Among my questionable consumer product investments: nearly $2,000 on a Joybird outdoor patio furniture set in white. Why white? It was the only color available at a Black Friday sale just before the start of the rainiest Los Angeles winter in recent memory. This spring, when we finally put it out, it stayed clean for about an hour before a passing raven anointed the sofa with a big, grotesque splattered stain. Since then, out among the California super bloom, it’s withstood an avalanche of bugs, buds, dust, dog hair, drippings from trees, and always something fresh from the birds.
To get the set clean again, I kinda treat it like a rug.
First, I vacuum it with a mini roller attachment on a Dyson V8 cordless stick vac. This lifts random tree goobers without rubbing their oozy dyes into the upholstery, digs out dried-up crusty stains, contours to the grooves of the cushions, and reaches between the crevices. I do not roll it over live insects, and I avoid anything wet.
Next, I hit it with the baby wipes. This helps moisten and soften any crusted stuff that’s still stuck after the vacuum pass. For the record: I like unscented Huggies. I do two passes, first removing the big chunks, then dabbing the damp spots to grab any remaining solids or goo.
Last, I scrub stains with an old toothbrush. I fill a shallow metal bowl with a diluted mix of water, a squirt of hand soap, and a spritz of Puracy’s Natural Laundry Stain Remover. An old toothbrush works that mix into the stained areas that are still visible after the vacuum and wipes. The toothbrush’s vinyl bristles have a way of prying up pieces from fine weaves of the cushions. It leaves trace damp spots that become undetectable after 15 minutes in the sun.
For stains that can’t be lifted with the vacuum or a baby wipe, use an old toothbrush to treat stains. Dip the brush in a diluted watery mix with a squirt of hand soap and a dash of Puracy or OxiClean stain remover.
In the future: Prevent the mess. We have a cover. I have been too lazy to open the box and put it on. Now that the couch is clean, after an hour scrubbing with a tiny toothbrush, it suddenly seems well worth using the cover.
Adapt as needed. Some of your success may come down to the material itself. Our cushions are made of Olefin, a polypropylene fiber; so far, so good. If a basic soap and water mix isn’t cutting it for you, try using an OxiClean slurry that staff writer Zoe Vanderweide tested on pit stains. Use a toothbrush to work it in, blot with a rag or paper towel with clean water, and then dab it again with a dry towel. For metal, nonporous surfaces, or most plastics, an all-purpose cleaner should do. You can find more relevant advice in our tests on cleaning an area rug. And if you’re ready to start from scratch, have a look at our patio furniture guide.
This article was edited by Alex Aciman and Catherine Kast.