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Easy Outdoor Furniture Cleaning at the Carwash

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Here’s a home maintenance tip I borrowed from the equestrian world- When your outdoor cushions start looking dirty, stained, or shabby, load them up and head to the nearest car wash.

Most car washes provide strong clamps on the wall for floor mats that work great to secure your pillows and cushions and keep them off the ground. (If you DO happen to have horses or livestock and you haven’t tried this trick, it’s fantastic for cleaning saddle pads, winter horse blankets, and other things to large, bulky, or disgusting for a washing machine)

How to get outdoor cushions from deck and patio furniture really clean

The softened water and high pressure spray at a carwash will return gross lawn furniture seat cushions to sparkling in minutes. I’ve even had great luck doing this with cushions that were starting to mildew from being wet and shady too long- one trip to the car wash and letting them fully dry in a sunny spot in my yard had them looking and smelling like new again.

This trick also works great to clean thinner-style dog beds (but definitely NOT the cedar stuffed kind!).

Keeping your car dry on the trip home can be the hardest part. I use an XL Tub Truck (aka a “muck bucket”), but using a laundry basket or even large trash bags should protect your car.

washing outdoor chair cushions at the carwash

You may want to move the cushions a few times while you are cleaning to be sure and clean the part that will be covered by the clamp during the first pass with the sprayer.

Wicker chairs and birdcage water feature on porch

Back home, cushions dry quickly on my vinyl wicker chairs.

Since I initially wrote this article in 2014, I have discovered so many more things that are easier to simply take to the carwash than to wash my hands!

When I was younger, it wasn’t uncommon for me to throw just about anything in my washing machine. Thankfully, I had a workhorse of a washing machine that could pretty much clean anything I threw at it, though I cringe thinking about how many sweaty saddle pads and muddy horse blankets I subjected my washer to.

Older, smarter, and the owner of a much nicer washing machine, today I’m much more conservative about what I put in my washing machine.

Most days, I’m just glad to have a washing machine. My years spent living in a tiny home apartment and washing clothes in a small portable washing machine have made me appreciate having a washer in a way that I didn’t when I lived in the Midwest. This translates into being much more conservative about washing heavily soiled items. Taking my bulky or exceptionally dirty items to the carwash before putting them into my washing machine is an easy way to spare excess wear and tear on my washing machine – while getting my stuff much cleaner than I possibly could in my washing machine!

Using the Car Wash to Clean Patio Furniture (aka how 2021 Made me More Resourceful)

Recently, I used this cleaning trick again. As you may know, buying outdoor furniture was a particular challenge in the summer of 2021. With high demand and low supply, it was slim pickings for those of us looking to purchase outdoor furniture. After several weeks of frustration trying to buy new outdoor furniture and finding only backorders everywhere I turned, I turned to the classified.

There, I found a number of options – including an adorable, comfortable patio set just the right size for the cottage‘s patio. The price was right, and they just need a little cleaning- so I took them home! Other potential buyers may have passed up this used patio furniture set because they expected it would take a lot of time to clean up, but I knew the secret – just taking the cushions to the carwash for an intense power wash would have them looking their best in no time.

I couldn’t wait to complete this simple patio furniture clean-up, so I didn’t wait – I immediately took my new patio furniture’s cushions to the carwash, pinned them up on the wall using the floor mat clamps, and promptly suds up and washed out the cushions of my new patio set. Within minutes, the smokey-blue cushions had transformed into a brighter, cerulean bluer shade. When they dried, the patio cushions looked almost new.

For a fraction of the cost – and in the summer where no one could get their hands on patio furniture – I had a practically new-looking set ready to enjoy!

Car washes work great when you just don’t want to deal with the expense of a powerwasher or the soapy, grimy runoff, but after I’d been taking my outdoor cushions (and dog beds, and horse blankets, and saddle pads, and my car) to the carwash for a few years I put a portable power washer on my Christmas list. Guys, owning a homeowner-grade power washer was LIFE CHANGING. only exaggerating a little. The hand-held pressure washer units have a TON of power and are about what you’d pay for a round or two of having someone else pressure wash your siding.

Need more creative cleaning tips? Read on.