Learn how to remove mold and mildew from patio furniture, cushions and umbrellas. Mold and mildew can make your patio furniture unsuitable for seating. If you’re like me, you jump at any evidence of dirt or grime. Let’s face it, mold and mildew is disgusting and repulsive. You don’t want this to be the first thing that guests think about when they remember you house.
First, I want to make a distinction between mold and mildew. Although they are both a type of fungi, there is a difference between the two. Mold grows on cushions and the underside of umbrellas while mildew is more commonly seen on the furniture itself.
What is Mold
Mold appears to be fuzzy and is found in shades of green, yellow, brown, gray, black or white. Mold can often grow on patio cushions as well as the underside of umbrellas. Mold can cause health effects such as breathing problems, migraines, allergic reactions, and inflammation of the joints. It often grows on food whereas mildew is drawn to moisture such as bathroom or in this case, damp patio cushions.
What is Mildew
Mildew appears as a flat texture in a downy or powdery substance. Mildew is a specific type of mold that is more commonly found on patio furniture rather than cushions. In the powdery form, it starts out white and then later turns into yellow, brown, or black. In a downy form, it starts out yellow and later turns brown. Mildew also cause respiratory issues and headaches and can start growing in the lungs in serious cases.
5 ways to Remove Mold & Mildew from Patio Cushions & Umbrellas
1. Homemade solution
You can use this homemade mold solution to remove mold and mildew. This is a lighter formula that isn’t as strong as other cleaners like bleach. You will need water, dishwashing detergent, borax, and some baking soda. Mix these ingredients up in hot water until they dissolve. Then scrub lightly in a circular motion until the mold has been removed.
Ammonia is a convenient cleaning solution. You can mix it with baking soda, vinegar, and water to create a mold fighting solution.
3. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide works well to remove the smell associated with mold and mildew. Don’t go sniffing the mold! Mold is made up of spores and can be inhaled. Use a mask while cleaning!
4. Lemon Salt
Lemon salt is an organic mold and mildew solution that you can use if you want to avoid using chemicals. It’s a simple solution; just mix lemon juice with salt and scrub away!
5. Scrub with Mild Bleach
Bleach always seems to do the trick. Be careful to water down the solution so that you don’t create spots of discoloration on your cushions. I recommend pouring 1/2 cup of bleach into a gallon of water. As always, never use bleach cleaning products if you are pregnant.
Important: Never use bleach and ammonia together. This is very dangerous and can produce toxic chemicals. Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. does a good job of explaining why here.
Removing Mildew from Patio Furniture
Mildew is much more common on the furniture itself. Start by brushing your furniture (please don’t use your hair brush) and then vacuum the area. Then you can go over it with a mixture of Lysol and hot water. You can either mix the two together or you can apply the Lysol first and then use the water to rinse.
Synthetic Wicker Furniture
Wicker is a bit more challenging because it’s hard to get in between all of the wicker strands. Not to worry, you can use a hose. A pressure washer is even better for this. I’d get the wicker nice and soapy first, allowing it to sit in and break down the mold. Then you can hit it with the pressure washer.
Make sure you spray from different angles (up, down, left, right) so you get into all the crevices. This is important to completely remove mold from wicker furniture. Otherwise, it can easily hide behind other stands. Also, don’t forget to flip your wicker set upside down and spray from the bottom of the chairs as well. Lay a tarp down to prevent scratching the wicker surface when you do this.
For wood, you can use a mixture of 1 cup ammonia, 1/2 cup white vingar,1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 gallon of hot water. Be careful that you don’t let the water soak in too long. You don’t want the wood to begin to rot.
What to Do When It Becomes a Lost Cause
Sometimes, mold and mildew may be too thick making it pointless to try to recover your patio set. I would try using the techniques above to remove them. If that doesn’t work, you can purchase replacement cushions but (big BUT here), make sure that you purchase cushions that use mold and mildew resistant fabrics like these.
Sunbrella is well-known for their outdoor cushions and it’s no secret. I’ve said it before and I’ll recommend it again. These cushions don’t fade because the actual thread itself is colorized. They’re marine grade fabrics so they will have much less likely-hood of mold and mildew growth. Here’s some more information on them if you want to look into it more.
- The Magic of Sunbrella Fabric – Sunbrella Fabric Review
- Sunbrella Fabrics – A History of Excellence
- Outdoor Cushion Buying Guide: Materials, Foam, & Padding
Tips to Prevent Mold and Mildew on Patio Furniture
Eliminate Moisture: Make sure that there is a positive flow of air. If you’re patio furniture is placed inside a sunroom or enclosed space, you may want to get a dehumidifier or have a fan blow air out of the room to reduce the amount of moisture in the room.
Sunlight: Dark, damp, and humid conditions are the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. Move your furniture outside of the shade or lower your patio umbrella to allow more sunlight to reach your cushions. Now’s the time to trim up that old tree that you’ve been meaning to get to!
Furniture Covers: If furniture is place under a cover, make sure your patio covers have vents and are made of breathable materials like these.
Teak: I wrote a guide on teak furniture here. You should look at this if you want to learn more specifics on mold and mildew as they relate to outdoor teak furniture.
Regular Care and Maintenance: The more often you clean your outdoor furniture, the more likely you’ll be able to prevent it from popping up again. I recommend light cleaning 3-4 times a year just to keep the cob webs out.
More Tips to Clean Outdoor Furniture:
- How to Protect Patio Furniture from Freeze Damage
- How to Protect Outdoor Furniture from Snow and Winter Damage with the Proper Patio Furniture Maintenance
About the Author
Cheryl Khan is able to lend her insight on this topic after spending years in the design field. She has learned that all outdoor furniture is not the same. She is a contributing author to the Patio Productions Blog where she shares outdoor living tips to transform your backyard!