How to Clean Commercial Outdoor Furniture

How to Clean Commercial Outdoor Furniture

| Sep 25, 2023

Outdoor furniture can add an incredible ambiance to a restaurantpark or business. Who doesn’t love having a place to sit outside in the nice weather? However, if a customer looks down and sees a grimy chair or a spotty tabletop, they might choose to sit elsewhere.

While outdoor furniture has some wonderful perks, it requires some maintenance to keep it looking fresh and clean. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to clean commercial furniture, so you can keep your furniture sparkling and your guests happy.

Cleaning Supplies for Cleaning Commercial Outdoor Furniture

The type of supplies you need for cleaning commercial outdoor furniture depends on the material you’re cleaning and the issues you’re dealing with. For instance, the cleaning supplies needed to remove rust will be different than the supplies needed to remove dirt. To care for steel, faux wood or aluminum furniture and deal with issues like rust and mold or mildew, you’ll want to keep these cleaning supplies on hand:

  • Non-detergent, oil-based soap
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Rust dissolving gel
  • Oxygen bleach
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Borax
  • Disinfectant or sanitizer spray
  • Sandpaper or steel wool
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Paper towels
  • Scrub brush
  • Sponge

How to Clean Steel Outdoor Furniture

Steel is a strong and durable material, making it a great choice for outdoor furniture. Outdoor furniture like benches, picnic tables and chairs are often made of steel. Even though steel is a great choice for outdoor furniture, like any other material, it can become dirty. It can also rust and corrode, especially if it is not coated in a rust-resistant finish or if the finish has worn off over time. If your steel furniture needs a refresh, here’s how you can clean and restore it:

Instructions on cleaning steel outdoor furniture

Step 1: Clean With Mild Soap and Water

To start, give your steel furniture a wipe down using a mild, non-detergent soap mixed with water. Use a soft material, such as a sponge or dishcloth, to clean the chair, as more abrasive materials can scratch the finish. Abrasive cleaners can also damage the finish on your steel furniture.

As you clean, look for any places where the finish appears to be worn away or where rust has cropped up. If the finish is still intact, then this simple cleaning may be enough to have your steel furniture shining again. If you have rust to deal with, keep working through the following steps.

Step 2: Scrub Off Rust

If there is any rust on your steel furniture, removing it should be a top priority. For small spots of rust, you can use coarse-grit sandpaper or a steel wool pad to scrub off the rust by hand. If there’s a significant amount of rust on your furniture, you may want to use an electric sander or a wire brush or grinder attached to a power tool to scrub off the rust.

This is a great first step to remove the bulk of the rust, but you can also use chemical solutions to remove more.

Step 3: Dissolve Rust With a Chemical Solution

You can use products you may already have on hand or purchase cleaning products that are designed to dissolve rust. For the DIY approach, use either white vinegar or a paste made from baking soda and water to cover the rusty furniture and check on it periodically until the rust has dissolved. Then, rinse it off.

If you would prefer to use a rust-removing product, you can find these at your local hardware store. They’ll be labeled as rust dissolvers or rust removers and will likely come in gel form. Be sure to follow the instructions and any safety precautions since these products can be harmful if they contact your skin.

Dry furniture quickly to avoid flash rusting.

Step 4: Rinse Off and Dry Immediately

After removing all the rust from your steel furniture, you’ll want to wash it again. Depending on the rust removal methods you used, you may want to use soap and water, or you may be able to simply hose down the furniture to rinse off any debris. Once you’ve washed or rinsed your furniture, make sure you dry the furniture quickly, so you don’t allow any flash rusting to occur.

Step 5: Add a Layer of Finish

If you want your steel furniture to stay rust-free, you’ll want to reapply a layer of protection. If you’re refinishing the furniture yourself, the most convenient options are typically rust-resistant primer and paint or a protective clear coat.

How to Clean Aluminum Outdoor Furniture

If you’re looking for outdoor commercial furniture that requires minimal maintenance, consider a product made of aluminum. If resistance to rust and corrosion is a major consideration, aluminum outdoor furniture is a great option. This material can also give you an architectural look that’s built to last. To care for and clean your aluminum commercial furniture, follow these steps:

Cleaning aluminum outdoor furniture

Step 1: Remove Any Oxidation Spots

While aluminum is rust and corrosion-resistant, it’s prone to developing oxidation spots, which can be unsightly. To remove these spots, simply apply a metal polishing paste or a solution that’s equal parts white vinegar and water. This should remove any oxidation spots and leave your furniture shining. Try to avoid using any abrasive products or materials when cleaning your furniture, as aluminum is a relatively soft metal and can scratch easily.

Step 2: Wash With a Non-Abrasive Cleaning Product

Next, wash the furniture with a non-abrasive cleaning product and a damp, soft cloth. Try to avoid using any cleaning products that contain ammonia or trisodium phosphate (TSP), as these products can cause further oxidation. This step can also be performed more frequently to prevent oxidation spots from forming and dirt from accumulating.

Step 3: Wipe Off Any Residue

Finally, wipe off any residue from the cleaning product with a damp cloth. Again, make sure to use a non-abrasive cloth to avoid scratching your furniture. If any moisture remains on the furniture, wipe it off with a dry, soft cloth. Just like any other metal, you should try to dry off aluminum furniture when it gets wet. Even though aluminum is resistant to rust, it’s not rust-proof. It can still develop rust spots if it is exposed to too much moisture.

If you want to take extra steps to prevent rust and corrosion, you can apply a coat of rust-resistant primer and paint to your aluminum furniture.

How to Clean Faux Wood Outdoor Furniture

Faux wood is one of the easiest materials to clean. It doesn’t hold onto moisture like natural wood and won’t rust like steel can, so it doesn’t tend to experience too many issues. However, faux wood furniture that’s kept outside can still get dirty and need serious cleaning from time to time. I can also become stained from spills or general wear. Here’s how to clean outdoor chairs or other furniture made from faux wood:

1. Clean With a Mild Cleanser and Water

Start with a mild cleanser made from a gallon of warm water and either one-half cup of baking soda or 3 tablespoons of dishwasher detergent. If your faux wood is colored and you want to avoid fading the color, use one-fourth cup vinegar mixed with a quart of warm water. Use a sponge to wipe down the furniture with the cleaning solution. If you still see stubborn stains, move onto Step 2.

Instructions on removing stains from faux wood furniture

2. Scrub and Soak to Remove Stains

To get rid of stubborn stains, dip your rag or sponge into some white distilled vinegar or rubbing alcohol, and scrub the stained spots. Allow the vinegar or alcohol to stay on the faux wood for a few minutes to work on the stains. You can also sprinkle on some baking soda and scrub it in with a wet sponge or rag. The baking soda is just abrasive enough to rub off some stains without scratching your furniture.

3. Rinse-Off and Dry

Now, it’s time to rinse off all the cleaning solutions from your faux wood furniture using a pitcher of water or a hose. You can allow faux wood furniture to air dry, or you can wipe it down with an absorbent cloth.

Cover faux wood furniture with a coat of wax.

4. Cover With a Coat of Wax

Once your furniture is dry, you can apply a layer of paste wax, which you’ll find in the automotive section of a store. Put a small amount of the wax on the dry furniture and buff it into the material in circular motions. This layer of wax will help your faux wood furniture look cleaner for longer.

Preventative care for outdoor furniture

Preventative Tips to Maintain Outdoor Furniture

Many business owners only clean their outdoor furniture when it starts to look dirty, rusty or lackluster. However, to ensure the best possible experience for your customers and extend the life of your furniture, you need to perform preventative maintenance.

You can keep your furniture clean and ready for the next season by prioritizing preventative care. Here are some tips to help you keep your outdoor furniture in great shape:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions: Familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s care instructions for each piece of outdoor furniture you have, so you know how to properly care for each type of material. Our guidelines above can help you choose the best cleaning methods, but it’s always smart to consult the owner’s manual or tag attached to your furniture, so you can keep your warranty intact and avoid inadvertently damaging your furniture with the wrong cleaning supplies or methods.
  • Cover or store furniture: One of the best ways to protect outdoor furniture, particularly if it is made of wood, wicker or fabric, is to keep it out of the rain, snow and other harsh weather conditions. First, make sure the furniture is dry. Then, you can either move the furniture indoors or cover it with a tarp or custom cover. Once the weather is favorable again, move the furniture back outside or take off the cover.
  • Clean frequently: If cleaning your furniture seems like a major job or you have trouble getting your furniture back to like-new condition, it probably means you should be cleaning it more often. Frequent cleaning means the furniture never has a chance to get too dirty, making cleaning an easy process and helping your furniture last longer. For tables people eat on, you’ll want to wipe them down many times throughout the day. To disinfect restaurant furniture, use a disinfecting or sanitizing spray each time you wipe it down.
  • Touch up chips and scratches: If you discover chips or scratches in the finish of your furniture, you want to touch these up quickly before they become bigger problems. If the finish is starting to deteriorate, then it may be time to repaint or otherwise refinish your furniture. First, sand off any peeling or crackling finish on the furniture, and then refinish.
  • Apply protective coatings: Protective coatings like waxes and water-repellant sprays can help your furniture be more resistant to the elements. This can make it much easier to wipe down, less likely to stain and can ultimately help it last longer. The right type of protective coating to use depends on the material of the furniture, so consult the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Repair problems promptly: If you come across problems like broken or missing screws or other hardware or anything else that needs to be fixed, address the issue right away. Leaving the problem could allow it to become worse and cause other problems. You may be able to consult the manufacturer to see if the problem is covered by your warranty or whether you need to do the repairs yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions for Cleaning Outdoor Furniture

Learning how to disinfect restaurant furniture can be a confusing process. Let’s look at some questions that often come up in regards to outdoor furniture cleaning. If you have other questions, feel free to reach out to us at Wabash Valley Outdoor Furnishings.

Never power wash outdoor furniture, it is too powerful.

1. Can You Pressure Wash Outdoor Furniture?

Pressure washing can be tempting when you want to get outdoor furniture clean as efficiently as possible. Generally, though, you should not pressure wash outdoor furniture. This is because pressure washing is so powerful, it can damage the finish on outdoor furniture. You don’t want to use a pressure washer to make things easier and end up doing more harm than good.

Pressure washing can work for unfinished, unpainted furniture, but typically, you don’t need it. You can get outdoor furniture clean with the products and methods we discussed above.

2. Can You Wash Outdoor Furniture Covers?

We mentioned covering your outdoor furniture to keep it clean when it’s not in use, such as during cold weather, but what do you do when these covers get dirty? Dirty furniture covers could be just as unsightly as dirty furniture. Fortunately, you can clean the furniture covers. You may be able to launder a fabric furniture cover — but for a tarp, whether it is made from vinyl, polyethylene or canvas, here’s how to clean it:

  1. Find or create a clean space outside to wash the tarp.
  2. Shake out any loose dirt and spread the tarp flat.
  3. Brush off any remaining visible dirt.
  4. Mix about two gallons of water with a small amount of gentle soap. Add two cups of vinegar to the mix if you’re trying to remove stains. Scrub the tarp with a brush or use a push broom dipped in the cleaning solution.
  5. Rinse off all the soap and allow the tarp to dry completely in the sun.

3. Are Some Cleaning Products Unsafe for Eating Surfaces?

If you’re cleaning a picnic table or a restaurant patio table, you may wonder whether the products you’re using are safe. After all, since these surfaces are for eating, you don’t want any dangerous chemicals lingering on the surface. Generally, there’s nothing to worry about here. Cleaning and sanitizing products are designed to be safe for everyday surfaces, including eating surfaces.

However, it’s always a good idea to check the label to make sure the product is designed for the type of surface you’re planning to use it on. Additionally, you should never mix cleaning products, as this can lead to potentially dangerous chemical combinations.

Instructions on cleaning fabric cushions and accessories

4. How Do You Clean Fabric Cushions and Accessories?

Fabric is more common on residential patio furniture than it is on commercial outdoor furniture because it isn’t particularly durable, but you may still have fabric covered cushions on chairs, fabric patio umbrellas or other accessories that need cleaning. If you’re able to remove the fabric and launder it in a washing machine, this is the easiest cleaning method. Just be sure to follow the care instructions for your fabric material and allow it to air dry, rather than putting it in the dryer.

If you can’t remove the fabric, follow these cleaning steps:

  1. Shake out the fabric accessories or use a vacuum to remove loose debris.
  2. Soak the fabric and use heavy-duty liquid detergent or a mixture of 2 tablespoons dish detergent and one-half cup of borax mixed with water to pretreat stains. Scrub the fabric with the solution.
  3. For more serious stains or mildew issues, you can also use dilated oxygen bleach on colored fabrics or chlorine bleach on white furniture. Treat bleach as a last resort since it’s harsh on fabric.
  4. Rinse the fabric and allow it to dry completely.
  5. Finish by spraying on a fabric protector to make your fabric water-repellant and to help minimize staining.

5. What Is the Easiest Furniture Material to Clean?

Both plastic — including faux wood — and metal outdoor furniture pieces are easy to clean, especially compared to materials like wood, wicker, or fabric. The materials that Wabash Valley Outdoor Furnishings uses for our outdoor furniture are exceptionally durable and better able to resist wear and tear which can make cleaning more labor-intensive.

The finish on the material will have a major impact on how durable and easy to clean it is, so always factor in the finish — not just the base material — when you’re shopping for outdoor commercial furniture.

Purchase Commercial Outdoor Furniture From Wabash Valley Outdoor Furnishings

At Wabash Valley Outdoor Furnishings, we understand how much value great outdoor furniture can add to your business — as long as that furniture looks well-kept. We also understand your staff is busy and may not have hours to spend cleaning outdoor furniture. That’s why we offer high-quality, durable commercial furniture for your outdoor space that is easy to maintain.

For example, our classic outdoor dining sets are made to last without the need for anything beyond general cleaning. Plus, the attached chairs make cleaning more convenient. We also carry commercial outdoor benches with an open design that allows water and debris to pass through rather than settle, helping them stay fairly clean on their own.

Browse our selection of furniture online, find the best options for your business, and have it shipped directly to you.