Cleaning Metal Patio Furniture: Quick Tips on How to Clean

If you have metal patio furniture, it may accumulate dirt, grime, and rust over time. But don’t worry; cleaning metal patio furniture is easier than you think.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the steps to clean your metal patio furniture and make it look new again.

Whether you have wrought iron, cast aluminum, or steel furniture, these tips will work for you.

Types of Metal Used in Outdoor Furniture

Various metals, like aluminum, steel, wrought iron, and cast iron, are suitable for outdoor tables and chairs.


Aluminum is a popular material for garden pieces because it is resistant to rust and corrosion.

It is also easy to clean and maintain, making it a low-maintenance option for outdoor furniture.

Oxidation is a problem, and it happens when exposed to salt, such as seawater. If aluminum is powder coated or painted, coating act as a protective layer to prevent oxidation.


Steel is prone to rust and requires regular maintenance. A rust stain can be easily cleaned, but rust may lead to further damage if not addressed.

Stainless steel is a corrosion-resistant metal commonly used in modern-style garden sets. It can be polished to a high shine or finished with a matte look.

Wrought Iron

Wrought iron is a popular material for patio furniture because of its classic look.

It is durable, strong, and can withstand various weather conditions. But it still needs regular maintenance and upkeep due to its tendency to rust.

Cast Iron

Cast iron is a heavy and durable metal commonly used in classic-style garden furniture. It is long-lasting and can have intricate and ornate designs.

Cast iron is also prone to rust and may require regular maintenance to keep it in good condition.

How To Clean Metal Patio Furniture

Cleaning Stains from Outdoor Metal Pieces

Regular cleaning for outdoor metal furniture involves wiping the surface with a damp cloth to remove dirt or debris.

For tougher stains, use a mixture of liquid dishwashing soap and warm water and gently scrub the affected area.

Rinse the soapy water with clean water and dry completely to prevent rust or corrosion.

A protective coating or wax can also help to maintain the metal’s appearance and protect it from the elements.

Some products that might be helpful:

  • This Collinite No. 850 Metal Wax has raving reviews on Amazon.
Collinite No. 850 Metal Wax
  • ALL-IN-ONE MARINE METAL POLISH: Restores and protects in one single step. 850 Metal Wax saves both time and money as it cuts fast and wipes off easily while providing a lasting shine and durable UV protection that withstands extreme marine conditions.
  • This carnauba wax from Meguiar’s is one of the best natural paste waxes for metal.
Meguiar’s G7014J Carnauba Paste Wax
  • PASTE WAX FOR HIGH SHINE: Luxurious blend of carnauba wax and polymers creates strong, long-lasting protection to preserve your finish with a brilliant reflective shine

Cleaning Dirt and Grime

First, remove any loose debris with a soft-bristled brush or cloth to clean dirt and grime from a metal surface.

To clean, use a mixture of mild soap and warm water and apply with a soft cloth.

Scrub any stubborn spots with a soft-bristled brush, and rinse the pieces thoroughly with water.

Dry the pieces with a clean cloth and let them air dry completely before use.

You may need a specialized cleaner or rust remover for tougher stains or rust.

This all-purpose rust stain remover from Iron Out has 4,4 stars with 10,000 Amazon reviews, making it an excellent choice for a household rust remover.

Iron OUT Spray Rust Stain Remover
  • Best on Rust: #1 Heavy-Duty Rust Stain Remover Brand

Cleaning Mildew from Metal Garden Furniture

First, mix water and white vinegar (equal parts) in a spray bottle to clean mildew from outdoor metal furniture.

Spray the affected areas with the solution and let it sit for 15-20 minutes.

Then, scrub the area with a soft-bristled brush and rinse with water.

If the mildew is stubborn, use a mixture of water and oxygen bleach (1 cup of bleach per gallon) instead of the vinegar solution.

However, be sure to wear gloves and protective eyewear when using bleach.

After cleaning, dry the pieces thoroughly to prevent rust.

You can also use a commercial mildew cleaner for tougher stains (test on a hidden area first, some products might be corrosive).

CLR Mold & Mildew Clear
  • Powerful clean: This powerful foam spray removes tough stains from tile, showers, bathroom surfaces, tents, hardwood floors, hard plastics, automobile tires, wood, grout and fiberglass

Removing Rust From Metal Outdoor Furniture

To remove rust from metal pieces, first, use a wire brush or sandpaper to remove as much of the rust as possible.

Then, apply a rust remover solution or a mixture of vinegar and baking soda to the affected areas.

Allow the solution to sit for several hours before scrubbing the rust away with a wire brush or steel wool.

Rinse thoroughly with water and dry it completely.

Finally, apply a rust inhibitor or a coat of paint to prevent future rusting.

Rust-Oleum 248658 Rust Reformer Spray
  • Use on any rusty, metal surface to Instantly convert rust to a flat black, paintable surface that is protected and prevents future rust

How to Remove Algae From Metal Garden Furniture

To remove algae from metal garden pieces, mix equal parts water and white vinegar and apply the solution to the affected areas using a soft-bristled brush.

Let the solution sit for about 15 minutes, then rinse off with a hose or pressure washer.

For tougher algae stains, you can also try using water and oxygen bleach (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) and following the same process.

Be sure to wear gloves and protective eyewear when working with bleach.

Polishing Outdoor Metal Chairs and Tables

First, to polish metal outdoor chairs and tables, clean the surface thoroughly with a mild soap and water solution.

Then remove any rust or corrosion (rust reformer spray etc.).

Apply metal polish to the surface using a clean cloth, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Rub the polish onto the surface in a circular motion until evenly distributed.

Let the polish dry for the recommended amount of time, then buff the surface with a clean, dry cloth until it shines.

Repeat as necessary to achieve the desired level of shine.

This Brasso multi-purpose metal polish can be used on stainless steel, chrome, aluminum, brass, copper, pewter, and bronze.

Brasso Multi-Purpose Metal Polish
  • Multi-purpose metal polish for a variety of metals including brass, Copper, stainless steel, chrome, aluminum, Pewter, and Bronze

Restore Faded Outdoor Metal Furniture

To restore faded metal chairs and tables, clean the surface thoroughly with a mild soap and water solution. Then, use a metal cleaner or rust remover to remove rust or corrosion.

Once the surface is clean and smooth, apply a metal primer to help the paint adhere better.

Finally, apply a coat of metal paint in the color of your choice. Apply it evenly and allow it to dry completely before using the pieces.

Painting Metal Patio Chairs and Tables

To paint metal patio chairs and tables, first clean the surface with a wire brush, scraper, or sandpaper to remove any rust or previous paint.

If you need to smooth rusted areas, you might need an orbital sander.

The sander helps smooth out the surface. You can start with a 60-grit sanding disc, then continue with 120 grit.

Before painting, wash down the pieces with a sponge and warm water. Be careful because if there is rust and dust, the paint won’t stick. 

Let the piece dry completely before continuing to paint.

Then, apply a rust-inhibiting primer and let it dry.

Once the primer is dry, apply a coat of outdoor metal paint using a brush or spray can (you can also use paint and primer combination products).

Let the paint dry completely before applying a second coat if necessary.

You can also use a paint product that comes with a primer, like Rust-Oleum oil-rubbed spray paint with primer.

Below are links to products that might be helpful:

Rust-Oleum 249131 Universal All Surface Metallic Spray Paint
  • Works on virtually any surface including wood, plastic, metal, fiberglass, concrete, wicker, vinyl and more
BLACK+DECKER Orbital Sander
  • HIGH PERFORMANCE ORBIT SANDER – 2.0 Amp corded electric random orbit sander for a swirl-free finish

Special Considerations for Different Metals

Cleaning Wrought Iron Furniture

Start by wiping it down with a damp cloth to remove loose dirt or debris.

Then, use a mixture of warm water and mild soap to scrub the furniture’s surface gently.

Rinse thoroughly with a hose, then dry it with a clean towel.

If there are any stubborn stains or rust spots, you can use a wire brush or sandpaper to remove them. Finally, apply a coat of rust-resistant paint or sealant to protect the metal from future damage.

WD-40 110071 Multi-Use Product
  • With Smart Straw, never lose the straw again

Cleaning Aluminum Furniture

Wash the frame with a sponge or soft bristle brush using a mild soap and water solution. Rinse with water and let dry.

Avoid abrasive cleaners, as many aluminum frames have a powder-coated finish. If abrasive cleaners are used, they can take off that protective outer finish.

If your aluminum pieces have a shiny, non-textured finish, use a fine automotive wax to maintain it.

You can apply mineral or baby oil on textured surfaces to prevent dirt build-up and restore the luster.

Do you have powder-coated aluminum patio furnishings that are starting to look dirty? Fear not. Cleaning powder-coated aluminum patio furniture is easier than you think!

Prime Solutions Aluminum Cleaner
  • Simple to use all inclusive professional grade aluminum acid cleaner, brightener, stain remover, white oxide remover and polish spray to restore dulled or dirty aluminum surfaces with a “new-look” finish!

How to Protect Metal Outdoor Set From the Elements

To protect the outdoor metal set from the elements, first, clean them thoroughly.
Use warm water with soap and a soft brush or cloth.

Once the furniture pieces are clean and dry, you can apply a protective finish coat, such as a clear sealant or rust-resistant paint.

It’s also a good idea to cover the outdoor set with a waterproof cover when it’s not in use or store it indoors during harsh weather conditions.

Regular maintenance (check for rust and touch up any areas that need it) can also help prolong the life of your outdoor metal set.

How to Store Metal Outdoor Set

To store metal outdoor chairs and tables, clean them thoroughly with soap and water and allow them to dry completely.

Then, apply a coat of wax or protective sealant to prevent rust and other damage.

Next, store them in a dry, covered area like a shed or garage.

Cover larger pieces that cannot be moved with a waterproof tarp or furniture cover and store them in a dry, sheltered area. This keeps bird droppings off, reduces cleaning, and keeps them looking fresh longer.

Keep outdoor metal pieces from sunlight and moisture to prevent rust and other damage.

How Often to Clean Metal Patio Furniture?

The frequency of cleaning depends on various factors such as the climate, level of usage, and exposure to elements.

However, cleaning at least once a month is recommended to prevent dirt buildup and maintain its appearance.

Additionally, regular cleaning can help prolong the lifespan of metal patio chairs and tables.

The Bottom Line

With the right tools and a little elbow grease, you can have your metal furniture looking brand new in no time.

So, don’t let dirty furniture ruin your outdoor relaxation time. Get cleaning and enjoy your beautiful, shiny patio setting!

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