How to treat outdoor furniture

Updated March 23, 2017

Some kinds of outdoor furniture require more care than others. Cedar, redwood and teak wood furniture are often chosen for their durability and ease of upkeep. Teak wood furniture has a natural resistance to decay and insects, while redwood and cedar contain natural chemicals in the heart of the wood that make them tough and long-lasting. The best time to treat outdoor furniture is during warm, dry weather, so plan your cleaning, oiling and refinishing for the late spring or summer. Keep plastic outdoor furniture looking new with just a bit of soap and water.

Clean your outdoor furniture with warm soapy water and a clean cloth. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a soft terrycloth towel. Allow your furniture to air dry completely for at least 24 hours before applying any sealers or oil.

Remove outdoor cooking soot from blackened wood furniture with a mixture of one cup of trisodium phosphate and one gallon of warm water. Scrub well with a soft-bristled brush, rinsing afterward with cool water.

Examine your furniture after it has dried for cracks and flaking; lightly sand any areas of deterioration with fine grade sandpaper. Treated wood should be stripped completely with a varnish remover before refinishing.

Oil teak wood furniture with teak oil once or twice yearly. Apply the oil with a clean paintbrush and wipe off excess oil with a soft absorbent cloth.

Restore treated woods with a manufacturer-recommended sealer that contains a mildew inhibitor and wood preservative. This will slow down the ageing process and help keep mould at bay.

Replace any rusted hardware such as screws, fasteners and bolts to avoid staining the wood. Always use a silicone-based lubricant when oiling wheels or hinges, as those with oil bases will attract a grimy residue.

Clean furniture cushions and umbrella fabric, including water-resistant fabrics, according to manufacturer instructions. Clean light grime with a sponge or scrub brush and mild soap solution -- 1/4 cup of mild soap to 1 gallon of lukewarm water -- and then thoroughly rinse and dry. Water-resistant fabrics may need extra care, including reapplication of waterproofing solution.


Teak wood and oak naturally fade to a silvery colour, and this will not affect the durability of the furniture if you decide not to oil them. Purchase loose covers for outdoor furniture to protect it during harsh weather conditions, or move furniture into the shade or indoors when not in use.


Never apply teak oil or other oils to dirty wood furniture as it can darken the colour of the wood.

Things You'll Need

  • Warm water
  • Mild dish soap
  • Trisodium phosphate
  • Clean cloth
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Terrycloth towels
  • Fine-grade sandpaper
  • Teak or other wood-appropriate oils
  • Wood sealer
  • Silicone-based lubricant
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About the Author

Abaigeal Quinn works as an international entertainment broker in the United States. She is a former news editor and insurance agent who began writing for a daily newspaper in 1995.