Clean patio furniture the green way

Despite a mild winter for much of the country, many people are looking forward to dusting off the patio furniture and heading outside to enjoy the warmer weather that's on its way.


If only it was as easy as that. Very often decks, patios and outdoor furniture need a little more than a quick clean-up to get them ready for the season. Too often people turn to harsh chemicals that, when washed away, can end up leaching into the surrounding ground and potentially the water supply. There are more environmentally friendly options available to get outdoor items prepped for entertaining.

Those who have kids and pets or who are just interested in living an eco-friendly lifestyle, may wonder how to make patio furniture look like new without resorting to harsh chemical cleansers to do the job. Although it may take a little more elbow grease to do it the green way, here are some tips for cleaning up.

• Head into the kitchen. People are often surprised to find they have some of the most versatile cleaning products in their cabinets and possibly even the refrigerators. Baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice are good cleansers to try on stubborn stains. Baking soda mixed with a little vinegar will create a foaming action that can help break through stains. Vinegar on its own is a natural deodorizer and can clean chrome and glass without leaving behind streaks. Baking soda mixed with a little water can be used as a scouring paste applied with a stiff-bristled brush, and it has even been shown to remove rust stains on some metal surfaces. The acidity of lemon juice can help cut through oily messes and gummy substances.

• Put some pressure behind the cleaning. Don't underestimate the power of plain water -- especially if it's being directed at dirt at a high velocity. Pressure washers are ideal for cleaning off mold, mildew and even leaf and bug stains from many surfaces, including concrete. Set the power washer at an acceptable spray size because, if it's too concentrated, the spray can cause other damage.

• Get steamed for cleaning. Steam is a popular and green method of cleaning indoor floors, counters and other surfaces. Steam can also be tried on resin furniture or other materials to loosen debris, enabling the dirt to be wiped off with little elbow grease. Steam can also disinfect surfaces without the need for chemicals.

• Look for green cleaning products. For those who prefer the power of a spray-bottle, select products that have been approved for use by notable environmental agencies. These cleaning items will be free from damaging ingredients. Just be sure to check the ingredient list before making any purchases.

• Bleach it. Diluted bleach is one of the most effective cleaning and disinfecting combinations around. Because bleach is an organic chemical, it can be introduced back into the environment without doing much damage, provided it is substantially diluted. Check the color-fastness of the materials that will be cleaned in an inconspicuous spot prior to doing the whole surface.

• Cover it. Sometimes the stains are so set in that they are not able to be scoured clean. In such instances, consider the use of eco-friendly fabrics to cover patio furniture upholstery. In addition, look for green paints that can be used to go over metal and even plastic furniture for a new look.

Get set for the season of entertaining by prepping outdoor items in an environmentally friendly way.