Isn’t spring great? We start to spend more time out on the porch, grilling, playing games and hanging out. I can’t wait!
…but if your house is anything like ours, your deck and porch get a little grimy over the winter months.
Even if you live in a pretty moderate climate, the winter weather, dust and debris from fall, rain, hard water and sun damage can wear down your outdoor gear and damage surfaces. Patio furniture, decking, concrete, decorations and even your house and windows bear the brunt of nature’s forces.
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The thing about outdoor surfaces is that they aren’t so easy to clean. If you rent a power washer, (first of all, your husband will be entertained for days), and mainly, you’ll be able to clean your house and concrete. But how do you maintain it during the season? Is there a way to clean your outdoor surfaces without having to rent equipment (…especially if your husband isn’t so into power-washing)?
There are plenty of ways to tackle outdoor grime and surfaces! Of course, one of the joys of outdoor living is that it’s simple and okay to be a little messy now and then. You can eat without fear of spilling on carpet and there’s plenty of water, sand and dirt for all your adventures. The outdoors wasn’t made to be perfectly pristine all the time, so cleaning up is even easier!
Here are some easy ways you can clean almost any outdoor surface. Break out the deck chairs and tables and haul out the grill—you’ll be on your porch in no time!
How to Clean Concrete
Many surfaces in the yard and surrounding the house are concrete—the driveway, the porch, and even the garage floor might be concrete. To clean these surfaces, first, move everything out of the way. (This might be a great opportunity to deep clean your garage, if you’re ready to take on the task!)
Use a stiff bristle broom made for outdoor use and sweep the surface to remove as much debris as possible. Sometimes a good sweep is almost all it will take to spruce up your concrete and have it looking nice.
If more cleaning is in order, get out the hose and wash the surfaces. If you have a spray attachment on your hose, it can give the oomph you need to really remove the dirt and dust. All joking about power-washers aside, they’re best used on concrete (they can damage wood and mortar), so if you really need to give your porch an overhaul, power-wash away.
Garage floors can be notorious for stains, especially oil. Clay kitty litter works to absorb the oil quickly. Simply pour it over the top of the stain and let it sit for a day or two. (You might have to use paper towels to absorb the oil if it’s a fresh spill.) Repeat the process with fresh litter to absorb as much of the stain as possible.
I’m not a big fan of harsh cleaners and prefer natural cleaning solutions whenever possible. If you have mildew or moss growing on your concrete, you can try spraying it with vinegar and scrubbing it. If that won’t do, you may have to turn to a solution of bleach (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) and a scrub brush to remove the growth. Lysol can also help prevent future mold growth.
How to Clean Decking
Wood decking needs to be sealed annually to preserve the wood and keep it from mildew or rotting. The deck will need to be sanded, and then stained with a protectant or sealant.
To remove stains from wood, you can try a wood cleaner, like Murphy’s Oil Soap or simple soapy water. First sweep with a broom to remove all dust and dirt. Then you can use a stiff brush to remove any debris that might be sticking to the surface of the wood. Wash the deck with the soapy solution or the wood cleaner using a sponge and bucket (like the kind you’d use to wash your car). Then rinse the deck clean and let it dry.
If you notice mildew or signs of rot, you may want to replace out the wood plank before it spreads. You can try an oxygenated cleaner (like Oxy Clean) with water and scrub the surface before resealing to treat.
How to Clean the Grill
Hopefully the grill was cleaned and put away in the fall, so removing bits of food and caked on gunk won’t be a problem. If you forgot or it was overlooked, use a scouring metal brush or grill stone to scrape the grates. Using a soapy bucket of water (a storage bin works really well for this), soak the grill to loosen up any bits that are stuck on. Then scrape again using the stone or brush. Wipe the grates clean with a rag or paper towels.
If you just need to “spruce up” the grill, you can use a simple surface spray of water, a ½ cup vinegar, a teaspoon of Castile soap and few drops of orange essential oil to cut grease. Spray the grill and surfaces and then rinse and wipe clean and you’ll be ready to grill up dinner!
How to Clean Windows
For cleaning windows I use the following spray:
1 ½ cups vinegar, 1 ½ cups water and 5-10 drops essential oil (optional)
Mix vinegar, water and essential oil together in spray bottle. Spray on glass and use squeegee, crumpled newspaper (tip: use newspapers that are at least 2 weeks old to avoid black fingers!), or a lint-free rag to get a streak-free shine.
Yes, this might mean hauling out a ladder and doing the windows on the second floor, but if you just hit them with the hose, you’ll get streaks and spots. We use an extension handle on our squeegee to easily reach the upper windows (without balancing on a ladder).
How to Clean Your House Exterior
Depending on if you have aluminum siding, wood, stucco or brick, you may have to follow different methods to deep clean the exterior of your house. Fortunately, unless you have to paint and touch up the trim, the basics of general upkeep and surface cleaning are mostly the same.
A simple spray of the hose is usually enough to remove the majority of dirt and dust from your home. If you have bird friends that have left their (*ahem*) “mark” on your house, you might need to do a little scrubbing with a stiff brush and some soapy water.
There are stronger chemical treatments you can buy to deep clean brick and stucco, but for the most part, a little water and spot cleaning will do the trick. Assess the areas of the trim (or paint, if your house is wooden) that might need to be touched up. Composite and siding will stay looking nice with a little soap and water.
How to Clean Patio Furniture
Patio furniture is easy to clean. Use some soapy water and a sponge to wipe off the handles and surfaces of the chairs, wash off tables, and clean up any areas where food or dirt might have accumulated.
Most patio chairs are made of a weather-resistant mesh or plastic that wipes clean with soapy water and a squirt of the hose. Use a soft cloth or towel to dry off the surfaces and they’ll be ready for seating!
If you have cushions, you can run them through the washing machine a few times per year to keep them fresh and clean. Remove them when there’s a storm and keep in mind that sun can also fade them and cause the fabric to break down (so you may want to store them when they aren’t being used).
For pots, clean with a stiff brush to remove any caked on dirt, then rinse them off with the hose.
Umbrellas can be cleaned with soapy water and rinsed with the hose. Allow them to dry thoroughly before closing them or storing. If they’re put away with any moisture, they’ll get blackened from mildew and start to rot. Instead, allow them to dry completely in the sunlight and then wrap in a garbage bag to store.
How to Clean Toys
Swing sets, playhouses and outdoor toys can usually be cleaned with a little soapy water and the hose. Most plastic toys will start to break down and fade in the sun after a few years, so if you can store them in a covered area, that will keep them looking their best.
If you have a wooden swing set, most are pressure treated to prevent rotting, mildew and decay. However, they may need to be stained or re-treated every few years. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for deep cleaning. For mild surface cleaning, a good sweep and brush off and some soapy water will do the trick. Wipe down plastic surfaces, handles and seats as well. Check for any cracking or anything that needs to be replaced (cracked handles can lead to injury, so always check the swing set thoroughly after winter).
Kiddie pools should be cleaned and stored at the end of the season (and in between each use), and can be wiped off before using in the spring. If you have a sandbox, it should be kept covered at all times when not in use, and the sand should be replaced each year.
How to Clean Garbage Cans
To keep your garbage cans fresh (especially if you store them in your garage or near your house), hose them out and wash with soapy water once every few months or so. Always dispose of waste in a bag and quickly clean up any leaks from the bottom of the can. Dirty trash cans can attract pests and make your garage smell terrible. Make sure the lid fits tightly and properly, and always secure the can, especially if it’s stored outside.
Again, spending time outdoors is wonderful because we don’t have to worry about being all pristine and proper. We can be messy, have fun and really enjoy ourselves!
Don’t worry about keeping the outdoors perfect, but spending a little time on your outdoor surfaces and porch can keep your home looking its best. It also preserves the life of your patio furniture, toys and outdoor items.
Take a little time in the spring to spruce things up and you’ll enjoy your yard and outdoors all season long!