A patio umbrella is a wonderful addition to the backyard, not only to provide shade, but also to enhance the look of the place. They bring color or class to the area and for me, an important determinator of the overall look of the patio.
But they’ll shine like that only for a few days after purchasing it. As they’re outdoor animals, they’re exposed to a range of various elements for a long time which will make them dirtier today or tomorrow.
There are dust and air pollution, bird droppings, tree sap, and whatnot.
Especially if your umbrella fabric has a vibrant color, it’s just a matter of time for it to look dull gathering all those elements.
Even if you have very good quality umbrella fabric like the sunbrella, it might resist mold and mildew but the dust, airborne soil, bird bombing, etc. is bound to stack up.
The key to having a clean and shining patio umbrella is to clean the fabric (preferably with the body) on a regular basis throughout the sunny season. And a crucial wash is always due before you slip on the cover or store it away for the off-season.
Now, umbrella fabrics are made of a range of materials. Many of the home use patio umbrellas are made of treated acrylic fabrics, the best of which is the Sunbrella which helps repel moisture, stains, and mildew.
Here’s how to clean patio umbrella fabrics regardless of the material they’re made off –
How to Clean Patio Umbrella Fabrics – Step-by-Step Instruction
Before we jump into the cleaning process, let me state the ideal frequency of cleaning in the process below.
You should be cleaning your patio umbrella fabric at least once a month when in use, and considering cleaning a little more frequently when you have trees, tall shrubs nearby and more birds than usual visiting by.
You could have a good look at the canopy and could tell if a wash is due or not. Don’t forget the crucial wash before you put the umbrella in cover and store it away for the off-season.
Tools and Supplies Required
- Chlorine bleach
- Heavy-duty laundry detergent
- Distilled white vinegar
- Dishwashing liquid
- Soft-bristled brush
- Shop vacuum
- Spray bottle
- Garden hose with sprayer
- Cleaning cloths
Move to a Shady Area
If you’re cleaning an umbrella that you can’t take the fabric off of, you want to move to a shady area away from direct sunlight.
Remove the Loose Soil
Take the soft-bristled brush and remove any loose soil or dirt from the fabric. The soft-bristled brush will ensure that soil won’t go deeper in the fabric. You can also get it done with a vacuum cleaner.
Prepare a Cleaning Solution
Take a large bucket and put lukewarm water into it. Add ¼ cup of liquid laundry detergent for every gallon of water in it. Mix the solution well before applying.
It’s a better practice to use laundry detergent instead of dishwashing liquid. It’s easier to rinse away as there’ll be fewer bubbles and also a good quality detergent that has enzymes in it breaks apart stains better.
Now take the soft-bristled brush again and work the solution that you just prepared well into the fabric. You want to use a circular motion and want to put extra attention to the stained areas particularly.
Keep scrubbing the stained areas gently until it’s gone. Again, using a good quality detergent with enzymes will help to ease the process for you by doing the heavy lifting which is breaking the stains chemically.
Some stains, like sunscreen, may require extra treatment steps.
Let the Solution Do the Magic
Go away for 15 to 20 minutes, have a beer, do anything. In the meanwhile let the detergent apply all of its chemical power to destroy the dirt from within. A good-quality detergent is expected to loosen more than 90 percent of dirt by itself.
Rinse the Umbrella Well
Done with your beer or whatever you’re doing? Now gear up with a hose sprayer and rinse the fabric deeply and thoroughly. You want to ensure that there’s no soap residue at all as the fabric will attract more dirt and soil if it stays soapy.
Let the Sun Do Its Magic
Your job is quite done here, now it’s up to the sun to dry the umbrella well. For that, you want to move the umbrella back to the sunny area where it usually stays and lets it sit there being open until it’s completely dry.
DO NOT close it until it has dried completely otherwise it’ll look wet and attract dirt.
How to Clean an Umbrella With Removable Fabric Covering?
If you can clean an umbrella with a non-removable fabric covering, cleaning a removable one should be a piece of cake for you. The ability to remove the umbrella fabric makes it much easier to clean it.
I’m assuming here that your removable umbrella fabric has a care tag that says ‘machine washable’ as most of the removable one has.
However, if it is not machine washable, you want to follow the process above; just remove the fabric and move it to a shady place to clean instead of moving the whole umbrella.
Remove the Fabric
Removing the fabric of the skeleton is not as hard of a job as it seems. There are pockets around the border of the fabric, where ribs are inserted.
You need to get the ribs one by one out of the pocket and untie the ties to set the fabric loose. There are numerous videos on YouTube on that so you’ve got help.
Remove Loose Soil
After you’ve taken the fabric off, shake it well to remove loose dirt or soil. You could also use the soft-bristled brush or vacuum for this job.
Deal With Stubborn Stains First
Before throwing it into the washing machine, you want to pretreat the stubborn stains. You want to preferably use enzyme-based stain removers or heavy-duty laundry detergent if the first option is not available.
You want to work the solution well with a soft-bristled brush and leave it there for 15 to 20 minutes. The solution will break any stain chemically within this time period.
Throw into the Washer
Now it’s time to throw the fabric into the washing machine. You should use cold water and heavy-duty detergent for washing. It’s preferred to wash it in a front-load washer so that the fabric won’t wrinkle excessively.
Air-dry, Don’t Auto-dry
You never want to throw the fabric in an automatic dryer. The best practice is to always air dry the acrylic fabric. You could place it on a tarp or so and keep that under the sun to dry or you could also put it back on the frame to dry.
I prefer drying it first and then putting on the frame as a wet fabric attracts more dirt and everything so it might get a little dirty in the process of putting it back on while it’s still wet.
Bonus: How to Clean an Umbrella Frame
Frames tend to get dirty as well along with the fabrics and here’s how you can clean them –
Make a solution by putting two teaspoons of dishwashing liquid into two cups of warm water and soak a clean piece of cloth in it. Wipe down all the frames with it. If there’s any standout buildup or stain, soak the soft-bristled brush into it and work onto that.
You don’t want to overwet a wooden frame.
Later, wipe down the wet frame with another piece of wet and clean cloth to get the frame of any soap residue. Air dry afterward to get done with the process.
The general cleaning process for an aluminum frame is the same as a wooden frame. In case of any water spots on the aluminum frame, you want to create a solution with one part white distilled vinegar and nine parts water, dip a towel in that and wipe over the spots and it’ll be gone.
Do Your Other Outdoor Fabrics Need Cleaning Too?
Look at your other outdoor fabrics. Maybe they need some cleaning too but ignored thus far. Show them some love too, clean them in any of the suitable processes above.