How to Clean Outdoor Wood Furniture

Caring for Wood Outdoor Furniture

Wooden patio furniture is an excellent design choice and a wise investment. From spacious sectionals to inviting dining sets, these pieces can last for many years of fun in the sun. However, if you want to get the most out of your outdoor wood furniture, care and maintenance are musts.

Your patio pieces endure rain, harsh sunlight, temperature fluctuations and damaging insects, which can result in fade and rot if left unchecked. Cleaning outdoor wood furniture helps preserve the look and integrity of your seating and tables so you can enjoy them, season after season.

Wooden Outdoor Bench

Effects of the Elements

The great outdoors can take its toll on your furniture. Everything from weather to regular use can breakdown the surfaces of your porch swings and coffee tables. Here are a few of the biggest issues your wooden furniture may face:

  • Moisture: Your patio pieces endure rain, harsh sunlight, temperature fluctuations and damaging insects, which can result in fade and rot if left unchecked. Cleaning outdoor wood furniture helps preserve the look and integrity of your seating and tables so you can enjoy them, season after season.
  • UV rays: While basking in the sunshine might feel lovely for you, it’s less than ideal for your furniture. The UV rays can cause fading and discoloration, as well as a loss of shine on polished wood finishes.
  • Insects: Wood-boring insects such as termites and carpenter ants can eat through your patio seating. Aside from looking unappealing, these bugs can compromise the safety and strength of pieces over time by creating tunnels throughout the wood.
  • Normal wear and tear: Oils from food and drink spills, bird droppings and even sunscreen can cause permanent blemishes and corrosion. The normal small movements anyone makes while sitting can erode the finish on your furniture over time, making it more susceptible to damage from the elements.

Another important factor to consider is the climate where you live. Humidity, freezing conditions, constant sun exposure and heavy rain can all accelerate the deterioration of your outdoor furniture. Take all of this into consideration when choosing pieces and planning for the season.

Wooden Seating Set

Protect Your Patio Pieces

Guard your deck decor against all that Mother Nature can throw at it with consistent outdoor wood furniture care. Here are some tips that will help you select the right pieces, maintain them properly and keep your patio furniture looking its best.

Weathered Wood Storage Bench

Choose Your Wood Wisely

The first step in understanding how to clean outdoor wood furniture is knowing what type of lumber you have. Items made of softwoods like cedar, pine or fir tend to be more vulnerable to deterioration. They are usually lower in price, but require more regular attention than tougher materials.

Wooden Dining Set

Invest in hardwood for high durability and low maintenance. Teak, cherry, mahogany, acacia and white oak are dense, giving them better resistance to the elements. As such, these woods need less frequent upkeep, plus they can be easier to clean.

Clean it Up

The best methods for cleaning outdoor wood furniture come down to the type of wood you have and how thorough you want to be.


Because softwood is more porous and more likely to suffer damage, a gentle cleaning approach is best.

  • Dust the surface with a dry cloth to remove dirt and dust.
  • Using a mixture of warm water and dish soap, lightly scrub with a sponge.
  • Make sure to move along the grain rather than against it to prevent damage.
  • Rinse the furniture with a hose on a light setting, wipe off excess water with a towel and allow the pieces to air dry.


The process for cleaning hardwood furniture is similar to softwood, but you can be a bit less delicate thanks to the more durable grain. You may want to use a soft-bristle brush rather than a sponge for a deeper clean, or even a wire brush for stubborn spots. For mold or mildew, you can also use white vinegar and water to help lift the stain.

Dining Set with Wood Table

Other Considerations

Regardless of whether you have soft or hardwood furniture, you should resist the urge to use a power washer. While it may seem effective at first, this method can strip the surface, pushing water between the grains, making way for mold and mildew to set in.

If your furniture has staining, it’s time to up the ante with a stronger cleanser. Try an oxygen-based solution for those hard-to-remove spots. For more extreme cases, you may want to consider smoothing the furniture with a fine- to medium-grit sandpaper. You should always check manufacturer recommendations before trying these methods, though.

Wood Bar Stool

When to Clean Outdoor Furniture

Now that you know how to clean outdoor furniture, you can focus on a maintenance schedule for your patio. Begin the season by thoroughly washing your wood tables and seating. Be sure to inspect for insect or spider nests and safely remove them. Once in use, wipe up spills and clean as-needed to avoid long-term damage.

You can take a few additional steps to protect your hard work. Try treating outdoor wood furniture with specially formulated wood cleaners and sealants. Created specifically for wooden surfaces, these products help guard your investment against moisture and staining to extend the life of your patio decor.

Teak Cleaner

If you need to store your furniture in the fall and winter, give it another deep cleaning before putting it away. Take off the foot caps on tables and chairs, and keep them upright to prevent water from accumulating. If you have to leave your sofa set outside throughout the year, bring in cushions and consider using fitted covers to block moisture and UV rays.

Furniture Cover

Time to Relax

While cleaning outdoor wood furniture may seem daunting, with knowledge and the proper tools, you can have it done before you know it. By integrating regular spot and seasonal furniture maintenance into your routine, you can remove the stress of dirty, unsightly furniture so you can enjoy your backyard even more.