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You Need to Clean Your Outdoor Umbrella

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Photo: Tung Cheung (Shutterstock)

Spending time outdoors during the summer can be a challenge. On the one hand, it’s finally warm enough to be outside. But on the other hand, we know that longer periods of sun exposure isn’t great for our skin. And while we may remember to take all proper precautions—sunscreen, a hat, bringing plenty of water—when we venture out of our homes, we may not be as mindful of the sun when we’re in our own backyards.

That’s where patio umbrellas come in especially handy. Even if you don’t have trees large enough to provide decent shade, you’ll always have some type of shield from the sun.

But because these umbrellas live outdoors, they have a tendency to get pretty dirty—collecting everything from leaves and lawn debris, to bird droppings and tree sap. Even if you stored it indoors all winter and are bringing it outside for the first time this season, it’s still probably covered in dust. Here’s how to clean your outdoor umbrella and keep it in good shape all summer.

How to clean an outdoor umbrella

The amount of effort it takes to clean an outdoor umbrella largely depends on the material it’s made out of, with cotton requiring the most maintenance, followed by polyester, and finally, Sunbrella—a durable acrylic performance fabric used to make many of the newer models. But regardless of the material, it’s best to read the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions before getting startedjust in case your umbrella needs special care.

Generally speaking, though, here’s how to clean an outdoor umbrella, courtesy of the experts at Consumer Reports:

Dry brush it

Start by using a soft brush to remove any bits and pieces on the umbrella’s canopy (the fabric part), like clumps of mud, leaves, and twigs. It’s a good idea to do this on a regular basis so the dirt and other debris don’t become embedded in or caked on the fabric after it rains.

Wash the canopy

Check the tags on your umbrella to see if the canopy is machine washable, and if it is, launder it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you know that you can pop it in the machine but can’t find the specific directions, wash it in cold water using your usual detergent and the machine’s waterproof-fabric setting, if it has one. If not, opt for the normal setting.

Canopies that aren’t machine washable (and/or can’t be removed from their frame) can be cleaned using a solution of ¼ cup of mild laundry detergent (like Woolite) mixed with one gallon of warm water. Gently rub it into the umbrella’s fabric in circular motions using a soft brush, let it sit (with the cleaning solution on) for 15 minutes, and then rinse it off using a hose or a bucket of clean water.

No matter how you wash the umbrella’s fabric, dry it outside—ideally somewhere in the sun that gets a nice breeze.

Wash the pole

Your outdoor umbrella’s pole gets dirty, too. Use a damp cloth to wipe down aluminum poles, using a combination of warm water and dish soap to wash off any sticky spots or stuck-on stains. You can use that same solution to clean wooden umbrella poles, though you’ll need to use a brush instead of a rag.

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