EcoBasics: Outdoor Furniture and Grill Cleanup
I recently cleaned up all the porch furniture, bought some new cushions, and washed the floor really well. What a difference! I’ve enjoyed being out there ever since, as has anybody who has dropped by. The whole ambiance now inspires one to take some time to relax, sip some iced tea while watching the breeze ripple through the trees. The makings of what I call an old-fashioned summer, when one had time to laze around and read a novel or even catch a nap.
Outdoor furniture can take a beating from the elements. White plastic chairs turn gray, cushions grow mildew, wood weathers, and everything quickly looks dirty. I’ve found that washing soda is the mineral of choice for cleaning outdoor furniture and grills. It works like magic on grills, and simply peels dirt off of plastic chairs and anywhere there is a grime buildup. The key is to use enough washing soda and leave it to do its work long enough.
Washing soda (sodium carbonate) is also known as soda ash, and it can be found in the laundry section at the supermarket. It has many uses besides being a laundry booster, and it also neutralizes and eliminates odors. If you can’t find washing soda, substitute one of the “oxy” products. Just make sure that you spot-test t your washing soda cleanser first, as it is very strong and in a thick paste can even peel wax off a floor!
Here are some formulas using washing soda for cleaning outdoor furniture and grills.
Plastic Lawn Furniture Cleaner
1/2 cup washing soda
1 gallon hot water
Dissolve the washing soda in a bucket of hot water. Wearing gloves and using a sponge, slather the water onto the furniture, and let it set for 10 minutes or so before rinsing. For stubborn stains, redo and leave the water on the plastic for an extra 10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
Mildew and Mold Cushion Cleaner
Tea tree oil is an essential oil that is a broad spectrum fungicide. It is available in health food stores.
2 teaspoons tea tree oil
2 cups water
Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle. Spot test on cushions to make sure there is no discoloration. Spray on the cushions. Don’t rinse. In a few days, both the strong smell of the tea tree oil and the mold will dissipate.
Variation: Use vinegar. Spray straight vinegar, known to kill mold and mildew, and don’t rinse, just let it work its wonders on the fabric. It will eventually evaporate.
Assuming you can rinse your cushions, after you have killed the mold and mildew, spot clean cushions using the Plastic Lawn Furniture Cleaner, above. Rinse.
1/4 cup washing soda
1 gallon hot water
Dissolve the washing soda in a bucket of hot water. Wearing gloves and using a sponge, slather the water onto the furniture, and let it set for 10 minutes or so before rinsing. For stubborn stains, redo and leave the water on the wood for an extra 10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
Note: Spot test the washing soda mixture on wood furniture first. It is a powerful cleanser, and you don’t want to peel off any existing wood finish.
What kind of wicker do you want to clean? Vine- or wood-based wicker can handle water, and if unpainted can even be taken through a car wash! Paper fibre rush wicker can’t handle as much water so it shouldn’t be used outdoors, or cleaned with water.
1-2 cups washing soda
Enough hot water to cover the grills
In a tub big enough to hold the grill (the kitchen sink might also work), soak the grills overnight in the washing soda and water. In the morning, the grime on the grill will come off easily. Wash with soap and water, and rinse.
By Annie B. Bond, the best-selling and award-winning author of five healthy/green living books, including Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999), Home Enlightenment, Clean & Green (1990), and most recently True Food (National Geographic, 2010 and winner of Gourmand Awards Best Health and Nutrition Cookbook in the World). She has authored literally thousands of articles and was named “the foremost expert on green living” by Body & Soul magazine (2009).