In the summer nothing beats hanging out with friends and family in your backyard – sipping cold drinks, enjoying delicious barbecue – it’s the life, am I right? But if you have a grimy deck or patio that relaxation goes right out the window. It’s no fun drinking something fruity and iced if you’re looking at stained concrete or sitting on dirty furniture.
I’ll take you through the Clean My Space three-wave system to get your deck or patio relaxation and entertaining ready.
Wave One: Tidy and Organize
Get started by totally clearing everything off, whether it’s going to get put back or in the trash. This includes the barbecue, table and chairs, flower pots, etc. Once that’s done you can decide what goes and what stays.
Also ask yourself can this (basketball, bike, pair of roller skates) go somewhere else? Maybe in your newly cleaned garage? It’s the first step to making outdoor living fun again!
Wave Two: Cleaning and Deodorizing
Snow and ice are brutal on outdoor furniture. A friend had this gorgeous table with a glass top that cracked after being in a shed all winter.
While it’s hard to do anything about that, getting furniture warm-weather ready is easy with just a little TLC.
Clean those Cushions
Follow care instructions if they’re still attached to the cushions. If not, or you aren’t sure what they are made of, shake them well to remove loose dirt of debris, and then spot-treat dirty areas or stains with clear dish soap and warm water in a spray bottle (two cups of water and one teaspoon dish soap). I recommend using a spray bottle because dunking cushions into the mixture will make it tough to rinse them out all the way (and you’ll be sittin’ on suds!). You’ll need an upholstery brush (soft bristled) for scrubbing to further loosen dirt and stains.
Once that’s done fill another spray bottle with just water and spritz away! Use a clean but unimportant towel to blot up the soapy suds and water. Then, wring out your cushions or step on them gently and repeat until there’s no soap left. Most cushions are designed to handle water well and let it flow through easily, which is a boon when it comes to cleaning them like this. Leave out in the sun to dry, hanging up/standing up if possible. This method works well for patio umbrellas too.
If you’re cleaning them this way you can also use water (1 part), white vinegar (2 parts) and ¼ cup of baking soda, that magical ingredient, in a spray bottle. Mix everything together by gently swirling and wait until it stops reacting to close the bottle. From here you can use the same upholstery brush and spritz down after with plain water.
If fabric can be removed from the cushions you can pop the covers in the washing machine on gentle cycle (with a cup of two of vinegar, if you like, to get rid of any funky smells) but not in the dryer. Once the wash cycle is over quickly put the covers back on the cushions so they won’t lose their shape and leave in the sun to dry, also hanging up if possible.
Tackle the Furniture
Doesn’t matter what it’s made of – wood, plastic, metal, wicker – you can start them all the same: by brushing or vacuuming any loose dust or dirt that’s built up. Follow up with clear dish soap (1/4 cup) in a gallon of warm water and wipe on with a large, soft sponge. Warm water is better than cold for getting rid of grime, but be sure it isn’t hot as it could cause damage.
If your furniture’s plastic and still looks dirty, mix up to two tablespoons of oxygen bleach with a gallon of warm water. Use the same sponge for scrubbing and then rinse off with a hose. Paste wax, a waterless cleaner usually used to protect wood, is great for plastic too. Apply one thin coat with a soft cotton cloth, let it dry and buff with a clean cotton cloth. The wax helps keep dirt away AND makes future clean ups easier. Win-win!
Like plastic, if that first clean isn’t enough use the same combo of oxygen bleach and water. If it feels rough once it has dried sand it down in the direction of the wood grain. If varnished previously and it looks like it has faded and is absorbing water, consider re-varnishing the piece. Check with your local big box store for appropriate varnishes in the color of your choice.
You can also condition with mineral oil or a wood moisturizer instead of re-varnishing (if it’s not time just yet). After cleaning and possibly sanding, apply with a soft cotton cloth and buff in. This will help breathe new life into the piece, protect it from water and the elements and bring out its natural color. Some wood is meant to look raw and unfinished – it depends on the look you are going for. It might be best to check with the manufacturer of the piece specifically before using any conditioner or oils.
Rust can be an annoyance here if furniture hasn’t been treated to prevent it. If you find any, steel wool will take care of it. If it’s painted, though, you will end up removing the paint at the same time and will probably want to touch it up after. Make sure you use an appropriate paint for metal and outdoor furniture!
Wave Three: The Floor
Happily, concrete is pretty easy to clean. Sweep first with a large push broom so you’ll start with a clean slate, so to speak. Use a garden hose to wash it down, but be careful to protect any plants, flowers or veggies growing close by. If you are fortunate enough to have a pressure washer, now’s the time to use it!
A degreaser or enzyme cleaner will get out marks left behind by the barbecue. Directions for use will vary depending on which product you choose, and be sure to follow them to the letter for best results!
If it’s been some time since you tackled the patio floor, mix clear dish soap and water in a bucket and apply with a yacht mop to brighten things up. If you notice there are stains, you can scrub them with the mixture using a stiff bristle brush.
Stone and Flagstone
Same as on concrete, sweep up debris to start and rinse with a hose. Scrub stains with a brush like this one and dish soap and water. If you spot mold (it’ll look dark brown or black and likely be in spots that are damp or in the shade), combine oxygen bleach with water and scrub to your heart’s content. Then rinse with more water.
If pesky weeds are popping up in the cracks that is a really simple fix: pour boiling water over them (but take care, because it will kill any plant it comes in contact with), or use vinegar in a spray bottle. Vinegar works best on young weeds, but repeat a few times and the grown up ones will soon be gone. If you have full strength vinegar, even better!
Wood decks really take a beating from being constantly exposed to rain, snow and whatever else Mother Nature throws at it. I recommend cleaning them once a year.
Again start with sweeping the deck. Rinse off with a hose or pressure washer.
Next we’re going to use oxygen bleach again. It’s a great cleaning product because, unlike chlorine bleach, it is environmentally friendly and won’t hurt your plants and flowers, not to mention it’s great at loosening up dirt and stains.
So, mix it together in a large bucket with warm water. Follow the directions on the container for how much to use.
Apply with a scrub brush with a long handle. This will take a fair bit of elbow grease, so if you would rather avoid that you can use a pressure washer instead (they can be rented). Be sure to specify you’ll be cleaning a deck so you don’t get one that’s too strong – it could ruin it if you do.
Back to scrubbing … once you’re done, let the oxygen bleach and water sit for at least 15 minutes before rinsing with a hose. Repeat if stubborn stains stick around.
Wait until the deck is totally dry –one or two days – before putting your furniture back. Also, consider if it is time to re-varnish the deck (that’s entirely up to you – varnish provides a beautiful color as well as protects the wood from the elements).
For Further Consideration
Clean out Flower Pots
Get rid of any soil left from last season and clean (yes, again) with oxygen bleach and water or baking soda and vinegar to kill bacteria or bugs that decided to make them home. You may want to wear rubber gloves for this!
Keep Bugs away Naturally
Now that you have this awesome hang out and entertaining space, who needs pesky bugs staking territory?
You can plant citronella or lavender (or both!) around the yard to repel them.
Mosquitoes also hate the smell of rosemary. If you’re barbecuing, throw some on the coals.
When you’ve finished cleaning the floors, replace furniture and backyard accessories in their rightful spaces and store, donate or toss anything you don’t want nor require anymore.
Enjoy! And when you have your first barbecue, let me know. I enjoy steak!