How to Remove 5 Summer Stains from Outdoor Furniture

    Photo: Polka Dot Creations/flickrIt was a fun summer – lots of barbecues, children romping through the yard, birds and butterflies flitting by – the stuff memories are made of. But now Labor Day has passed, you may be feeling some less enchanting aftereffects. Eeww! How did the porch table and chairs get so gunky? And what’s that green splotch on the upholstery? Time to clean  the stains summer left behind on your furniture.

    General Tips

    Try to mop up spills immediately to prevent severe staining. Do not pressure wash outdoor furniture. The spray’s force is much too powerful and can tear, mildew, or shorten the lifespan of your furnishings. Shower them with your garden hose instead – just make sure they’re waterproof before you try this method. Some upholstered cushions have removable covers that may be put in the washing machine. (Check manufacturer’s instructions.) Use a delicate, cold water cycle, followed by line drying, to prevent shrinkage.

    1. Rust

    If summer thundershowers have left rust spots on your mesh chairs and loungers, wipe or vacuum off any surface dirt. Then soak a cloth in white vinegar and wrap it around the rusted part. Leave in place for 5-10 minutes, followed by a thorough rinsing with your garden hose. Repeat if necessary. Dry thoroughly. Some folks like to mix baking soda with the vinegar for a boost in cleaning power; however, this results in a gritty paste that can be difficult to remove completely.

    2. Avocado

    Colorful, tasty guacamole is great as part of a backyard picnic. The greenish-brown smudge it sometimes leaves behind on a patio chair is not so pretty, though. To remove this unsightly stain, start by scraping off any remaining avocado pulp with a dull implement such as a plastic knife or Popsicle stick. Gently does it! Next rub a dab of liquid laundry soap into the stain. Let stand, rinse, and repeat as required. You may need to resort to a stain remover stick to get out the last of this stubborn stain.

    3. Mud

    Kids and swimming pools – or sprinklers, squirt guns, or anything to do with water – go together like summer and sunshine. However, this combo can lead to serious mud stains on your patio seating. Mud removal from the chairs’ framework is simple: before the harsh Midwestern winter arrives, spread them out on your Minneapolis concrete patio or driveway and let ’em have it with a hose. For fabric, though, the solution seems counterintuitive. Let the mud dry completely before chipping off as much as possible. Now take liquid laundry detergent or hand soap and massage into the mark that’s left. Soak for 15 minutes or more. If traces remain, use a commercial stain remover.

    4. Bird Droppings

    Remember the birds of summer for their sweet songs, not for their less pleasant “souvenirs.” Get rid of bird droppings by removing as much as you can with a disposable knife or spoon. Then wet the furniture piece and let soak for a few minutes to soften the mess before a good strong hosedown. Disinfect your patio furniture by spraying with a mild bleach solution, if desired, and then rinse again. Treat fabric using a liquid enzyme-containing laundry detergent. You may need to apply hydrogen peroxide to remove bird dropping stains that contain berries or grapes; test in an inconspicuous spot first. Rinse and dry in the sunshine.

    5. Ice Cream

    Because summer’s favorite sweet treat, ice cream, is protein-based, stains resulting from a vanilla soft-serve cone that somehow landed upside down on your glider's fabric should never be treated with hot water, which will just set the protein. Instead, if you get at the stain right away, flush with cold water (for washable fabrics only!). Once it’s dried, apply a dry cleaning solvent. Alternatively, spread diluted dish detergent on the spot, let stand a couple of minutes, then rinse with cool H2O. Let dry in the sun.

    Laura Firszt writes for

    Updated March 7, 2018.

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