How To Clean And Restore Your Garden Furniture (Wood, Metal, Rattan or Plastic)

How To Clean And Restore Your Garden Furniture (Wood, Metal, Rattan or Plastic)

Just like everything else, sometimes garden furniture needs a quick spruce up. The lawn looks trim and smart, the flowers are watered and colourful, now we just need to put on the finishing touches and make sure those garden chairs and garden tables are sparkling in the sunlight. 

It only takes a few minutes and you probably have all the tools you need in your shed or kitchen already. 

What happens to furniture outside

Fading Colours

Wood that lives outside is exposed to sunlight, and the UV rays will slowly strip the wood of its natural colour.


Solution:  It is common to apply oils to wood. This restores the natural oils that have been lost over time and helps to reverse weathering. Futhermon, some oils are UV-resistant, so they will slow future fading. 

Growth of Algae/Green Patches

Algae, mould and mildew like to grow in conditions that are a) damp and b) warm. If you furniture is kept in a shaded outside area that gets warm in the summer, it is more likely to attract fungi. If your furniture sits in the shade of a tree, mildew-causing spores might be dropped from the tree’s branches. 


Solution: If the algae build-up is new, warm soapy water will likely be sufficient to remove it. It that doesn’t do the job, the next stage is to use an acidic product to kill the algae. White vinegar is your best bet, and is a non-toxic method that won’t damage wood, though it can affect some wood finishes. 

Build Up Of Grime

You can’t avoid it: the outside world is filled with dust, dirt, bugs and fungi. Some of this is going to adhere to your furniture leaving a film of filth if it isn’t cleaned every now and again. 


Solution: Thankfully, most grime can be done away with using nothing more than some warm, soapy water. Easy!

Rust & Corrosion

Rust is iron-oxide, and as you might guess from the name it occurs when iron comes into contact with oxygenm, which also includes water/moisture. A lot of outdoor furniture is made of cast-iron or steel (an alloy of iron) so rust is a common problem. Technically, aluminium furniture does not rust, though it can corrode and discolour in the same conditions that cause rust. Either way, you


Solution: Thankfully, most furniture that is susceptible to rust is treated to avoid it. However, if rusting occurs despite the treatment, it is best to do something about it sooner rather than later. That is because initially, rust is only a cosmetic problem, but rust is eating the iron your cast-iron table is made from, permanently damaging it. To start with, use a metal wire brush to remove the rust flakes. Then prevent new rust from forming by keeping the furniture dry, clean, and/or applying an anti-rust paste. 


“Patina” is the word used to describe the tarnish or change in colour that results from age, ware and exposure to the elements. The nature of the change is different depending on the material: for metal, a patina is a thin layer of rust; for wood, it is more like wear that causes a sheen. A patina is NOT necessarily undesirable. For some, the patina on wooden furniture shows its age and character and should be protected. 


Solution: It is up to you whether you want to leave the natural ageing of your furniture intact. If you would prefer something that looks more like new, applying a replenishing oil repainting your wooden furniture is a good idea. For patinas on metal furniture, which is similar to rust, a rust-remover such as white vinegar or baking soda should do the job. 

A Full Cleaning Routine For Your Garden Furniture

Taking proper care of your wooden or metal garden furniture doesn’t require any special skills or tools. You can learn how in just a few minutes, and complete the process in less than 15. 

Revitalising a beautiful garden product is even a rather relaxing and satisfying task, especially if the sun is shining. 

1. Remove Lichen, Algae and Dirt With a Brush

To begin with, let’s get rid of obvious dirt and dense green patches of algae. 

We recommend a brush for this job. The bristles will help you get into corners, crevices and between slats. Medium-strength bristle should easily dislodge obvious dirt. 

Some dirt and algae will be more resistant to your efforts. We recommend working in some white vinegar with a brush then leaving for 15 minutes before brushing again. 

Warning: Brushes with hard bristles might mark wooden furniture. Start genty and in an inconspicuous location on the chair or table. Then, if you notice the brush starting to leave a mark, replace it with a brush with softer bristles. 

2. Sand Stubborn Dirt, Stains, Splinters and Rough Edges

If your furniture is made of wood, some light sanding will do it good. Sand in the direction of the grain, starting with a medium grit and finishing off with a fine grade sandpaper. Naturally, you don’t want to overdo it, but don’t be too afraid of sanding. You might be surprised just how close to new your chairs will look at the end of it!

Tip: You can make this task much quicker and easier on your hands with an angle sander.

Even non-wooden furniture will benefit from careful sanding. You can remove light rust or an unwanted patina this way. 

3. Clean With A Sponge and Soapy Water

Nothing too complicated here. Get yourself a bowl of warm water, and a sponge. For soap, dishwashing liquid is perfectly okay. A mild concentration is best. If you do want something more specialised, there are many products on the market available to help dispel dirt from metal, plastic and wooden garden furniture. However, always follow these instructions and be wary of strong chemicals in these cleaning solutions: test them on a small area of your product before committing to a full wash with them. 

For metal or plastic furniture, a pressure washer will do the job just fine. However, it is strongly recommended that you do not use a pressure washer on wooden furniture. It’s just overkill and over time will lead to the premature weathering of the wood. If you truely can’t resist picking up the jet washer for your wooden garden furniture, please at least turn it down to the lowest power setting. 

4. (Optional) Update Your Garden Furniture

Good quality garden furniture is designed to reduce the amount of maintenance needed. High quality, resilient materials and finishes are used so that your furniture remains beautiful for longer. If you’re interested in upgrading your garden furniture, view our full range today

FAQ About Caring For Garden Furniture

How do I clean rattan garden furniture? 

If you are lucky enough to own a set like our Grey Rattan Elodie Table and Chairs, you might feel intimidated by the idea of cleaning between all those beautiful weaves. However, combine your warm soapy water with a toothbrush or some other fine-bristled brush and you will clean out the wicker weaves in no time. Do not use a pressure washer. 

How do I get rust off metal garden furniture?

One of the best common products for removing rust is white vinegar. Yes, it’s the same vinear you put on chips: it’s a multi-talented acid. Soak the rust in vingar and leave for 20+ minutes. Then return with a fine wire brush and gently dislodge the rust. 

How many coats of oil are needed for wooden garden furniture?

It really does depend on the type of oil. Danish oil, which is popular for both softwood and hardwood furniture, and linseed oil, popular for rattan products, are thin oils that requires at least three coats, usually applied on separate days. However, other oils and treatments work differently. Read the instructions before application. 

Do I need to cover garden furniture?

High-quality garden furniture will be relatively weather resistant. However, you will keep your furniture looking beautiful for longer, and need to clean it less often, if you cover it when you do not expect it to be used, such as during the winter, or if a period of heavy weather is expected. Another option is to store your chairs or your cushions indoors.