The problem with urban balconies, roofs and terraces is how to keep white patio furniture white in a city. It seems that sometimes as soon as you look at it, it takes on a gray tint. But it doesn’t have to be a difficult task to keep the outdoor space you have looking pristine
‘Most city dwellers with outdoor space want to make it comfortable and stylish. So many like to use white outdoor and patio furniture!’ says Sabrina Fierman, vice president of high-end cleaning services in New York Little Elves (opens in new tab). “So how do we keep it looking clean and at its best in an outdoor urban setting, with all the usual outdoor maintenance issues plus the pollution and filth of a city?
Fortunately, Sabrina knows exactly what to do – and the solutions are simpler than you might think.
For the past decade, lifestyle and cleaning guru Sabrina Fierman has been the hands-on director of New York’s Little Elves, the premier luxury cleaning service in greater New York. Sabrina came to the Elves from an event planning and art background, producing art and architecture tours for prominent NYC art institutions. Her background, combined with a passion for clean living, made it a natural choice to join the Elves almost two decades ago. In addition to helping NYC’s homes shine, Sabrina, a native New Yorker, Sabrina’s extensive network of New York-based resources guides her to the best services homes could ever need — from catering to marble restoration to professional organizers.
How to keep white patio furniture white in a city?
1. Invest in outer covers
First, if you are buying outdoor furniture, make sure to include furniture covers with your purchase. The best outdoor furniture brands often have their own options available.
“This should just be part of your outdoor gear,” suggests Sabrina. ‘Be disciplined and keep your furniture covered when not in use.
“If you have space, buy a weatherproof box or case to store the covers when not in use. If you have a large enough box, you can even store pillows and cushions yourself.
2. Use a protective spray
If your furniture has not yet been treated with a special protective coating, use a protective textile spray such as: 303 Marine Fabric Guard (opens in new tab) , an inexpensive alternative to Scotchguard. It’s a lifesaver.
“For those of you who like to try DIY formulas, there’s some evidence that diluting Frizz Ease with rubbing alcohol provides similar protection. As always, do a test in a hidden area before putting anything on the upholstery,” says Sabrina.
Another outdoor cleaning brand to try is Fabsil. First use Fabsil multi-surface cleaners and wipes to restore the new look, then protect against future damage with Fabsil Universal Protector UV (opens in new tab): This not only provides strong protection against rain and spills, but also ensures that your furniture does not fade in the sun.
3. Avoid dark food and drinks
Advice that anyone with a white couch has probably learned the hard way, but a piece of wisdom that’s always worth repeating is to avoid foods that mark easily. ‘To prevent common spots, avoid dark foods and drinks: coffee, cola, red wine, chocolate. Always treat a stain immediately for best results,” says Sabrina.
Seems like the perfect excuse to stay on the White Claw, honestly.
4. Make sure to buy UV resistant fabrics
“Invest in pieces covered in easy-care outdoor fabrics,” advises Sabrina.
‘We love Perennials’ line of high-quality fabrics. They are beautiful, fade resistant, mold and mildew resistant and cleanable with bleach. I especially love their designer collections, which include fabrics designed by industry talents like Clodagh and Martyn Lawrence Bullard.”
Sunbrella is another line that offers weatherproof, outdoor-friendly fabrics.
5. Buy a compact outdoor blower
“To keep everything looking chic and clean (that’s why you bought white furniture in the first place), I also recommend a compact outdoor blazer,” says Sabrina.
This outdoor blower (opens in new tab) is really affordable and does exactly what you need.
“The dust of a city, with car exhaust and construction going on, takes up no free time, so I strongly recommend that you blow up the furniture before covering or storing it. If your outdoor time was late and you are too tired, do it early in the morning, before sitting down again or covering up. Be mindful of your neighbors with morning noise.’
Outdoor furniture that is white will show more dust. Use your handy outdoor blower daily, then wipe it down once a week or as needed, depending on your proximity to the street, traffic congestion, and wind exposure.
Sabrina adds: ‘When you wipe them, a lightly dampened cotton cloth is fine, or use a gentle cleanser such as liquid ivory diluted in water to dampen your rags.
6. Clean your pillows
If your pillow or pillowcases are removable, they can be machine washed or dry cleaned. Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s label before throwing it in the washing machine or taking it to your favorite dry cleaner. If you wash them, do not put them in a dryer, let them air dry.
If they are not removable, you can clean them yourself or have them dry cleaned. Again, check and follow the label and always test any cleaning solution you use in a hidden area.
How to deal with it? Sabrina suggests, “First, vacuum, brush, or shake the pads to remove any dirt and loose debris. If they show signs of mildew or mold, do so outside and wear a mask to protect your airways.
‘Second, make a cleaning solution of a cup of mild cleaner, such as liquid ivory or dish soap to a quart of water. For an eco-friendly option, you can use 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar, ¼ cup of baking soda and a quart of water.
‘Use a brush that won’t damage the fabric, scrub the cushions down. Repeat on stained areas until satisfied. Let sit for at least 15 minutes with both cleaning solutions. Then rinse thoroughly. Pat well and let it dry, preferably in the sun.’
Sabrina adds: ‘In case of mold or mildew stains, spray with undiluted white vinegar. Scrub the stains and leave on for 5-10 minutes. Wet a cotton cloth with some dish soap or liquid ivory diluted in water and blot the spots. Repeat if necessary. Rinse well and let it dry in the sun.’
7. Store your furniture indoors in winter
If you have the room indoors (and many of us don’t in the city), store your furniture indoors during the winter months.
“If you don’t have covered storage space, ask your local dry cleaner if they have winter storage options,” suggests Sabrina. “They can store and dry-clean your cushion covers before you pick them up, which also keeps them looking their best.”
How do you prevent garden furniture from discolouring?
“To maintain your outdoor furniture, ensure it lasts and looks its best, we always recommend investing in a specialist cleaning kit,” said Andy Baxter, Managing Director, Maze (opens in new tab).
“These kits help prevent mold and mildew (especially if you leave your furniture outside in the winter) and create a protective shield over your outdoor fabrics.”
It’s also a good idea to avoid dark foods and drinks, such as chocolate and red wine – although this is easier said than done.
How do I keep my white pillows white?
“To keep your white pillows looking flawless and to protect them from everyday grime, we recommend storing them in a clean, cool, and dry place when not in use,” says Andy Baxter.
‘In unpredictable weather, it also pays to invest in a suitable weatherproof cover, so that your furniture is protected against the elements.
‘In addition, a cover also preserves the exterior and prevents water, condensation or mold from penetrating into the materials.’
How do you clean white garden furniture?
To make cleaning your furniture easier, apply a protective solution or spray to keep the worst of everyday dirt and grime away.
“When it comes to cleaning your outdoor furniture, use hot, clean soapy water on the affected areas and then top it off with a protective spray to keep that extra layer of protection and prevent further staining,” says Andy.