How to Clean Patio Umbrellas, Awnings, & Outdoor Upholstery

Picnic and barbecue season will be here before you know it. Is your outdoor entertaining area ready? Fabric-covered accessories are generally pre-treated with chemicals that help them stand up to the elements and resist fading and water damage—but they’ll still be in need of a good scrub-down before making their debut at your first spring cook-out. Follow these steps to wash away the residue of a long winter in storage:

Umbrellas. The exterior coating on an umbrella that repels water and prevents fading can be worn away by harsh detergents, so stick with a gentle cleanser (Martha Stewart likes Dr. Bronner’s). Mix with warm (but not hot) water and use a scrub brush to remove dirt and mildew. For tough stains, repeat the process with a mixture of bleach and warm water (always do a patch test on an unseen swatch of fabric on the inside of the umbrella first, to ensure the color won’t be affected).

Awnings. A gentle cleanser/water solution is also perfect for awnings. Rinse the awning first, then extend it and scrub in the soap mixture. Rinse again and allow to air dry. As awnings tend to collect dust and windblown debris, repeat this process several times throughout the season and always before storing. To prevent mildew, extend awnings and allow them to dry completely after it rains.

Upholstery. For removable pillowcases and cushion covers, first check the label to determine if they’re machine washable. If so, wash them in cold water only and allow them to air-dry. For pieces that require hand washing, use a mild soap and water mixture (Martha suggests Ivory), rinse, and air-dry. To combat stubborn mildew stains, check to see if the label permits bleach before diluting approximately two tablespoons of bleach in a gallon of water, and scrubbing with a soft brush.

More Spring Cleaning Ideas:


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