How to clean poly lumber furniture – outdoor experts explain what and what not to do
Cleaning is super simple, and only takes 4 steps, experts say
Poly lumber patio furniture is a popular choice thanks to its simplicity and durability, so it is unsurprising that it is easy to clean and maintain – even after a long harsh winter.
While cleaning outdoor furniture can be laborious, poly lumber's weather-resistant materials mean that it is quick to wipe down without intense scrubbing, or the need to remove rust stains.
Here, outdoor experts have explained how they clean poly lumber furniture to restore it for summer in only four steps.
How to clean poly lumber furniture
There are a few different cleaning tips you can use for poly lumber furniture depending on how heavily soiled it is and how deep a clean you desire. The method for each solution remains the same, however, making cleaning your best outdoor furniture easy and quick – exactly what you need when the sun starts to make an appearance.
You will need:
- Mild detergent: such as Dawn from Walmart
- OR Vinegar: such as Aunt Fannies cleaning vinegar from Amazon
- A soft brush or cloth
- A microfiber towel: like this towel from Amazon
- Optional – A sealant: such as Liquid Rubber sealant from Amazon
1. Remove any loose debris
As with any backyard cleaning, it is a good idea to start by removing any loose debris from poly lumber furniture, such as leaves, dirt, cobwebs, or dust, says Zahid Adnan, professional gardener at The Plant Bible. You can do this with a clean brush or cloth, working from the top of the furniture and working down towards the legs to prevent brushing dirt back onto cleaner areas.
2. Prepare the cleaning solution
There are two main options you can use when cleaning poly lumber furniture: using mild dish soap and water, or opting to clean with vinegar, says Ben McInerney, DIY expert and founder of home blog, HomeGardenGuides.
Mild Soap and Water: For light cleaning, you can mix a small amount of mild soap with warm water and use a soft cloth or sponge to gently wipe down the surface of the poly lumber furniture.
Vinegar and Water: If there are tougher stains or grime buildup, you can mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water to create a cleaning solution. Use a soft cloth or sponge to apply the mixture to the surface of the furniture and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping it away with a damp cloth. This method can be particularly effective for removing water rings or other stains.
With either solution, be sure to clean all surfaces, including the back, seat, arms, and legs, and rinse the brush or cloth frequently to prevent spreading dirt around, reminds outdoor expert Zahid Adnan.
After both cleaning solutions, rinse the furniture thoroughly with fresh water to remove all residue. 'This can be done using a hose or a bucket of water, making sure to rinse all surfaces, including the undersides and crevices where cleaning solutions can gather and form stains or exacerbate the growth of algae,’ he adds.
Ben McInerney grew up in San Diego and later moved to LA, where he started a local lawn mowing business. That soon expanded into fencing then later siding. Using the skills he had learned on the job he decided to start a small DIY blog and share some of his experience and tips with readers.
3. Ensure the furniture is fully dry
To help prevent the development of algae or leave unsightly water stains behind, it’s important to thoroughly dry it off after cleaning using a clean microfiber towel before sitting it to dry completely in a sunny spot of your yard before you cover it again with a furniture cover or move it back to storage.
4. Optional: apply a protective sealant
As with any wooden outdoor furniture, it never hurts to apply a specialized sealant or polish to help prevent weather damage over time, says Zahid Adnan, professional landscaper. He recommends opting for either a poly lumber protectant or a wax-based product and following the manufacturer's instructions for application and drying time.
Alternatively, you can buff the poly lumber furniture with a wood polish to keep the surface looking shiny and new, adds DIY expert Ben McInerney.
‘All you need to do is apply a small amount of the polish to a soft cloth and wipe it evenly over the surface of the furniture.’
Need new poly lumber furniture? These are our favorite picks?
Made from genuine poly lumber, this comfortably sculpted outdoor seat is ideal for yards that experience even the harshest of weather
Constructed of genuine POLYWOOD, this swing has a reclined back making it perfect for relaxing in your yard or on your porch after a long day
Is white poly lumber furniture hard to keep clean?
White poly lumber furniture is made from a highly durable plastic material meaning it is largely simple to keep clean and fresh by wiping it over with soap and water. One exception to this is if algae begins to grow if it is left in wet or humid conditions. You can try to use a power washer to remove this, or alternatively opt for a cleaning solution specifically for outdoor algae to kill the growth and restore the furniture to bright white again.
Can poly lumber stay outside in winter?
Poly lumber is a great material to leave in your yard year-round, however, it is best to cover it at least with a furniture cover to help protect it from the elements such as harsh rain and frosts. This can help to extend its lifespan overall and makes it easier to clean come spring and summer.
Cleaning poly lumber furniture is simple and can help to keep it looking its best in your yard for years to come, especially when you avoid some harsher cleaners such as bleach and ammonia, or tools such as steel wool and rough sponges, says Ben McInerney, DIY expert. Not only are these unnecessary for cleaning such a durable material, but they can cause damage and weather the surface more quickly, reducing how long it can serve your yard.
Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for six months, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.
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