How to clean your patio furniture cushions the right way

Patio furniture cushions endure a lot of heavy use and potential damage from the elements, especially when left out in rough conditions. They can also get soiled from food and beverage spills, bird droppings, mildew, and even mold. But don’t despair: We’ll let you in on some tricks on how to get your patio furniture cushions clean and keep them from getting dirty in the first place so you can save time later.

Patio furniture on wooden chairs
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Use a trusty washing machine

Good for: Heavily soiled, machine-washable cushions, covers

Granted, the obvious answer to thoroughly clean patio furniture cushions is tossing them into the washing machine, then letting them air dry or using a low temperature setting on your dryer. However, some cushions aren’t designed for washing machines as this may damage the fabric or stuffing, leaving you with frayed fabrics or flat seats.

Before using a washing machine, check your cushion’s wash care tags to make sure they’re actually machine washable. Note that removable zippers or button cushions are usually machine washable. Skip out on the bleach if your cushion doesn’t have mold or mildew, as this extra detergent can actually irritate skin, especially if you have little ones who like to hang out on the patio. Regular detergent and warm water should suffice. If you’re concerned about shrinking, let the cushions air dry in the sun.

The DIY Playbook lists 4 easy steps on how to clean your pillow covers, which reiterates what was mentioned above.

Outdoor table with wicker chairs
Ron Sutherland/Getty Images

Hand wash cushions with solution

Good for: Delicate fabrics, spot stains

If your fabric needs gentle care, consider hand washing to get stains out. Silk covers, cushions with appliques, rayon, leather, and fur are standard no-nos when it comes to washing machines and should be treated with appropriate solutions. When in doubt, use a wet cloth with mild detergent to lift fresh stains and prevent discoloration.

Even if your stains are caked in, hand washing cushions might be better than using a washing machine. You can use a fabric brush to scrub out stains on hardier cushions using strong stain removers. For leather covers, use a leather conditioner and refresher. There are also spot sprays you can use to treat surface stains for fabric-based cushions. Furthermore, there are efficient stain fighters at home which you simply need to dig out of that kitchen or storage.

Sleep Advisor suggests different ways to wash all different kinds of pillows including those with special stuffing.

Soak the cushion before washing

Good for: Mildew or mold

You might have thought about replacing your patio furniture cushions especially after noticing the mold buildup – but wait, there are solutions. Your patio furniture cushions might become riddled with mildew or mold if left in wet or humid conditions. Beverage spills left untreated might also lead to mildew on and within the cushion. In this case, you’ll need a container, water hose, brush, and cleaning solution of dishwashing detergent, borax, and water to get this dirt out.

You can use a spray bottle to soak the cushions or create a large amount of mixture in a bucket to submerge your cushions. Leave the cushions for 15 minutes to an hour and then wash off the mixture and dirt with your garden hose. Instead of borax, you can add some bleach to thoroughly eliminate mold.

Another common dirt might be tree sap on your cushions. SFGate suggests applying detergent on the affected area and wait 30 minutes before wiping it off. Another suggestion is using an enzyme-based stain remover to break down the sap. Keep the solution on for at least 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can use an extra-strength detergent and a handheld brush to scrub away the sap. Wash off any leftover solution and sap with water.

Three cushions on backyard bench
Natasha Reddy/Unsplash

Keep them from getting dirty

An easy way to keep your patio furniture like new is to do all you can to prevent dirt buildup and stains. For heavily used patios, consider vinyl or plastic cushion covers. You can also treat your fabric with upholstery protectors to avoid stains. Moreover, they’re usually safe for all fabrics, even silk. There are also many options that don’t contain harmful chemicals, making them safe for household use. One example is Vectra, which is available in large hardware stores.

Another way to keep your cushions clean is taking them inside during seasons when they’re not in use. This might mean storing them in your garage during rainy seasons or snowy months. This will help prevent mold, sun damage, and general breakdown.

You can get patio furniture cushions clean in multiple ways, but if you want to save time scrubbing down cushions and surface stains in the future, there are also a handful of ways to keep them from getting overly dirty. Even if your cushions seem beyond cleaning, try one of our cleaning tips to bring them back to life.

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