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How To Clean Outdoor Cushions — and Get Rid of the Mold + Mildew That Can Make You Feel Sick and Tired

A little white vinegar can go a long way in keeping your cushions fresh, clean and free of mold

From heat and humidity to rainstorms and gale-force winds, your outdoor furniture cushions have seen it all — and probably look a little worse for wear because of it. If you live in a rainy part of the country, they’re most likely harboring a little mold or mildew, which can end up making you feel a bit sick. Regardless of how battered they may seem and how much of nature’s elements they’ve withstood, cleaning pros agree that knowing how to clean outdoor cushions before packing them away for the season, can help ensure they are in great shape come next spring. And prevent bringing mold and mildew into your home. Here, the expert tips for getting them looking like new again — fast.

How to clean outdoor cushions with removable covers

woman checking outdoor cushion covers
First, check to see if your outdoor cushion covers come off.Getty

Simply remove them and follow the washing instructions on their tag — this should suffice to lift outdoor grime, such as mold, mildew, pollen, bird droppings and dirt. But in the case of tree sap, just read on below and see for easy ways to pre-treat them.

How to clean outdoor cushions without removable covers

outdoor couch with colorful removable cover cushions

“Regardless of the type of grime you’re dealing with, be it dirt or pollen, a good first step is to grab your vacuum and run it over each cushion with the hose attachment,” says Steve Evans, cleaning specialist with Memphis Maids. “This will suck up any larger pieces of debris and prepare the fabric for a deeper cleaning.”

Don’t feel like lugging your Hoover outside? You can also brush outdoor cushions to dislodge excess dirt. Two brush options: Casual Clean Patio Furniture Brush, (Buy from Patio Furniture Supplies $9), or 13-inch Patio Furniture Hand Broom, (Buy from Amazon,$14.20).

The best ways to spot-treat outdoor cushions

Now that the biggest pieces of debris are history, find the best cleaning strategy for the most common types of outside grime.

1. To clean mold or mildew from outdoor cushions: Use white vinegar

Weeks outdoors in rain and humidity can leave your cushions looking and smelling musty, which not only is unsightly, it can also be unhealthy to breathe in when you sit down. So much so that Functional Medicine physician Jill Carnahan, MD, founder and director of Flatiron Functional Medicine, explains that in additional to disrupting the energy production in cells, mold and mildew also disrupt thyroid and adrenal function, leading to brain fog and tiredness for 75 percent of her patients.

To the rescue: white vinegar. “It’s a natural anti-microbial, so it doesn’t just mask the smell of mold and mildew, it destroys and removes them,” says Evans. “Just spray undiluted white vinegar over the cushions and let them dry, then follow up with another pass of the vacuum to remove any residue.” And don’t worry about your cushions smelling like a salad: when vinegar evaporates, so does the scent. (Click through to learn more about the health dangers of mold exposure: Suffer from Unexplained Exhaustion? 99% of Women Are Exposed to Energy-Draining Mold.)

2. To clean pollen, dirt or dust from outdoor cushions: Dab on hydrogen peroxide

While regular dish soap and even laundry detergent can help tackle minor pollen, dirt or dust issues, if you need to bring out the big guns, grab your bottle of hydrogen peroxide. When it comes into contact with grime, it begins to fizz, signaling the creation of oxygenated gas that works the same way bleach does when it disinfects — but hydrogen peroxide is much gentler and won’t destroy the colors on your cushions.

To do: In a spray bottle, simply combine a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water, then use a rag to wipe down your cushions. Rinse with a garden hose — use a high-pressure setting if your hose has one — and let the cushions dry completely in the sun. 

3. To clean bird poop from outdoor cushions: Pour on the seltzer

A bird sits on an outdoor cushion (How to clean outdoor cushions)

The best method to remove bird poop from your outdoor cushions is likely already in your fridge: a bottle of seltzer. The fizzy carbonation breaks down the mineral deposits in the droppings, so they lift right out of the fabric.

To do: Just pour a bit of seltzer over the spot and let sit for about 10 minutes or until it’s stopped fizzing for a few minutes. Then place a drop of dish soap in a cup of water, and use a rag to wipe the spot with the soapy solution; let dry and you’re done!

4.To clean tree sap: Squeeze on warm hand sanitizer

All you need to tackle the sticky stuff is a bottle of hand sanitizer! To make it work even faster, first warm it up by putting the bottle into a bowl of hot (not boiling) water. Then squeeze out enough of the stuff to cover the stain. The warm gel will soften the sap and help the alcohol in the sanitizer penetrate more deeply. Says Beatrice Flores, cleaning blogger for, “After about 15 minutes, the sap should wipe right off with a clean, dry rag.”

5. To clean oily smudges: Sprinkle on one of *these*

Oil spots can find their way onto your cushions from sunblock, bug spray and food from a barbecue. “Simply sprinkle baking soda, baby powder or corn starch — all of which will bond with the oil and pull it out of the fabric —over the spot, then gently tap it into the stain using your fingers,” suggests Mary “Dr. Laundry” Gagliardi, Clorox’s in-house cleaning scientist. “Let it sit for at least 10 minutes, then brush it off. If there’s still a visible spot, keep repeating this method until it’s disappeared.” Next, mix 2-3 squirts of dish soap into a quart of warm water, dip a rag into the mixture, and wipe down the entire cushion. Rinse using your hose and let the cushions dry in the sun.

6. To clean dark-colored stains: Shake on some cream of tartar

Ketchup, grass stains, melted chocolate, red wine — these stubborn “oopses” can spell trouble for even the most stain-resistant of outdoor cushions. “In these cases, you need something that will remove the dark pigments from your fabric without bleaching them, and that’s where cream of tartar comes in handy,” assures Evans. “Just mix a bit of tartar with a little white vinegar until a paste forms — leave the mildly acidic stain remover over the spot for about 15 minutes before rinsing. Repeat if any stains remain.”  

To prevent dirt on your outdoor cushions

You can help protect your outdoor cushions next season— and extend their life — by applying a protective fabric spray like Scotchgard Outdoor Sun and Water Shield, (Buy from Amazon,$9.98), or SunGuard Sealant Spray for Outdoor Fabrics, (Buy from Home Depot, $19.98)

[Note: As always, it’s best to spot-test any new cleaning method to ensure it won’t harm the fabric before starting.]

Want even more outdoor cleaning and maintenance hacks? Click through the links below!

Make Your Outdoor Furniture Shine Like New! Cleaning Tips for Metal, Plastic, Wicker, and More

How to Clean a Grill — You’ll Never Guess the Secret Component

The Genius Castor Oil Spray That Keeps Moles From Ruining Your Lawn and Garden

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