The Definitive Guide to Cleaning All of Your Summer Items
Gardening tools, bikes, the ginormous inflatable unicorn: This primer gives you the nitty-gritty on all of them.
Inflatables and other water gear can become moldy or degrade if moisture and chlorine linger.
Season kickoff: Give all your toys a once-over, tossing any with cracks or air leaks. Lay the rest on a deck for a quick cleaning. Using a 16-ounce spray bottle filled with ½ cup white vinegar and ½ cup water, spritz the toys and rinse with a hose. If you see mold, spritz the spots and scrub them off with a nylon-bristle brush.
After every use: Squeeze water from the squishy toys, then rinse everything with a hose. Let the toys dry fully in the sun. Store in a mesh cart or bag.
Season wrap-up: Clean with the vinegar-water mixture. When they’re fully dry, release the air from the inflatables and push out any water trapped inside. Store in a mesh cart or bag in a shed or a garage.
Solid pieces can erode from exposure to the elements. Moisture-trapping cushions can form mold.
Season kickoff: Remove the cushions and clean them with a cloth dipped in a solution of 1 quart warm water plus a drop of dish soap, scrubbing on all sides. Rinse with a hose and dry fully in the sun. Next, evenly coat with a waterproofing protectant (like 303 Fabric Guard; $20, amazon.com). Spray the furniture’s hard surfaces (wood, metal, etc.) with Scotts Outdoor Cleaner Plus OxiClean ($9, homedepot.com) and let sit for 10 minutes. Scrub with a nylon-bristle brush to remove grime, then rinse with a hose and dry fully in the sun. If your furniture is made of vinyl, plastic, or fiberglass, apply a dust-repelling sealant (like 303 Aerospace Protectant; $24, amazon.com). For teak and other blond-wood pieces, apply Golden Care Teak Protector ($35, crateandbarrel.com) to repel water and preserve the finish.
When upholstery gets stained: Spot-clean using the dish-soap–water formula. Blot with a damp cloth and repeat as needed.
Season wrap-up: Spray the furniture’s hard surfaces (wood, metal, etc.) with Scotts Outdoor Cleaner, let dry for an hour, then drape with a cover. (Find a variety of sizes and shapes at wayfair.com/rscovers.) Store dry cushions in a large cinched trash bag in a garage or a shed. Store furniture here, too, if there’s room.
Stuck-on food particles and drippings will affect the flavor of whatever you cook and may attract rodents (ick).
Season kickoff: Spritz the grill (including the grate) from top to bottom with Mean Green Cleaner & Degreaser ($2.50, lowes.com) and scrub with a stiff brush. Rinse with a hose and let dry.
After every use: While the grate is slightly warm, scrub it with a stiff bristle brush to dislodge food particles. When the grate is cool, remove it and use a hand trowel to scoop ash into a nonflammable container; when the ash cools, throw it out. Wipe the grill’s interior and exterior with a damp cloth. Replace the grate.
Season wrap-up: Remove the (cool) grate and submerge it in a tub of hot water plus 5 drops of dish soap. Let soak for 30 minutes, then scrub as described above, using a stiff-bristle brush or No. 3 steel wool. As the grate is soaking, rinse the grill’s exterior and interior with a hose. Let dry for at least 30 minutes, then wipe with a cloth. Replace the grate and drape the grill with a vented all-weather cover.
Season kickoff: Wipe the interior and exterior of the grill with a damp cloth.
After every use: While the grate is still warm, scrub it as described for charcoal grills. When the grill is cool, wipe the exterior with a damp cloth.
Season wrap-up: Remove the (cool) grate and soak as described for charcoal grills. Meanwhile, tackle smoke and grease buildup on the hood, dials, and other metal surfaces: Put on rubber gloves and apply Greased Lightening ($3.50, homedepot.com), using a scrub sponge. Use No. 3 steel wool or a stiff-bristle brush to scrub the soaked grill grate, then rinse, dry, and replace. Drape the grill with a vented all-weather cover.
They get roughed up in the great outdoors. Road dust, brake-pad particles, and dirt build up on the body.
Season kickoff: When you check the tire pressure and reinflate as needed, also wipe down the seat, the handles, the spokes, and the frame with a damp cloth.
Every month or so (and after a muddy ride): Clean the chain with a cotton cloth dipped repeatedly in a small bucket containing 2 cups Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner ($10, homedepot.com) and 2 cups warm water. Rinse the entire bicycle with a hose, paying special attention to the tire treads, to remove mud, dirt, and sand. Let dry completely in the sun for at least 30 minutes.
Season wrap-up: Clean as described above. Store in the garage or protect it outdoors with an all-weather cover ($30, yardstash.com).
Spades, trowels, and hoes end up marred by dirt, rust, or sap.
Season kickoff: Spray each tool with a lubricating oil (such as WD-40). Dip each tool in and out of a bucket full of sand until the grime is gone. Brush off the sand and let air-dry.
After every use: Rinse off the tools with a hose. Dry fully with a cloth, then store them in a bucket of sand, handles facing up. The sand will absorb moisture and work away the remaining gunk as the tools are pushed through.
Season wrap-up: Rinse the tools and store in the sand bucket.
Mildew, musty odors, and fading take their toll over time.
Season kickoff: Revive towels by washing in a hot cycle with ¼ cup white vinegar. Run a second cycle, adding detergent and ½ cup baking soda. Dry without dryer sheets, which can decrease the absorbency of terry-cloth fibers.
After every use: Launder on a gentle cycle. Skip the fabric softener, which can also decrease absorbency. Dry on low to medium heat (no dryer sheets).
Season wrap-up: Launder as described above, then fold and store.
The Cleaning Pros
- Bruce Bjorkman, director of sales and marketing at MAK Grills.
- Carrie Deguzman, senior communications manager at the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association.
- Becky Rapinchuk, creator of Cleanmama.net.
- Richard Selvera, owner of South Texas Pressure Washing.
- Donna Smallin Kuper, certified housecleaning technician.