How to keep your outdoor furniture looking its best

As summer approaches, many of us are looking forward to spending some time outside. An outdoor dining set can add an extra room to your house, one that may just become your favorite place to be. Outdoor furniture is built differently from the pieces you have in your home. Increased durability means your outdoor setting can stand up to the elements, but that doesn’t mean it’s invincible.

Weather-resistant materials still need to be maintained for them not only to look their best but to function as intended for years to come. There are several popular types of material used, and each has a preferred cleaning method. You don’t need to go crazy but a good clean, even if it’s only once a year will go a long way.

A typical outdoor dining set will include chairs, a table and maybe some cushions for the seats. Timber is the perennial choice for furniture, but you may find metal-framed tables and chairs. Synthetic rattan is very durable and is popular for outdoor sofas and chairs. Cleaning these materials isn’t difficult with a little knowhow. Here is how we maintain our materials:


Some timber lends itself better to outdoor applications than others. Naturally oily timbers like teak are perfect materials for an outdoor dining setting and with proper care can last decades. Regardless of what timber you are cleaning the method is the same; a good old-fashioned spray with the hose and a decent scrubbing. If your furniture is particularly dirty, all-purpose wooden furniture cleaner diluted accordingly can provide a deeper clean. 

Once you have scrubbed away any grime and let the furniture thoroughly dry (I suggest at least two days) then you can give it a coat or two of furniture oil. This step is optional, as some like the weathered grey look of un-oiled furniture. Check with the manufacturer on how many coats to apply etc. The oil will keep moisture out of the wood and protect from food stains etc.

When not in use, I highly recommend putting a cover over your wooden furniture. A cover can be found at any outdoor or BBQ shop and will stop stains, animal droppings, and falling branches before they have a chance to ruin your table. It is important to deal with food spills and any organic matter quickly, as this can stain or damage your furniture if left to sit and collect bacteria.


Synthetic wicker and well as other hard-wearing plastics have found a welcome home in the outdoor furniture world. These plastics are pleasant to the touch and can sit in the baking sun all day long and not fade. Cleaning them is easy too, a simple spray with water and a brush, just be sure to use a non-abrasive sponge or cloth as some of the plastics can be scuffed. A premium car shampoo will do wonders for this furniture as it includes chemicals that protect from dirt and further UV damage.


A piece of furniture made solely from metal is a rare sight, but many outdoor dining settings have metal components for structural strength. Hardware such as nuts and bolts should be checked every year and tightened if necessary. If these bolts or washers have begun to rust, replace them.

Aluminum is a popular metal for outdoor furniture as it is light and can be treated to protect from rust. A basic hose down with water is adequate if you regularly clean the furniture. If you havent cleaned your furniture in a while, a 1:1 diluted mixture of vinegar and water will keep your metal shiny and a coat of car wax can keep it looking good all year round. Again, a premium car shampoo can give it an extra layer of UV resistance. 


Outdoor cushions are made from synthetic fibers that have been treated with an anti-fungal, UV resistant coating. The quality of outdoor cushions obviously varies, but as a rule, even the toughest cushions won’t stand up to prolonged bouts of sun exposure. It is recommended you keep your cushions in a dry covered place when not in use.

For cleaning these cushion covers, mild soapy water and a gentle scrub is fine, and any stains or spills should be dealt with as soon as possible. Many cushions can be machine washed but check with your brand of cushion first!

Regardless of what materials your outdoor setting is made from, keeping your outdoor furniture looking its best is easiest when you follow a regular maintenance schedule. I may be overzealous, but I clean my outdoor setting thoroughly every 3-4 months, depending on how much use it sees. Keeping covers on your furniture as well as keeping any accessories inside will also help you immensely in maintaining your furniture, keeping it looking fresh and beautiful for years to come.