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How To Clean Garden Furniture


Creating a garden that you love spending time in is essential for your wellbeing – there is nothing better than being able to drink your morning coffee in the fresh air in summer. Having said that, most people choose their garden furniture by what they can afford and what kind of style they like, rather than thinking about the ease of maintaining the pieces over time. Your garden furniture will always last longer if you spend time properly caring for it, and you invest in the right products to help you. Now that winter is coming to an end, it’s the perfect opportunity to spend some time getting your garden in shape ahead of summer barbecues. There are multiple methods of cleaning garden furniture, and how you clean it will depend on what it’s made of and how dirty it is. So, if you’re wondering how to clean garden furniture, keep reading for some of the best tips.

How To Clean Garden Furniture

You can do some things to clean all types of garden furniture. These methods won’t be as effective as cleaning your furniture with material-specific products or routines. However, they are still great options if you want a process that will work for every piece of your garden furniture.

If you’re looking for a quick way to clean your garden furniture with what you have in the house, then dish soap and warm water is a great place to start.

  1. Mix hot water and dish soap in a bowl. Make sure the water isn’t too hot if you’re washing wooden furniture. Use around 50ml per litre of water
  2. Take a dish sponge with a rough and smooth side
  3. Wet the sponge and use this to wash the furniture. Use the rougher side for really stuck on dirt.
  4. Use an old toothbrush to get to dirt that is hard to reach.
  5. Wash out the sponge and wipe the furniture with clean water to remove the soap
  6. If your garden furniture has glass or a smooth surface, then you should take extra care to dry it with a cloth to avoid any streaks showing once it has dried.

Wood Garden Furniture

a clean wooden garden bench

Cleaning wooden garden furniture isn’t tricky, and it doesn’t have to be complicated, but there are a few things to think about to get the best out of your pieces and ensure that you don’t do any damage while you’re cleaning them. Of course, the amount of effort that you need to go to depends on how your garden furniture has fared over winter. If it’s just the case of removing mildew spots and freshening it up, then your job will be much quicker than if you need to remove stains and areas of damage.

If your furniture has any snags, splinters or stains, then you will need to sand it down to get your furniture back to a useable state. Start by using a small bristled brush, like a toothbrush, to brush away spots of dirt or mildew buildup. Once you’ve got the big lumps of dirt and plant life off of the garden furniture, take some sandpaper and lightly sand the surface – pay close attention to any spots with stains or splinters. After this, mix whatever detergent you’re using with some water and wipe over all of the furniture. Finally, rinse it off with a hose or a clean sponge and a bucket of water. If you’ve sanded your furniture, then it’s important to seal it once it’s dry.

What You Will Need:

  • A hose
  • Detergent of your choice (you can find detergent specifically for wood furniture)
  • A sponge with a rougher side
  • Sandpaper
  • Small bristle brush or toothbrush
  • Wood sealer

If you need further advice, you can read more on cleaning wooden garden furniture here.

Metal Garden Furniture

On a basic level, metal garden furniture can also be cleaned by using soapy water and a sponge, but there are a few things to consider if you want to get the best out of your garden furniture and help it last as long as possible.

One of the most important things to remember is not to use anything abrasive. Using a stiff brush, even if it’s made of a natural fibre, could scratch the furniture’s surface and would be hard to get out. For example, you could use a toothbrush to clean off any hard to reach dirt. However, make sure that it’s a soft bristle toothbrush. You can then wash the furniture with soapy water and a sponge as before. But, the best option would be to buy a detergent that’s specifically made for metal garden furniture. This will minimise the number of streaks that you’ll see when it dries – you can help this by buffing your furniture with a dry cloth. If you have any rust spots, you can remove these with a rust cleaner for metal furniture. Finally, add a clear sealer to protect your metal garden furniture from future rust, which will keep it in good condition for longer and make it easier to clean next time.

What You Will Need:

  • Metal furniture cleaner, or soap and hot water
  • Rust remover
  • Metal sealant
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Cloth
  • Sponge

Rattan Garden Furniture

Rattan furniture is hugely popular at the moment. Still, there are hundreds of listing on second hand selling websites of damaged or tired-looking rattan pieces – it’s not that rattan garden furniture doesn’t last, but most people don’t know how to care for it which results in damage properly. If you know how to clean rattan garden furniture properly, it could last up to 20 years[i].

It’s important to protect the weave when cleaning rattan – you should avoid excess scrubbing, which would weaken the glue bonds. Instead, start by hoovering the surface of the furniture to remove any loose pieces. If there are any stubborn spots of dirt then go in with a toothpick to scratch off the dirt. Next, use a bucket of warm (not hot, this could melt the glue) soapy water and wipe all of the surfaces with a cloth; use a toothbrush to get to any hard to reach areas. Finally, leave the furniture in the sun to dry. If your furniture looks tired, use warm linseed oil to treat the rattan. Make sure to paint on as much as it will absorb.

What You Will Need:

  • Vacuum with a small nozzle
  • Toothpick
  • Toothbrush
  • Cloth
  • Gentle detergent
  • Hot soapy water
  • Linseed oil

Plastic Garden Furniture

Plastic garden furniture is notorious for not lasting very long, with an average life of 5 – 7 years[ii] fading in the sun and cracking. This is simply because it’s not been looked after. Plastic garden furniture is relatively simple to clean and maintain, but you might need a few specific tools.

If your furniture has grown patches of moss or has stubborn dirt stuck to it, start by buffing this away with a dry brush. You can then wash with simple soap and water, wipe the furniture off with a sponge and leave it to dry in the sun. Once it’s dry, spray the furniture with a plastic restorer to rejuvenate any faded patches, and rub this in with a soft cloth and wipe off any excess.

What You Will Need:

  • A hard bristle brush
  • Dish soap, or a detergent specifically for cleaning plastic
  • Plastic restorer
  • A soft cloth

When To Clean Garden Furniture

Cleaning garden furniture doesn’t have to be difficult, hard, or time-consuming. It’s easy to clean your garden furniture if you have the right tools. If you can spare the time then cleaning your furniture a few times a year, rather than once, will make it much easier to keep on top of any issues that it develops. Cleaning in the spring before you use it and again in Autumn before the weather starts getting too bad is the best schedule for cleaning garden furniture.

Knowing How To Clean Garden Furniture

Knowing how to clean garden furniture is vital to lengthening its life. One of the most important things to remember when cleaning garden furniture is to adapt your methods depending on the finish of your furniture and the material that it’s made from. For example, if your furniture is smooth or shiny, you should avoid using anything too abrasive that would leave obvious scratches.

If you’re buying new garden furniture this year then take some time to look at your options. It’s better to invest in long-lasting wooden benches now than spending less upfront but having to replace them after only a few years. The same goes for all types of furniture – if you’re prepared to spend more to get better quality in the first instance and you follow our tips to care for it, then a good quality piece will last you much longer. Make sure that you take some time to read through the other articles on our website to help you learn how to care for your garden furniture in order to get the best out of it for years to come.


[i] https://www.rattandirect.co.uk/blog/long-rattan-furniture-last/

[ii] https://billyoh.com/extra/garden-furniture/rattan-furniture/how-long-does-rattan-garden-furniture-last/

Anna Sharples

Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches - a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.

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