Let’s face it: outside is dirty. Not only on the ground, either. Dust, pollen, sap, and all kinds of tree debris seem to be floating in the air all the time. Eventually, they settle on your patio furniture and your beautiful, previously-clean patio umbrella. And we’re not even talking about those little presents that birds tend to drop around. No matter what kind of dirty you need to clean off, I’ll tell you how to clean a patio umbrella, step by step.
Let’s start things off with how to clean an umbrella that has a removable and machine-washable material. Then, we’ll move onto how to clean patio umbrellas that don’t have removable fabric.
How To Clean A Machine-Washable Patio Umbrella
Step 1: Verify Umbrella Care Instructions
Before you try to take your umbrella cloth off, verify that it’s actually machine-washable. If it is, it will have care instructions on a discreet tag somewhere. Or, if you have any packaging or instructions that came with it, you can look there. If you’re not sure (maybe you cut off the tag at some point), you can look it up online to see if you can wash it.
If you’re still not sure, skip down to the section on how to clean a non-removable patio umbrella. Most removable umbrellas are washable, but not all of them, so you want to be sure, lest you damage the material in the washer.
Step 2: Remove the Material
Once you’ve verified that your umbrella material is machine-washable, you can remove it. Usually, this involves slipping the ribs out of the little pockets on the underside of the cloth. You may need two people for the first one or two ribs, as they tend to be the hardest to separate from the material. Once you have removed the material, you can spread it out on a tarp or a clean area on your patio.
Step 3: Brush or Vacuum Umbrella Material
Before you put your patio umbrella material in the washer, you’ll want to vacuum it or brush it with a soft brush to remove any excess dirt and grime. This will save you from gunking up your washing machine and can help loosen some of the soil. Plus, it gives you a chance to inspect for stains.
Step 4: Treat Stains
If you see stains like sap, mildew, or bird droppings, you can pre-treat them before washing the material. Use a mild stain remover and work it in with a soft-bristle brush. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes and then put the material in the washer.
Step 5: Machine Wash The Umbrella
Follow any care instructions you have for the umbrella material. Usually, this calls for cold water with mild laundry detergent. All the better if you have a front load washer or a HE washer without a center agitator. Sometimes washers with agitators can cause unsightly wrinkles in the fabric.
Step 5: Air Dry The Umbrella
Most umbrella materials are synthetics, which means they can wrinkle easily in a tumble dryer. Unless your care instructions say otherwise, you’ll want to air dry the material when it’s done in the washer. On some, you can iron them on the synthetics setting if need be.
Step 6: Replace
Once the material is completely dry, you can put it back on the umbrella ribs. Again, the last one or two of these can be difficult, so you may need another person to help you.
How To Clean A Non-Removable Patio Umbrella
Step 1: Position Umbrella
Even if the umbrella fabric itself isn’t removable, sometimes the top structure can be removed from the pole. If yours is removable, you can take it off and place it on a clean surface or tarp, but you don’t have to.
The alternative is to lay the umbrella pole across an outdoor table, with the top hanging off the table. This way, you can clean the umbrella without removing the top part, and you don’t risk bending or breaking any of the ribs in the process. Don’t try to clean an umbrella when it’s closed; it will be more trouble than it’s worth.
Step 2: Gather Supplies
You’ll need a few supplies to clean your umbrella. Most (if not all) of them are typical household items.
- Soft-Bristled Brush
- Vacuum (optional but makes things easier)
- Mild Liquid Laundry Detergent
- Garden Hose/Water
Step 3: Vacuum/Brush Dirt Away
If you have a vacuum with a brush attachment, you can use it to clean away loose dirt. If you don’t have a vacuum, you can use a soft-bristled brush. Both the vacuum and the brush will make it so you aren’t rubbing soil further into the fabric. Once you’ve given it a once-over, you can move to the next step.
Step 4: Mix Cleaning Solution
In a bucket, mix a gallon of warm water with a 1/4 cup of laundry detergent. Use a mild detergent or any kind that doesn’t say ‘heavy-duty.’ If you have a large umbrella, you may need to do two gallons and 1/2 cup of detergent.
Step 5: Scrub and Wait
With the soft brush, rub the cleaning solution into the umbrella cloth in gentle circles. Don’t be afraid to get the umbrella soapy and wet. You can use a little bit of elbow grease on stained areas. Once you’ve gone over the entire umbrella, let the solution sit for 15 minutes.
Step 7: Rinse Umbrella
Once you’ve let the solution work for a 15 minutes or so, you can rinse it off with a garden hose or a bucket of clean water. Make sure you rinse all the soap bubbles away.
Step 6: Look for and Treat Stains
If you still have some stains in your umbrella fabric after the first go-round of cleaning, you can pay special attention to those areas with the same cleaning solution. However, instead of merely rinsing the soap away, try blotting it away with a rag or cloth.
Repeat this process until the stain is gone. If need be, you can try a laundry stain remover, but you’ll want to spot test it in an inconspicuous area first. Make sure to rinse away any soap or stain remover before moving on to the final step.
Step 8: Dry Umbrella
For best results, set the open umbrella in the sun to dry. When it’s fully dry, you can enjoy your beautiful, clean patio umbrella!
As you can see, cleaning a patio umbrella isn’t that difficult or time consuming, regardless of if yours is machine washable or not. With a little bit of time and elbow grease, your patio umbrella will look as good as new! I hope this article has been helpful and that you’re now one step closer to sprucing up your patio with a clean patio umbrella!