How to clean a patio umbrella: a simple step-by-step guide to getting it right

Find out how to clean a patio umbrella and make sure yours stays looking as good as new for longer

white patio umbrella in a garden
(Image credit: Lakeland)

Once you know how to clean a patio umbrella properly you'll be able to keep it looking as good as new. The combination of rain, wind and sun as well as dust, air pollution and tree debris can soon take the shine off your latest garden accessory, so knowing the best ways to get rid dirt and stains is key. 

You're in luck if the fabric of your umbrella has been treated and is stain resistant (check the label for guidance) but even so you will still need to clean it regularly, especially if mold or mildew are a problem.

One of the easiest things you can do is make sure your patio umbrella isn't positioned beneath or near trees that shed sap, leaves or pollen which will quickly stain and discolor the fabric, particularly if it's a pale color like cream or stone. Another expert tip is to make sure the umbrella is never closed after it has rained as this will encourage a build-up of mold or mildew that can be hard to deal with later.

Keep on top of regular maintenance like this and your patio furniture ideas will look good all season long. 

bright red patio umbrella against a blue sky

(Image credit: Suzanne Goodwin/Alamy Stock Photo)

How to clean a patio umbrella in 6 simple steps

Once the weather warms up and your best garden parasol is in use, aim to clean it regularly. After all, any dirty or moldy patio umbrella ideas will instantly ruin the overall look of your outdoor dining space. 

If your parasol is in a spot that's near tall trees or shrubs that shed leaves or sap, it's likely to need cleaning more often, probably at least once a month, as it will be exposed to plant debris as well as other environmental factors. You'll need to keep this in mind too for cleaning outdoor furniture that's placed in a similar spot in your garden. 

Once you've found out how to clean a patio umbrella properly, however, it's relatively simple to keep on top of your regular cleaning routine.

What you'll need:

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Laundry detergent
  • Bucket of lukewarm water
  • Garden hose
  1. Move your patio umbrella to a shady spot in the garden. If you're tackling this job on a sunny day it will help you keep cool but also because the heat from the sun can cause the detergent to dry quickly before it's had the chance to get to work. Remove the fabric cover from the frame if possible. If not, get to work on the umbrella in situ.
  2. Remove any particles of dirt and dust that may have built up. Use an attachment on the vacuum cleaner or a clean soft bristle brush to get rid of any surface dirt and dust. Don't scrub too hard with the brush or this could damage the fabric.
  3. It's best to use a laundry detergent when it comes to soap. It won't produce as many bubbles and is tougher on stains. Mix the detergent into a bucket of lukewarm water using the ratio of 1/4 cup to a gallon. Use the soft brush to work the soapy water into the umbrella fabric.
  4. Leave the umbrella fabric to soak for 20 minutes to let the detergent do its stuff.
  5. Next you need to rinse it off. Get the garden hose ready and rinse all the soap away as thoroughly as possible. Alternatively, you could use buckets of water to rinse.
  6. Allow the umbrella to dry thoroughly. You can now move it back to its original position, or the sunniest spot in the garden. Being in contact with direct sunlight will allow the umbrella fabric to dry more quickly. Make sure you don't close the umbrella until it's completely dry.

Want to give the rest of your outdoor space a freshen up too? Find out how to clean a patio and how to clean decking to get everything looking its best for summer. 

barefoot woman on deck with garden sprinkler

(Image credit: Philipp Balunovic EyeEm/GettyImages)

How do you clean a patio umbrella frame?

To wash a wooden patio umbrella frame, you can follow similar steps as you would when cleaning wooden outdoor furniture. Use a mild detergent mixed with water and a cloth or soft bristle brush. Try not to saturate the wood with too much cleaning solution and wipe with a clean cloth once you’ve finished.

To wash an aluminium frame, brush away any dirt with a soft brush then use a solution of washing up liquid and water. Once done rinse well with water and dry with a clean cloth. It's not a good idea to use abrasive cleaners like bleach or scourers on aluminium as this can spoil the finish.

To keep umbrella hinges in good shape regularly apply a product like WD-40 (available from Amazon) to keep the mechanism lubricated.

How often should you clean a patio umbrella?

Once you've found out how to clean a patio umbrella, make sure you do it regularly. Once a month is best if the weather is rainy or if it’s near trees and shrubs, as tree sap and other debris is likely to settle on it and spoil the look. 

When your patio umbrella isn't being used always close it to cut down on exposure to rain and environmental pollutants. 

If you don't want to clean your patio umbrella quite as regularly, measure up your parasol and buy a cover that can be slipped over it. This can be useful if you're going away or there are other periods of time when it's not in use, as well as when it's put into storage. This is also a good idea for your best garden furniture if you want to keep certain items protected from bad weather. 

cream garden umbrella with shrubs and lawn

(Image credit: Peter F Chatterton/Future)

How do I remove green mildew from my patio umbrella?

If the fabric of your patio umbrella is more heavily stained such as with mold or mildew you will need a stronger cleaning solution to tackle the build-up. Choose a spot in the garden where there are no plants as you will be using bleach and don't want them to be affected.

  1. Mix up a cleaning solution in a bucket. Use a ratio of eight ounces of bleach and two ounces of laundry detergent per gallon of lukewarm water.
  2. Wearing protective gloves, carefully apply the solution to the fabric, being sure to cover the entire surface. Work it in with a soft bristle brush, being careful it doesn't get on your skin. Leave to soak in for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Rinse the fabric well to remove the cleaning solution, making sure the dirty water flows away from any plants and grass in the vicinity.
  4. Air dry the cover in a sunny spot. If the stains are still there when you've finished repeat the process until the fabric is clean.

Can a patio umbrella be machine washed?

If your umbrella fabric is removable and has a care tag that indicates it is machine washable, freshen it up by sticking it in the washing machine on a cool wash with plenty of laundry liquid. This is a key shortcut when it comes to how to clean a patio umbrella without hassle!

First give it a quick vacuum or good brush to remove any excess dirt. Then dab on concentrated laundry detergent to treat any stains that look like they won't shift easily. Work it in with a soft-bristled brush and leave it for a while to soak into the stain.

Once it's been washed in the drum and is clean, place the cover back on the frame to air dry in a sunny spot. Don't be tempted to tumble dry. If the cover is badly wrinkled instead dry it on a washing line then iron it on a low heat setting once dry. 

closed up grey garden umbrella

(Image credit: Addictive Stoc Creatives/Alamy Stock Photo)

How do I store a patio umbrella at the end of summer?

Choose a warm sunny day for a little patio umbrella TLC before the end of the season when you will be putting it into storage.

First wipe down your umbrella before you put it away. Using a dry scrubbing brush, wipe away as much dirt, mold or mildew as you can. 

Next mix equal parts of white vinegar and warm water in a bucket. Dip the brush into the solution then scrub the brush all over the fabric until any marks have gone. Rinse the umbrella with the garden hose. Let it dry fully in the sun.

Find space for your patio umbrella in your shed storage or garage, making sure it is clean and dry before you pack it away for the season. 

Even better, buy a specially designed cover to use when your umbrella goes into storage to give it the best possible protection.

Sarah Wilson
Content Editor

Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.