How to Clean an Outdoor Umbrella to Remove Unsightly Buildup

Outdoor umbrellas can accumulate stains, mildew, and moisture over time. Here’s how to clean this patio staple in time for summer.

Swimming pool with umbrellas shutterstock_1420433078 Outdoor umbrellas pull double duty to keep us dry from rain and shaded from the sun. However, dirt, tree sap, and bird droppings can accumulate over time, and your colorful umbrella shading the patio table or deck can be one of the last things to get a good power wash. It might never seem like a good time to pull down an outdoor umbrella and give it a once-over, but cleaning this summer staple will help extend its lifespan.

Umbrellas are made from different materials, including canvas and acrylic fabrics, which repel moisture, stains, and mildew to varying degrees. Some can stay outside for a while without looking dirty, but even the sturdiest fabrics need to be cleaned regularly. Here’s how to restore your outdoor umbrella just in time for the summer entertaining season.

How to Clean an Outdoor Umbrella with Removable Fabric 

If the fabric on your outdoor umbrella is removable, follow the care instructions on the tags or the manufacturer’s website. If there are none, follow these steps for machine-washable umbrella fabrics.

Step 1: Vacuum

After removing the umbrella fabric from the frame, get rid of any loose dirt or debris by giving it a good shake or using a soft-brush vacuum.

Step 2: Treat Stains

Use liquid laundry soap or enzyme-based stain cleaners to pre-treat umbrella stains. Gently scrub stain remover with a soft-bristle brush and let the solution sit for the recommended time before placing the fabric in the washing machine.

Step 3: Machine-Wash Umbrella Fabric

When machine-washing umbrella fabric, follow the recommendations on the care tag. If there is no care tag, use cold water and heavy-duty detergent. Washers without a center agitator are ideal for preventing excessive wrinkling.

Step 4: Dry Fabric and Reassemble

Air-dry the umbrella cover. To fight wrinkles, smooth the umbrella out on a flat surface. If there’s no plastic lining, use a low-heat iron setting or a steamer after drying. Reattach the fabric to the frame.

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How to Clean a Patio Umbrella with Attached Fabric 

If you’re unable to remove the fabric on your outdoor umbrella, follow these cleaning instructions.

Step 1: Vacuum and Spot-Treat

Move the entire umbrella to a shady place, away from direct sunlight, and on a surface that can be wet. Consider using a driveway, where water can easily run off to a drain. Use a soft brush or vacuum to remove anything trapped between the cloth fibers. Then use a cloth with warm water to remove any dirt, bugs, or bird poop.

Step 2: Scrub with Soap

Mix liquid laundry detergent into bucket of warm water until suds appear. Use a soft-bristle brush to scrub the fabric with soapy water in a circular motion. For deep stains, use spot and stain removers that won’t harm the original colors. 

Step 3: Rinse and Let Dry

Leave any deep-cleaning stain treatments on the fabric for about 15-20 minutes before hosing down the umbrella to remove all the soap. Allow the umbrella to air dry by putting it back under the sun. Do not close the umbrella until it’s completely dry.

How to Clean an Outdoor Umbrella Frame

Use a soft cloth with a mild cleaning solution to wipe down wooden umbrella frames. Use a soft-bristle brush to remove stubborn pieces of dirt. Do not use abrasive materials, cleaners, or bleaching products, as they will damage the finish.

If the frame has been exposed to the sun, it might need to be repolished or oiled. If you choose to re-stain it, consider products that match the original color. There are sprays and fast-drying glosses available to help the wood maintain its shine.

Wipe down aluminum frames with a soft cloth and a cleaning solution. Use a microfiber cloth to remove fine dust and rinse with warm water. Use a dry cloth to remove water and cleaning agents. As with wooden frames, don’t use abrasive materials like scouring pads or steel wool that can damage the finish.

How Often to Clean a Patio Umbrella

Outdoor umbrellas should be cleaned regularly. Depending on the weather in your area and its placement in your yard, this could be a few times a year, once a month, or once a week. To improve longevity and quality, keep umbrellas from under trees that bear seasonal fruits or berries. Falling fruits can easily stain or damage them. Similarly, keep away from bird feeders, so the umbrella isn’t in the flight path. Last, keep umbrellas clean by closing them when not in use and storing them in a covered area, like a garage or shed, during inclement weather. 

Source: Better Homes & Gardens