How to Clean and Store Outdoor Furniture | Articulate
Article's Corvos modular sofa sits poolside in Los Angeles.

How to Clean and Store Outdoor Furniture

Ah, patio season. The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and you’re enjoying your perfectly styled outdoor space. Fast-forward a couple of weeks and suddenly your dining set is covered in old, wet leaves, and those previously charming birds have turned on your once-spotless outdoor sectional. The good news?  Your outdoor furniture isn’t ruined. Once we show you how to clean and store your outdoor furniture, it’ll be set to live a long, comfy, and stylish life. Gloves on. 

Studio Plumb's patio makeover includes the Alta Dining Table and Elan chair.
Rebecca from Studio Plumb keeps her Alta Dining Table and Elan Chairs looking super-fresh and clean — probably because she’s following these cleaning and storage instructions.

Different materials require different levels of care. You might have known this before purchasing your patio furniture, but if you find yourself asking how to clean and store it fear not. That’s why we’re here.

How to Store Outdoor Furniture

As with many things in life (wrinkles, sunburns, the common cold, etc.), the key to keeping your outdoor furniture looking and performing its best is simple: prevention. There’s no use worrying what cleaner is safe to use on that new Arca sofa if you’re just going to let it soak up the weekly rainfall. That said, there are certain types of outdoor furniture that are better suited if you do live in a particularly rainy part of the world. 

While it would be great to have the indoor space to store your outdoor furniture every time that forecast looks a little ominous, the next best thing comes in the form of (drumroll please)… furniture covers. 

Typically made of canvas, polyester, or vinyl, furniture covers like our Operi collection will shield your furniture in the most blustering of storms. A little secret: furniture covers aren’t just for the classic wet-and-windy conditions. Just like you wear that SPF100 to protect your own skin, outdoor covers help ward off sun exposure and the associated color fading. They’re also the ultimate bird-poo protectors. It’s still good luck, but now you won’t have to scrub it off of your new Aeri lounge chair

To make sure you’re getting the most out of your outdoor furniture covers, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Pay attention to the weather forecast. A neutral cloudy day is best for your outdoor furniture, so if you spot any extreme sunshine or rain in the forecast it’s a good idea to throw those covers on. 
  • Only use covers on completely dry furniture. If your sofa or armchair is damp (whether covered in morning dew or a light rainfall) you’ll just be trapping this moisture under the cover. Trapped moisture + an enclosed environment = the perfect recipe for mildew. 
  • Don’t place objects on top of the covers. We know it’s tempting to move your planters around to get optimal watering during a downpour, but leaving objects like pots or planters on top of your covers traps moisture and can leave marks. 

Once you’ve covered up your larger items, there’s always the issue of storage for things like pillows and fabric cushions. Outdoor storage doesn’t have to mean a large plastic bin that haunts a corner of your otherwise HGTV-ready exterior. Storage can become a part of the aesthetic. Take our Ora storage coffee table. While adorable and delicate looking, this Trojan horse is ready to battle Mother Nature. Made of waterproof synthetic wicker and lined with polyester fabric, your throw pillows, blankets, and outdoor lights are safe here — just make sure everything is dry before storing it away. 

Even though you’re an expert on storing your outdoor furniture now, we all know that sometimes the unexpected happens. Surprise thunderstorms, muddy paw prints, or accidental sangria spillage are all within the realm of possibility. Continue reading to find out exactly how you can get your furniture looking like its old (new?) self again. 

How to Care for Wood Outdoor Furniture

If you can care for a cactus, you can care for outdoor wood furniture. That said, some woods fare better than others in the outdoors. At Article, we use teak, acacia, and eucalyptus because they’re solid, hardy, and resilient. Teak is naturally dense and oily, with the oil it produces acting like a force field. The oil seals the wood, while repelling ravenous termites and invasive moisture alike. It’s so hardy, in fact, that it’s often used in the building of boats and yachts. Acacia and eucalyptus, when finished, have a similar resilience. 

The Linden Dining Set is made with solid teak that will weather to a gorgeous natural silver patina. Just like the Elan Chair, some simple cleaning and proper storage will keep these pieces looking their best.

Like all natural materials, wood is impacted by the weather. Rain, snow, wind, sunshine, and the temperature will all affect wood — just like in nature. 

The general cleaning instructions for wood furniture are pretty simple: wipe away dirt using a damp, non-abrasive cloth. For stubborn spots, simply dip a cloth into a mix of gentle, pH-neutral soap (like Castile soap) and warm water. Wring out the excess liquid and wipe the spot. Then, dry the area with a second cloth or, if it’s a nice day, let it dry out in the sun. 

Of course, external factors force you to clean your furniture a little more often. If you position your wood furniture around a pool or hot tub, wipe it down with water once a week. As chlorine accumulates, it can gnaw away at the wood’s finish.

Various pieces of Article's outdoor furniture collection sits poolside.
After the pool party is over, wood furniture — like the Arca Sofa, Toba Coffee Table, and Piper Stool — loves a good wipe down

We often get questions from customers who are concerned about a few common issues they’re seeing with their wooden outdoor furniture, so thought we’d address those here. 

Why is my wooden outdoor furniture cracking?

 Just like you, plants are made of cells that contain water. Too much water and the cells will swell — too little and they will shrink and cause cracking. This is a reality of solid wood that’s exposed to temperature and moisture changes. If you’re worried about cracking, keep your wooden pieces dry, covered, and guarded from extreme heat or cold as much as possible. 

Why is my wooden patio furniture turning silver or gray? 

Congrats! Your furniture is developing a beautiful patina. Over time, wooden outdoor furniture will show signs of aging. Teak and acacia develop a silver patina that, like George Clooney’s salt and pepper, just adds to its naughty charm.  This is 100% natural and not to be feared. If this is something that really bothers you, most furniture restorers can refinish your pieces to your desired look. 

How can I stop the growth of mildew on my outdoor furniture? 

Common in wood and fabrics in particular, mildew occurs when a material comes in contact with too much moisture for extended periods of time. Avoid mildew by ensuring your furniture is kept dry and protected. Soak up any spills immediately, make sure natural debris like soggy leaves and pinecones don’t sit on your pieces, don’t store furniture or cushions while they’re still moist, and only store in well-ventilated areas.   

While mildew isn’t cute, it can usually be removed pretty easily. Wear a mask and gloves while scrubbing your piece with a soft bristle brush and warm water mixed with a pH-neutral soap (like Castile soap). Once cleaned, let your piece dry off completely in the sun.  

How to Care for Metal Outdoor Furniture 

Modern, industrial, but please hold the rust. While typically easy to care for, some metals are susceptible to corrosion, oxidization, and scuff marks. At Article, we use powder-coated high-quality aluminum and hot-dipped, galvanized steel to combat such reactions. Our metals are lightweight, but made to resist corrosion and withstand extreme temperature conditions. 

Contrary to what you’d imagine, cleaning steel and aluminum requires a delicate hand. A rag and some warm, soapy water does the trick. No need to be aggressive, a light wipe will do. Be sure to rinse the metal thoroughly and pat it dry. Leaving excess water or cleaning agents behind can result in stains and discoloration.

How to Care for Plastic Outdoor Furniture 

Plastic has the potential to be the outdoor living room’s stylish, colorful workhorse. But buyer beware: not all plastics are created equal. Plastic furniture can be durable, UV resistant, and crack-proof, but only if it’s very good quality. It’s all a question of how to protect your outdoor furniture. 

The Svelti Chairs and Tavola Table look so good poolside — but should be covered or moved out of the elements when not in use.

We use polypropylene in pieces like our Svelti chairs to get all the aesthetic and functional benefits of plastic with none of the flimsy downsides. To keep colorful polypropylene furniture bright, move it out of the sunshine when you’re not using it.

For day-to-day cleaning, all you need is pH-neutral soap diluted in a bath of warm water and a damp cloth. Skip the bleach — and definitely skip the pressure washer. 

How to Care for Rattan and Resin Wicker Furniture 

Like most beautiful, refined things, rattan is a little high-maintenance. You’ll hear rattan and wicker thrown around synonymously. But there’s a big difference. Wicker actually refers to the weaving technique — not the material — and different types of wicker require different types of care.

At Article, we make most of our natural wicker furniture from rattan, a climbing vine found in tropical paradises. While robust enough for Tarzan to swing on, rattan is still susceptible to the elements, especially when left in its natural form. We recommend keeping your natural rattan indoors, unless you’re just using it temporarily for a dry afternoon outside. Exposure to water can cause rattan to swell, and too much sun can cause it to dry out. 

Jessica Sara Morris of White Picket Farmhouse, keeps her Medan Lounge Chair looking top-shelf by keeping it clean and out of the rain. (Psst: We like her Ora Sectional and Toba Table, too!)

If you love the look of rattan but want something that can survive outside (with the proper care and protection, of course), synthetic resin wicker — like that in our Urba sectional — is your best bet. It looks just like natural rattan, but is made specifically to better withstand the elements.  

To clean, it’s always good to keep things gentle. Use a soft cloth and warm water mixed with pH-neutral soap. Avoid scrubbing and water saturation, even when challenging a stubborn smudge. Allow the piece to air dry when you’ve finished. 

How to Care for Composite Stone Furniture 

Just like some of the most state-of-the-art buildings around the world, Article uses composite stone in a selection of our outdoor furniture. With an industrial look and durability, it’s a great choice for most outdoor spaces. Loud patio dinner parties around the Atra table? Count us in. 

That said, there are things you can do to extend the life of your composite stone pieces. Adding a cement sealer every three to six months will give your piece that extra protection it deserves. If you notice the temperature dropping, it’s a good idea to bring your piece inside to avoid a natural reaction like cracking. 

To clean, simply use a soft-bristled nylon brush to wipe away dust and debris. Use the standard pH-neutral soap mixed with warm water to wipe away any dirt or grime, and then let your piece dry naturally before storing. 

How to Care for Outdoor Fabrics 

From bird projectiles and UV rays to spilly guests, outdoor fabrics take a lot of abuse. The good news is they’re made for this sh… stuff. Generally, outdoor fabrics are resistant to stains, mildew, fading, and abrasions. And if you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor pool, our Corvos collection has been tested to withstand chlorinated pool water. 

Day-to-Day Care

Unless you enjoy sitting in a bug graveyard, you should probably give your outdoor furniture a brush down on the regular. For anything that won’t dust off with a broom, bring out the big guns: your vacuum’s soft brush attachment. It’s the small piece with soft bristles around the suction area often left to fester in our cleaning cabinets. Don’t forget the seams! 

Spot Cleaning 

No need to cry over spilled wine. I mean, I do, but not because of the cleaning process. For spots, mom’s advice stands: always blot, never rub. Spray on a cleaning solution of water and pH-neutral soap. Let sit. Rinse away all soapy residue.

Fabric doesn’t have to be a scary thought when it comes to your outdoor space — even if you’ve got little ones. Thanks to some easy cleaning tips, Becca of Radiant Gray enjoys worry-free playtime with her twin toddlers on the Urba Sectional.

If someone spills an oil-based liquid like salad dressing or suntan lotion, use an absorbent cloth or paper towel to sop up the mess. Then, use a spray bottle to apply a mild cleaning solution of that pH-neutral soap mixed with water. Rise the fabric thoroughly, paying special care to clear all suds from the affected area. Leave it to air dry.

If things are past the point of saving, you can always contact us to purchase replacement cushion covers.

How to Care for Outdoor Accessories

Umbrellas

While your little black umbrella keeps your hair dry in a downpour, an outdoor patio umbrella, like our Paras, is more about keeping your skin safe in the shade.

When it comes to care and storage, it always helps to use common sense and address the risks around you. If a light breeze was enough to whisk Mary Poppins up, up, and away, imagine what one could do to your outdoor umbrella. 

Keep your patio umbrella closed when not in use, and store it in a cool, dry place whenever possible. 

We love how the combo of the Capra Sectional and Ottoman, Redondo Rug, and Olara Ottoman bring a sophisticated indoor feel to this outdoor space.

Outdoor Rugs

While outdoor rugs like the Arroyo are made with outdoor-specific materials, something that lives on the ground is definitely susceptible to getting a bit grubby from time to time. The best way to prevent said grubbiness is by bringing your rug inside whenever you see ugly weather in the forecast. 

When your rug is enjoying its time outside, you can remove any loose and dry debris by vacuuming with a non-rotary type attachment and shaking or hitting it with a broom to extract dust. 

For more stubborn dirt, your rug can handle a good, ol’ fashioned hose down with some mild, pH-neutral soap. Just make sure there’s enough room for ventilation wherever you choose to dry it. If you think it’ll need a bit more than a garden hose facial, feel free to call on the help of a professional rug cleaner. 

Outdoor furniture is durable, not indestructible. With minimal effort and a little tender care, your outdoor living room will be cocktail, lounge, or party ready for summers on end — no matter what the weather brings.

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