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How to clean wooden garden furniture

07 January 2015

Simon Burvill of Gaze Burvill, makers of garden furniture, explains how to clean and oil your outdoor furniture, giving your timber a much longer life.

Wooden garden furniture
Keeping your wooden garden furniture in good condition means it'll last a lot longer

How to clean wooden garden furniture

Clean wooden garden furniture using a warm solution of sugar soap and a scrubbing brush.

You can leave the solution on the furniture for a few minutes to soak into more stubborn dirt patches before shifting them with the scrubbing brush.

Once done, rinse off with a hose pipe and leave to dry.

Make sure you clean your garden furniture before winter. Dirty wooden furniture holds far more moisture than clean wooden furniture so you ill be helping to keep it dry over winter.

Read our guide to preparing your garden furniture for winter

Using a pressure washer to clean garden furniture

Don’t use a pressure washer for cleaning wooden furniture - wooden garden furniture can be damaged by pressure washers stripping away some of the timber itself as well as the dirt.

Often this does not become apparent until the wood has dried out and taken on the texture of shark skin.

If your furniture has been damaged by a pressure washer the solution is to sand it down smooth again, although you don't want to have to do this too many times.

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Using oil on wooden garden furniture

Avoid putting any oil or sealants on new oak furniture. Oils tend to make the wood go black and pick up dirt, while other finishes sit on the surface, change the texture of the wood and need frequent maintenance.

However, once the wood has been out for a number of years (on average about 10), the surface grain will have opened up and it will have lost its surface tannins - at this point replenishing these with new oils will be beneficial.

Softwoods and less durable hardwoods will require much more frequent treatments with preservative finishes than this and it is best to get the recommendation of the manufacturer for this.

Cleaning mildew off wooden garden furniture

In damp years mildew can be much more prevalent than usual and particularly damp weather can even lead to mildew appearing on oak, which is usually very unusual.

Conditions for mildew are generally warm damp areas where the spores get caught and bloom. Although it will not harm oak, it can leave unsightly marks that require bleach-based cleaning products to wash off. While bleaches do not harm oak, and most other timbers, they can cause discolouration - so it’s best to test it on a small area first before applying to the whole area.

Visit our Home and Garden section for gardening guides, home improvement tips and much more.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.