouring pad. Rinse again with the hose, and let your furniture dry. If you can, put it in a sunny patch in your yard – that way, the warmth will dry it faster.

Cushions - To prevent stains, it’s best to clean fabrics regularly before dirt and food particles have a chance to accumulate. This will also help you avoid more frequent vigorous cleaning sessions. To get started, spot clean your cushions with a mild soapy solution and a sponge or soft bristly brush. For more difficult stains, a commercial stain remover may be used (follow manufacturer’s instructions and spot test). Don’t machine wash or put cushions in the dryer.

How to paint your patio furniture

Even with proper cleaning and maintenance, you may need to give your outdoor furniture a facelift – over time, dulling or chipping paint can look grubby. Fortunately, updating your pieces with paint is a pretty straightforward DIY project.


  • Before you paint or stain wood furniture, make sure it’s totally dry and contains no mold or mildew.
  • Sand your furniture.
  • Apply primer and let dry completely.
  • Paint or stain using a product designed for outdoors.
  • Use a sealant if you need to – some stains will ask you to seal the wood.


  • Clean your furniture and let dry.
  • Apply spray paint formulated for outdoors.
  • Let dry completely, then apply more coats as needed.


  • Carefully clean the chairs first, making sure no dirt is left between the fibers.
  • Sand if the furniture has a top coat from its last painting.
  • If you have natural wicker, apply coats of wood primer.
  • Let dry, then paint using an oil-based product.
  • You can use the same process for synthetic wicker.

Other ways to update outdoor furniture

If you don’t need to paint your furniture but you want to give it new life, you can always go in another direction. Here are some ideas for sprucing up your lawn furniture:

  • Change the cushion covers to a new color.
  • Add throw pillows made of outdoor-safe fabric.
What steps do you take to keep your outdoor furniture looking fresh?
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