Cleaning patio cushions and how to keep outdoor furniture clean for longer

If you have an outdoor patio to enjoy on a warm summer day or afternoon, cleaning it properly is of crucial importance. That is, especially if you have outdoor sofas and other upholstery that stays outside at all times. Exposure to the elements will show and your nice cushions may end up looking dull and dirty. When spring comes, you should definitely include patio cleaning in your to-do list.
Patio upholstery and cushions are a bit trickier to clean. That is because of all the moisture they have been exposed to that may cause mould and mildew growth. Fortunately for you, cleaning them is not a complicated task, and most outdoor cushions and throw pillows have removable covers. Keep reading to find out what steps you can take in order to properly clean your outdoor cushions.

Ideally, you should clean your outdoor furniture twice a year. Once before the beginning of the warm season, and once before putting it away for winter. By doing this you will be able to keep it looking clean and in good condition.

1. Remove the covers from the patio cushions and machine wash them if possible – Always check the fabric care label to see what washing machine cycle is suitable for the particular fabric in order to avoid damage.
2. Vacuum the patio cushions – For outdoor cushions that do not have removable covers, vacuum the whole surface thoroughly. Use the upholstery attachment of your vacuum cleaner. Make sure you also cover all crevices, folds, and hidden areas.
3. Soak and hand wash the cushions in a solution of water and dish soap – Fill a bucket of warm water and add 1 tablespoon of dish soap to it. If your cushions are mouldy or have mildew on them, add ΒΌ cup of borax to the mix. Generously apply this solution to your cushions and let them soak for at least 15 minutes. If there are any visible stains or dirt, add more cleaning solution to the area and gently scrub with a soft brush or a sponge.
4. Rinse – When done soaking, rinse the outdoor cushions with your garden hose. Do not use a pressure washer, if you have one, since it may damage the fabric of the cushion. Rinse with a lot of water and keep squeezing the cushions now and then, in order to get rid of any soapy solution from them.
5. Towel dry – Towel dry your cushions as well as you can. Wrap them in a clean towel and press down until most of the moisture has been extracted. Then lay the cushion down in the sun and let it air dry completely. Make sure no moisture has been left – that may cause more mildew growth.
6. Use a fabric protector on your patio cushions – Once they are completely dry, spray the whole surface of the cushions with a fabric protector. You can use Scotchguard Water and Sun Shield, for example. It will help them resist dirt and moisture/sun damage throughout the whole season. This step will make cleaning your cushions much easier in the future.

Removing stubborn stains from outdoor cushions and upholstery
While most outdoor cushions are made of synthetic fabrics, specially made to resist sun damage and moisture, spills and other stains may still happen. Here is how to treat the most common ones:

Mould and mildew:
Those stains may occur when your cushions have been sitting for some time, while still damp. Not only, they are unpleasant to look at, but they can also trigger asthma, skin irritations and other breathing issues. To remove such stains, mix 4 cups of water with 1 cup of borax. Apply generously with a sponge or a cloth and blot away. Then, rinse thoroughly and let the cushion air dry completely. If there are larger, more stubborn stains, let the solution sit on the fabric for up to 30 minutes. Depending on the surface on hand, you can mix 1 pint of water with 1 tablespoon of bleach. Follow the same instructions, but always make sure bleach is suitable for use on the fabric of your cushions.

Food grease:
As soon as the stain occurs, sprinkle cornstarch or baking soda all over the stained area. Let it soak up the oils. Scrape off the residue and repeat if needed. You can mix the same solution from the mould and mildew step above and use it accordingly.

Bird droppings:
Birds are not uncommon outside in the garden. To remove the mess they make, always let it dry first. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe away as much as you can. Mix 1 quart of warm water, 1 teaspoon of dish soap, and 1 teaspoon of borax. Put the solution in a clean spray bottle, spray on the stained area, let it sit for several minutes and rinse away thoroughly. Repeat until the stain is completely gone.