How to Clean Canvas Patio Furniture to Look Brand New

Clean your canvas patio furniture with these tips, including how to remove stubborn mildew stains.

Learning how to clean canvas patio furniture helps keep them ready for use and clear of dirt. Because they're exposed to the outside elements, patio furniture and pillows can get stained, dusty, dingy, or full of bird droppings and paw prints (if you have pets). Follow these steps to clean your outdoor furniture so it's ready for relaxing evenings outside.

How Often to Clean Canvas Patio Furniture

You should clean canvas patio furniture two to four times a year, depending on how often it's used. This helps avoid a buildup of moisture (which can cause mold) and dirt.

If you live in a warmer climate (e.g., Florida), patio furniture may be used year-round. For this type of use, cleaning it every season is ideal. Regardless of whether you have traditional or eco-friendly patio furniture, routinely cleaning it will help it stay in its best condition.

For those in colder climates that may only use outdoor furniture in the summer, cleaning it a couple of times a year will suffice—unlike multipurpose items like indoor- outdoor rugs, which should be cleaned much more frequently. Consider cleaning your chairs and tables at the end of spring or the beginning of summer and again before storing them for the colder months.

Considerations Before You Get Started

Before you clean canvas patio furniture, prep ahead with these tips:

  • Give yourself ample space for cleaning the cushions and frames.
  • Check if the covers are removable before cleaning—you might save yourself some time and effort.
  • Clean furniture on a sunny day (avoid rain and clouds) so it can thoroughly dry after being cleaned.
A single patio rocking chair with beige canvas cushions with a water view
Getty Images

What You Need:

How to Clean Canvas Patio Furniture With Laundry Detergent

Some patio furniture has removable covers for the pillows and cushions. Others are attached. Depending on which style of outdoor furniture you own, cleaning it means either removing and washing the canvas covers or cleaning the furniture as a whole unit (frame and canvas).

Step 1: Remove Covers and Wash (If Applicable)

Remove canvas covers from pillows and cushions (if able). Pretreat any stains with a dab of heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent, work it in with a soft-bristled brush, let it sit for 15 minutes, and toss the covers in the washing machine.

Wash in cold or warm water (following the care label) and hang the covers to air dry before putting them back on the cushions. Many small canvas throw pillows can also be machine-washed and air-dried.

Step 2: Make a Cleaning Solution

Fill a large bucket or tub with warm water and add 1 tablespoon of liquid laundry detergent. Add 1/4 cup powdered oxygen-based bleach to the mixture to help brighten colors and treat stains.

Step 3: Create Work Area

Spread a plastic tarp on the grass or patio to create a clean work area. Remove fabric cushions from the furniture, if possible. If the fabric is affixed, move the entire piece of furniture to the tarp.

Step 4: Pretreat Stains

Check for stains and pretreat before continuing to clean the canvas fabric. See the "removing stains" section below and follow the steps for the specific stains on your furniture.

Step 5: Scrub Furniture

Dip a soft-bristled nylon scrub brush in the cleaning solution. Starting at the top of the cushion or affixed fabric, gently scrub the fabric surface in overlapping circles. Starting at the top lets the soil move down the cloth, so you won’t have to re-clean areas.

Step 6: Rinse Furniture

Use a garden hose to rinse away the soil, or fill a large tub with cool water and dip the cushion up and down several times to rinse. Do not allow the cleaning solution to dry on the fabric.

Step 7: Squeeze and Dry

Gently squeeze out as much water as possible from the furniture. To prevent mildew, hang or prop up the cushions in a breezy spot so they will dry as quickly as possible.

Removing Stains From Canvas Patio Furniture

Pretreat stains on patio furniture before cleaning it to help clear the spots more efficiently. Follow these tips for removing various types of stains.

Mildew Stains

While the fabric is dry, brush the surface with a soft-bristled brush to loosen and remove mildew spores. Make a paste of 1 tablespoon of liquid laundry detergent and 1 teaspoon of powdered oxygen bleach.

Apply it to the mildew stains with a soft-bristled brush. Allow the paste to sit for at least one hour before rinsing.

Food and Oil Stains

Use a dab of heavy-duty laundry detergent on each stained area and work it into the fabric with a soft-bristled brush. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before rinsing.

Grass Stains

Make a paste of 1 tablespoon liquid laundry detergent and 1 teaspoon powdered oxygen bleach. Apply it to the grass stains with a soft-bristled brush. Allow the paste to sit for at least 30 minutes before rinsing.

Tree Sap Stains

Work a dab of heavy-duty laundry detergent onto the stained area with a scrub brush. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then dip the brush in hot water and scrub the stain.

Bird Droppings

If the dropping is wet, allow it to dry before cleaning. Use the edge of a dull knife or a credit card to lift away any dry solids.

Dab the spot with liquid detergent, work it into the stain with a brush, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Add a bit of powdered oxygen bleach to the detergent if stains are dark from any berries the birds ate.

How to Keep Your Canvas Patio Furniture Clean Longer

To keep canvas patio furniture clean longer, try these tips.

Install a Retractable Awning

A patio awning provides shade for your patio, protecting furniture from harmful UV rays (which can cause fading). It will also cover furniture from rain (or other moisture, like snow).

Buy Furniture Covers

Cover patio furniture with chair or cushion covers to further protect it from natural elements.

Follow Storm Prep Instructions

When storms or severe weather head your way, store patio furniture in a secure, covered area. This will not only protect your patio set but will also prevent it from blowing in the wind.

Regularly Clean Patio Furniture

In addition to deep-cleaning it every season, periodically vacuum the fabric and dust the frames (at least once a month).

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