Summer means plenty of time outside, playing in the grass from dawn till dusk and making the most of your outdoor living space. To really enjoy your backyard though, you probably need to clean up your outdoor furniture, patio, and yard games. Summer cleaning, like its spring counterpart, can be done cheaply and safely with some nontoxic cleaning tips.
You can use household items like vinegar, water, and Castile soap to make homemade cleaning supplies appropriate for most of your summer cleaning. White vinegar is a great base for nontoxic cleaning, both inside and outside of your home. It has strong antibacterial properties and can break down the mold and mildew that might be growing on your outdoor furniture or grill. It can also cut through grease, grime, and stains, and can be used to combat hard water. That said, if you do have hard water at your home, you might prefer using distilled or filtered water instead of tap water. Castile soap is a mild soap made with olive or other vegetable oil and often sodium hydroxide, and is typically vegan and environmentally friendly.
To clean your wood and wicker furniture, first scrub it down with a hard brush to flake off any grime and dirt. Then spray the furniture with your garden hose to remove leftover dust. Next, you want to mix one tablespoon of Castile soap with a gallon of hot water and use your brush and mixture to scrub your furniture. To finalize your work, let it dry in the hot sun.
If your lawn furniture cushion covers can be zipped off, use the delicate cycle to clean them in the washing machine. If they don’t zip off, the washer is not your best bet—your cushions could become permanently lumpy and misshapen! Instead, spray them with a mixture that is equal parts vinegar and water and scrub vigorously. Fabric umbrellas can be treated with the same vinegar and water solution, and then rinsed with the hose.
If your patio is of the brick or stone variety, it might need some love to prepare for the warmer weather. If you start early enough, you can often avoid the weeds that grow through the cracks in your patio pavers. First, pour boiling water in the cracks to shock the roots of last year’s weeds. A teakettle will make this a quick and easy chore. Fill the cracks with sand to discourage weeds from growing in the soil below. Then, generously douse the sandy cracks with vinegar and dish soap. This will clean the pavers and further inhibit weeds. Finally, if you’re sure you never want plants to grow there, sprinkle salt between the cracks (a tactic supposedly used by the Romans to destroy their enemies’ crops). Rain and groundwater will shift the salt slightly, so you want to only use a small amount to ensure the area around the patio remains green and grassy.
Both wooden decks and PVC plastic decking can take a beating from the sun, winter salt, and constant battling of the elements. Like with your lawn furniture, give your deck a good dry scrubbing with a rough broom or soft metal brush. A power washer works well to clean a deck but also uses a ton of water. Your ordinary garden hose with a strong spray is just as effective. Tackle hard stains with your vinegar and water mixture, Castile soap, or even dish soap, followed by another spray with the hose.
Toys and Games
Gather all your small, plastic outdoor toys, and give them a bath in your kiddie pool. Add some Castile soap and warm water from the teakettle, and scrub where needed. Larger items like slides, swings, and play sets can be cleaned the same way as your lawn furniture or deck—with our favorite blend of (say it with me) vinegar, water, and Castile soap!
How are you getting your outdoor living space ready for summer? Share your tips on Twitter @TomsofMaine!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.