Furniture Care: How to Make Your Outdoor Furniture Last Longer

Every year, people venture into their backyards for barbeques or family time. Most of them will spend some time on their outdoor furniture.

For some, this means a carefully selected patio set. For others, that means chilling out on plastic chairs or at a picnic table.

Unfortunately, many backyard furniture owners discover that their furniture doesn’t hold up well over time. That patio set or picnic table just looks worse and worse every year. While common, you can take steps that help your furniture last longer and look better.

Keep reading for some furniture care tips that will help you do this.

Manufacturer’s Instructions

Your very first stop in the outdoor furniture care journey is the manufacturer’s instructions. The manufacturer knows precisely what materials and finishes went into your furniture. That means their recommendations for care come out of an abundance of information.

If the manufacturer says you should avoid certain kinds of cleaners, it’s likely because they know it will damage the finish. Companies that specialize in making cleaning products must base their recommendations on more general information.

That’s why most cleaners suggest you test the product on a small area first. There is always a chance for damage.

When shopping for outdoor furniture, try to get a look at the instructions. If the furniture calls for complicated cleaning or needs unusual cleaners, you can probably find something similar with less complex cleaning needs.

Material Selection

Any backyard furniture will face a certain amount of weather, but you can use material selection to extend the life of that furniture. You can, for example, select furniture made from wood that doesn’t rot when exposed to water. A few common types of rot-resistant wood include:

  • Cypress
  • Redwood
  • Cedar
  • Teak
  • Mahogany

When the wood does need care, you can get wood soaps. If you want to take things up a notch, you can even sand the wood with fine grain sandpaper and apply a fresh coat of finish.

For very wet environments, you also select plastic or metal furniture. Plastic holds up well to water exposure but may not prove attractive as other alternatives. Metal furniture can withstand a certain amount of exposure but may rust.


You can extend the life of your backyard decor with covers. A basic plastic cover over your table or chairs will protect them not only from rain, but will also protect them from UV exposure. UV exposure can slowly break down plastics, cause color changes in fabrics, and decay finishes.

The covers soak up the brunt of the abuse from rain and sun when your furniture isn’t in use. They all help keep your furniture clear of bird droppings, which can also damage finishes.

Store Your Furniture

Millions of people leave their outdoor furniture outside year-round. It’s understandable since it’s outdoor furniture. Yet, that also gives the weather the chance to punish that furniture.

For example, let’s say you live somewhere that it snows every year. That means that both snow and ice can sit on your furniture, melting and re-freezing all winter long. When spring rolls around, the furniture gets soaked or sits in puddles of water.

All of that abuse shortens the lifespan of your furniture. If you store that furniture indoors over the winter months, you can add years to the furniture’s useful life.

Cleaning Outdoor Furniture

For most outdoor furniture, you want to start with a basic wipe down using nothing but a damp cloth. This helps remove the dust and dirt particles that settle onto all outdoor furniture. Removing that dust and dirt makes any additional cleaning more effective.

You can clean most outdoor furniture with a basic mixture of water and mild dish soap. For tough spots, you can typically get away with a soft cleaning brush.

In the case of outdoor wood furniture, you can find wood-specific options that help clean and preserve the wood. Most of these use a soap with an oil base.

Much like regular cleaning extends the life of your other belongings, regular cleaning will do the same for backyard furniture.

Dealing with Mildew and Mold

In most cases, you find mildew and mold on the cushions for your outdoor furniture, rather than on the furniture itself. You can generally deal with small amounts of mildew or mold by applying a bleach solution or ammonia solution and letting it sit for 15-30 minutes. Then, rinse the area with clean water.

Safety tip: Never mix bleach and ammonia when trying to deal with mildew or mold. Mixing those two cleaners produces toxic gas that can damage your health.

For serious cases of mold or mildew, you can try treating the entire cushion. This often won’t solve the problem long-term. You may find that replacement cushions prove a more practical fix for that problem.

Dealing with Rust

Many people opt for metal furniture because of its durability. If the finish gets damaged in any way, however, you often see rust. You have a few options when rust appears.

You can try wiping the rust away with a soapy water solution and sponge. If that doesn’t work, you may need to sand the affected area until you get back down to the bare metal. Either way, you must cover the affected area with a fresh finish of some kind.

You can repaint the affected area or the entire piece of furniture. Make sure you use outdoor-rated paint or sealant for the project.

Making Furniture Care Work for You

A lot of people don’t do much backyard furniture care because it’s just not part of their routine. You make schedules for other necessary activities, like setting aside a Saturday morning for chores or putting reminders on your calendar for oil changes.

You must also make caring for your outdoor furniture part of your routine. Put it on your calendar or make it part of your weekly chores if that’s what it takes. The extra time you spend on tending your furniture can save you a lot of money on replacements.

Looking for other ways you can improve your home? Check out our Home Improvement section for some extra tips.