The Foolproof Method for Getting Dirty Outdoor Cushions Totally Clean

published May 6, 2024
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Credit: Anna Spaller

As much as I enjoy the shut-in coziness of winter, I love it when springtime comes around! Aside from the bustle of spring cleaning, I like to celebrate the change of the season with some gardening, backyard picnics, and getting our back patio ready for nicer weather. 

Quick Overview

How to Clean Outdoor Cushions

  1. Check care labels.
  2. Remove surface dirt.
  3. Remove sap stains (if needed).
  4. Make a cleaning solution.
  5. Treat other stains.
  6. Scrub your cushions.
  7. Rinse.
  8. Dry.

Although I should probably be covering my patio furniture during the offseason, it doesn’t always happen and my outdoor cushions are in dire need of a refresh by the time May rolls around. Unlike at my last home, my current place doesn’t have a screened-in or even covered back porch. Plus the furniture sits under a couple of beautiful but messy trees. Needless to say, my cushion-cleaning routine has needed an upgrade! 

I reached out to Milly McEwan, a product and design manager for RJ Living who’s designed outdoor furniture, and cleaning pro Delah Gomasi, the CEO and director of MaidForYou, for their advice on how to clean outdoor cushions.

What You’ll Need

  • A vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment or a stiff-bristled brush
  • Butter knife or other blunt instrument
  • Sanitizer, nail polish remover, or isopropyl alcohol (optional)
  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Rag or sponge
  • Degreaser like Krud Kutter (optional)

How to Clean Outdoor Cushions

Below, a step-by-step guide on how to clean outdoor cushions, according to experts.

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

Step 1: Check care labels. 

McEwan’s first piece of advice is to check the care labels of your cushions (if they have them; mine didn’t) for any specific information pertaining to your outdoor furniture.

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

Step 2: Remove surface dirt. 

Next, it’s time to remove the looser dirt from the cushions. “Remove the cushions from the furniture and shake them off to remove any loose dirt or debris,” McEwan suggests. After shaking, grab either a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment or a stiff-bristled brush to remove an additional layer of dirt. “Pay special attention to seams and crevices where dirt can build up,” McEwan recommends. 

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

Step 3: Remove sap stains (if needed). 

If you have sap stains, treat them before getting your fabric wet. Scrape off residue with a blunt instrument such as the non-cutting edge of a butter knife. Next use an alcohol-based product such as sanitizer, nail polish remover, or even isopropyl alcohol to help dissolve and remove the sap. 

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

Step 4: Make a cleaning solution. 

Make a cleaning solution of about a quarter cup of dish soap to a gallon of warm water in a bucket. “I like to create a mix of mild soap and lukewarm water because your harsher detergents can damage the fabric,” McEwan shares. Gomasi also recommends a solution of Dawn dish soap and water. 

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

Step 5: Treat other stains. 

For other stains, such as mold, bird droppings, or mud, “your best bet will be to let the [cleaner] sit for 15 minutes,” McEwan says. Add the solution with a rag or sponge, or scrub it on with a soft-bristled brush and allow it to sit and work on the stains. Gomasi has found it useful to use a degreaser like Krud Kutter to remove any stubborn mold or mildew.

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

Step 6: Scrub your cushions. 

Now it’s time for the main cleaning. Dip a soft-bristled brush into your cleaning solution and scrub the entire surface of your cushion. Work in circles to loosen dirt and help lift it to the surface. 

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

Step 7: Rinse. 

McEwan emphasizes the importance of a thorough rinsing because “if you don’t, then dirt can seep into the fabric and stain it, putting you in a situation where you might have to clean everything all over again.” You can use a garden hose or clean water from a bucket to rinse your cushions.

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

Step 8: Dry. 

Set your cushions out to dry thoroughly before putting them back on your furniture. (Hint: This is the perfect time to clean it!) Direct sunlight will help whiten cushions and dry them faster, but also be aware of the potential for fading if your cushion fabric is darker.