Good quality, wooden garden furniture isn’t cheap, so it’s in your best interests to keep it looking its best. The problem is, wooden garden furniture spends half its life outdoors, where it can be hammered by the weather, and the other half stored away in a shed or garage, where dampness can cause more problems.
Then there is just the dirt that builds up through general use, whether that is food and drink splashes and stains, body sweat, or sunblock; you don’t want it to become a permanent feature of your wooden garden furniture.
When it comes to getting the job done quickly, with minimum effort, a pressure washer is hard to beat. However, pressure washing wooden garden furniture is one of those topics that has split people’s opinions, either for or against, with the people against pressure washing wooden garden furniture saying that it damages the timber.
While I fully admit that it is possible to damage the timber if you don’t know what you are doing, there is a way to clean your wooden garden furniture with your pressure washer that won’t do it any harm.
When should I wash my garden furniture with a pressure washer?
When asked this question, a lot of people would tell you the best time is in spring, before the summer season hits us, and I wouldn’t disagree. After being in storage over the autumn and winter, your wooden garden furniture is going to need a good cleaning before it gets any use.
In addition to cleaning it in Spring though, I would recommend cleaning it at the end of the summer, or whenever you are going to store it away, especially if you are storing it in a garage. The reason is that the dirt on your wooden furniture will actually retain more moisture than the clean parts and this can cause damage over time.
Why should I use a pressure washer and not a hose?
The main reason I like to use a pressure washer instead of a hose, apart from being a bit lazy and wanting to get the job done faster, is that it is more economical and better for the environment.
Using a pressure washer to clean your garden furniture will help you to consume a fraction of the water you will have to use when cleaning with a garden hose.
Furthermore, for some types of dirt, I personally feel that leaving a solution on and then rinsing it with a pressure washer on a low setting, and with a fine spray nozzle, will do less harm to the wood than scrubbing it harshly with a brush.
How to clean wooden furniture with a pressure washer
One of the tricks to cleaning wooden garden furniture with a pressure washer and not damaging it, is to use the right kind of pressure washer.
You want a model that has a variety of settings, particularly low power ones, and also adjustable nozzles and different lances that allow you to clean on low pressure settings. Some of the new pressure washers have sensitive triggers that can give you even more control over the power of the water output which is ideal for cleaning wooden garden furniture.
You should set up your pressure washer on the lowest possible setting, and use a fine spray nozzle. Don’t ever use a jet nozzle as these are much more powerful than you think, even on low settings and can damage the wood.
With your pressure washer set up, you should now get your cleaning solution ready. If your garden furniture only has a bit of light dirt on it, you can probably just mix washing up liquid and water and it’ll get the job done. For harder to shift grime, stains, and mildew you can use a bleach and water, or vinegar and water solution, to give you more cleaning prowess.
If you are using a bleach or vinegar solution, it’s best to test it on a small area of timber that is not easily visible to see if any discolouration occurs before using it on the rest of the furniture.
First, use a hose or your pressure washer to rinse off the top layer of dirt that should come off easy. If using a pressure washer, you should keep the water stream constantly moving, so as not to keep the pressure on one area too long, and don’t stand too close to the furniture.
If your wooden garden furniture is still dirty after the rinse with just water, you can use your solution. Use a scrubbing brush to apply your cleaning solution to the furniture, and then leave it to soak in for 5 minutes or so. If you have softwood furniture, it is better to only scrub in the same direction as the grain in the wood, but for hardwood furniture it is not that important. After 5 minutes, rinse it off with either a hose, or the pressure washer using the method we just described to avoid damaging the timber.
After pressure washing wooden garden furniture
If after cleaning and drying, you find that some parts of the surface seem a bit rough, there’s nothing wrong with sanding them smooth with some good old sandpaper.
I would also suggest that you apply a coat of wood stain to help protect your furniture in the future. To do this, you have to make sure that your furniture is clean, and has completely dried out, which might take a few days. Then you need time for the wood stain to soak in and dry too, so you’ll need to keep an eye on that weather forecast for a few dry days in a row, or do your work in a sheltered area.
So, you see? It isn’t impossible to pressure wash wooden garden furniture without damaging it, but you do have to be very, very careful. If the furniture isn’t really that dirty, I would probably just use a garden hose first to see if it rinses off, but all the time being aware of how much water I’m using. If it seems like it will take a long time, and a lot of water with the hose, I usually switch to my pressure washer.