Cleaning any outdoor furniture can seem like a mammoth task, especially if you live in a region that is constantly bombarded with unpredictable, inclement weather.
Of course, each type of outdoor furniture has its pros and cons, with different materials offering something a little different in the way of cleanliness, strength and physical appearance – but it is plastic that often comes out on top, thanks to its resilience and ‘wipe clean’ appeal.
But what exactly are the best ways to clean plastic outdoor furniture?
Types Of Plastic Furniture
When it comes to outdoor furniture, there are different types of plastics that are used to create them – ranging from cheap options to more expensive, long-lasting materials.
Injected Moulded Plastic
Most cheap plastic chairs are made from plastic polymers, consisting of several synthetic (or semi-synthetic) materials that have polymers as the main ingredient.
These are generally more flimsy, subject to warping, and tend to become more brittle over a shorter period of time.
However, the main benefit of these, at least for the consumer market, is that they tend to be quite affordable, (Often less than $50) and are the perfect option for fair-weather outdoor relaxing for those who live in regions with unpredictable and temperamental climates.
Polywood is a more expensive option, but the material has many advantages for outdoor furniture – namely durability, longevity, and resilience to whatever the weather can throw at it.
Despite being the more expensive option, it is also environmentally friendly, thanks to the fact that it is made from recycled plastics – made through a process where the recycled materials are then repurposed into a ‘lumber-like’ substance, which can then be sliced into boards and used for making any number of products.
This material is perfect for those wanting long-lasting furniture that requires zero upkeep, and that is guaranteed to survive everything from the coldest winter to the hottest summer – all without any warping, cracking, bending, or breaking.
Just occurred to me. Polywood is both a brand and a material. Confusing, I know.
If you want to learn more about some of the best HDPE patio furniture, click the link. There are many more brands making High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) patio furniture beyond Polywood. But Polywood is one of the more popular options out there.
What Are The Best Cleaning Methods?
When it comes to cleaning outdoor plastic furniture, there are many options available – something that is testament to the materials themselves, and one of the reasons that plastics, in their various forms, continue to be a popular choice for consumers.
Cleaning With Bleach
Bleach is a good all round-cleaning substance, but should never really be the first choice – purely due to the strength of the solution itself.
However, if you are set on using bleach, the best thing you can do is to take a bucket, add about a ¼ of a cup, and then dilute it with hot water.
For this, you can use a scrubbing brush to work the plastic, and rubber gloves to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the bleach – which, if you are not careful, can cause irritated, dry, cracking skin, and inflammation in some cases.
Once you have done this, and you are satisfied with the end result, you can then use your garden hose – or some other source of clean, cold water – to rinse off the bleach residue, leaving your chair clean, pristine, and ready for use.
Do not allow the bleach to sit on the furniture for more than 20 minutes before thoroughly rinsising
Polywood brought this to my attention. The bleach may not damage the polywood but many HDPE furniture are made with aluminum fasteners (bolts, washers, nuts, etc) which the bleach damage. Make sure to always thoroughly rinse off your furniture after cleaning with bleach.
Cleaning With White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegar is a hidden gem in the arsenal of the cleaner, and it has many applications both inside and outside of the home.
This is because as a substance, white vinegar has a high level of natural acidity, which is perfect for breaking down things like mildew, grime, limescale, and countless other nuisances that plague the homeowner.
As with the bleach, the best way to do this is to dilute it using hot water, taking a ¼ cup in a bucket, and then filling it with hot water.
Due to the acidic nature of vinegar, it is best to wear rubber gloves for this process too, and then once again rinse the excess off with the garden hose once you have finished.
This is one of the better ways to clean your furniture, as it is a more natural substance, and is free of the chemicals found in bleach, which can cause harm to your health or those of animals.
Cleaning With Soap
Of course, you could always use soap – such as dishwasher soap and detergent. These are designed for breaking down and cleaning baked-on grime and debris and can be a good choice for dealing with stains.
My personal favourite is Dawn dish soap. I wash dishes daily with it and I have been building composite decking long enough to remember when manufacturers recommended it for cleaning your composite decking. Before they developed their own soap. Oh, the old days were simpler times.
However, depending on the extent of the build-up, this might not be as effective as the above-mentioned cleaning products. But fear not, this can also be mixed with some hot water and bleach, diluting the bleach and creating a much more pleasant odour after use.
Take 2 tablespoons of dishwashing soap, add ¾ of a cup of bleach, and combine in a bucket with hot water – making sure you are wearing gloves and using a scrubbing brush to break down the dirt and grime on the outdoor furniture.
Once you have done this and you are satisfied, you can then hose down the excess, and then wipe dry with a soft cloth. Microfiber cloths are effective and can be purchased for very little money in most hardware stores.
Or you can order microfiber cloths from Amazon by clicking the link. Whichever is more convenient for you.
Cleaning With Laundry Detergent
Similarly, laundry detergent can also be used for cleaning outdoor plastic furniture, although this method is perhaps the most unusual and uncommon.
For this method, take 1 tablespoon of laundry detergent, and combine it in a bucket with hot water. This is much more sensitive on the skin, so does not require rubber gloves – although you can use them if you prefer.
A drawback of laundry detergent is it can leave behind a slippery residue on the plastic.
Nothing drastic but rinsing with a garden hose and wiping clean with a dry soft cloth is a good idea to avoid this.
Cleaning With Baking Soda
While most abrasive substances are generally best avoided on plastic – due to its propensity to scratch easily – baking soda is a good way to remove built-up grime, however, it is important to use it carefully and avoid rubbing too hard.
First, wet the outdoor furniture with warm water, and then sprinkle baking soda all over the surface. Leave this to soak in for a while and work its magic, before wiping with a soft sponge, being sure to use plenty of warm water to limit the abrasiveness of the baking soda.
Once you have finished, rinse off the excess with the garden hose, and then dry with your soft cloth. Just like with white vinegar, baking soda is a more natural substance and can be much less harmful than more stronger chemicals like bleach.
Cleaning With Stain Remover
Of course, if your furniture is merely stained, or scuffed, then you could use a magic eraser to remove the blemishes on the plastic furniture, leaving them looking good as new.
These magic erasers come in all kinds of shapes, and many brands produce them. What’s more, they are relatively cheap and easy to come by, making them a good choice for mild, light cleaning projects such as this.
A box sits under my sink beside the Dawn soap. A regular cleaning product at my place.
Once again, you want to moisten the eraser with warm water, scrubbing at the stained areas in a circular motion to create the necessary friction.
Once you are satisfied, rinse off any excess that might be left over, and then dry with your soft cloth to leave a good finish.
Is Plastic Prone To Staining?
While plastic is generally resistant to things like weather, it is susceptible to dirt, stains, and other forms of grime that can easily build up when an object is left out in the elements.
With plastic, this might not necessarily happen more often than with other materials, but the fact that plastic is smoother, and often more vibrant colours, tends to highlight the dirt more than wood or metal furniture.
However, with the right methods, and the proper cleaning implements, you can sort out even the most troublesome stain in no time at all, leaving your furniture looking pristine and ready for use.
Things To Remember
Just to reiterate, it is always best to use rubber gloves when handling harsher chemicals, such as bleach and some detergents. This will stop your hands from becoming reddened, cracked, or dry.
What’s more, the harmful nature of bleach means that it is always best to use it in a more ventilated area, such as the outdoors, or in a garage with the door open.
If cleaning your patio furniture on your deck, make sure it’s safe for the decking. Your sponge will drip and you don’t want it to damage the decking. Both composite and wood decking can be damaged by the wrong cleaner. Check before you regret.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about plastic outdoor furniture, and the best ways to keep them clean and pristine.
Any outdoor furniture can be a pain to maintain, but plastic certainly has its perks. And luckily, with a few simple techniques, and the right products and equipment, you can keep them looking great for many years to come.
So if you have plastic outdoor furniture that needs a little time and attention, then why not give some of these techniques a try? Something tells me you won’t be disappointed!