How to clean an awning: refresh your patio cover in 5 simple steps

Find out how to clean an awning the expert way and yours will soon be looking crisp and fresh again

patio awning with garden furniture
(Image credit: Caribbean Blinds)

Once you know how to clean an awning properly you'll be able to keep yours looking as good as new all the time. The fabric of your awning may have been pre-treated with a stain-resistant protector, but even so you will still need to clean it regularly to keep it looking its best.

Awnings are just one of the many shade ideas for patios that you can choose from to keep you sheltered from the sun and rain. Engineered to withstand the rigors of life outdoors while still looking stunning, the high-grade materials with premium coatings and concealed elements mean the only awning maintenance required is a little cleaning from time to time. 

So if a combination of rain, wind and sun as well as dust, air pollution and other airborne debris has left your awning looking a little jaded now's the time to take action and spruce it up. 

stripy awning, patio and garden set

Regularly cleaning your awning will keep it looking its best. Stripy awning by Haus Awnings (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Haus Awnings)

Our simple method for how to clean an awning will get it back to its best

'When it comes to cleaning your awning, simplicity is key,' says Lisa Slack, head of product at Thomas Sanderson (opens in new tab). 'It’s best to use warm water and avoid any harsh cleaning substances or agents that could negatively affect the fabric.'

Once you've found out how to clean an awning properly it's relatively simple to keep on top of it. By following these simple cleaning steps you'll help to keep your awning looking and working at its best for longer.

patio awning in modern garden

The sleek look of pale colors can be ruined by dirt and debris, so make sure you follow a simple cleaning routine. Powder gray awning by Thomas Sanderson (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Thomas Sanderson)

What you'll need to clean your patio awning:

1. Lightly brush your awning

'Start by carefully brushing away any loose dirt and debris on the surface of the awning with a soft brush as fallen leaves, bugs and dust can collect there,' says Laura Murphy, outdoor living buyer at La Redoute (opens in new tab)

'Pay close attention to any nooks and crannies like the springs and cassettes, which may require a smaller brush or tool to get into the corners.'

This is the same approach you should use when cleaning a patio umbrella too. 

modern patio with awning

Brushing off dirt is the first thing you will need to do. Rectangular black shade sail by La Redoute (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: La Redoute)

2. Wash your awning with warm soapy water

'For stubborn marks and stains, a mild soap diluted in lukewarm water will be safe to use, but always avoid using washing up liquid as this can damage the material,' says Laura Murphy. As the majority of awning fabric is waterproof, it should be easy to remove any marks.

'Gently wipe the awning fabric and frame clean with a cloth,' says Paul McCullagh, technical director at Haus Awnings (opens in new tab). 'If the awning is really dirty try using a recommended awning shampoo. Don't use any harsh chemicals or bleach as these will harm the awning fabric.'

'Avoid wetting any of the metal fastenings,' adds Laura. 

bucket of soapy water with cleaning cloth and brush

A mild soapy solution is the best option for cleaning your awning

(Image credit: VStock/Alamy Stock Photo)

3. Gently scrub the fabric to remove dirt

When it comes to how to clean an awning, the key thing is to remove any dirt that has built up. But it's important you do this in the right way.

'Use a soft bristled brush and work the dirt off very gently,' says Paul McCullagh. 'If the dirt is particularly stubborn don't scrub at the fabric vigorously or you'll risk scratching the fabric or frame and damaging them in the long term. Take your time and let the soap do all the hard work.'

'When cleaning your awning, never use scourers or stiff brushes as this will damage the protective coatings to both the fabric and hardware,' says Stuart Dantzic, managing director at Caribbean Blinds (opens in new tab)

Gently rinse away the soap using a garden hose on a low flow setting until the water runs clear.

person using a garden hose

Gently rinse off the soapy solution 

(Image credit: Benjamin Di Nunzio/EyeEm/Getty Images)

4. Allow the awning fabric to dry naturally

'Always allow the fabric to dry off before retracting your awning to minimize the chance of the fabric rippling at the seams,' says Stuart Dantzic. 'This is also recommended to keep your awning opening and closing smoothly with no squeaks.' Many styles of awning have folding arms treated with non-corrosive spray such as silicone to keep them lubricated. 

'Make sure the awning is completely dry before rolling it up and putting it away for a long period of time,' says Paul McCullagh. 'This will prevent any moisture getting trapped inside the awning bracket which could cause mildew to build up or rust problems. It's best to choose a warm dry day to carry out cleaning so that the fabric can dry naturally.'

'Leave to dry completely at room temperature or in mild sunny weather to prevent a build-up of mold and make sure you never pack it away wet,' says Laura Murphy. The same applies when cleaning an outdoor rug, too. 

patio awning with garden furniture

The Cuba (opens in new tab) Patio Awning by Caribbean Blinds is made of fabric constructed from acrylic fibres that do not stretch, warp or tear, and is treated with TEXgard self-clean effect coating

(Image credit: Caribbean Blinds)

5. Treat with a waterproofing spray

'Use a specially formulated waterproofing spray to refresh the waterproof layer once your awning is clean and dry,' suggests Paul McCullagh. 'This will help the fabric to repel any water and prevent any rotting or mildew build up.'

Your work is now done and your awning should be looking super smart. Just be sure to keep your patio cover or deck shade looking in prime condition by sprucing it up once or twice a year.

awning. patio and pool

The H1650 (opens in new tab) by Haus Awnings is a slim-line entry-level awning that's perfect for smaller areas

(Image credit: Haus Awnings)

Can I put my awning in the washing machine?

If you want to find out how to clean a canvas awning you might think to yourself why not just stick it in the washing machine. But you might regret it.

'Don't be tempted to pop your awning or shade sail into the washing machine as this could potentially damage both the awning and your washing machine,' says La Redoute's Laura Murphy. It could also affect any coating the fabric has been pre-treated with, which means your awning may not look as crisp afterwards.

modern patio with awning and garden furniture

The H2450 (opens in new tab) by Haus Awnings is made of quality, weatherproof materials and has a motorized operation. It can be made to measure for your home

(Image credit: Haus Awnings)

How often should you clean your patio awning?

A grubby awning will ruin the look of your covered deck or patio. But how often should you clean it?

'We recommend cleaning your awning at the start and end of the summer season which is when you're most likely to be using it,' says Paul McCullagh. 'A clean at the start of the summer will clear away any dirt that has built up over the winter and a clean at the end of the summer will prevent any damage occurring while it's rolled up over winter.'

Once the weather warms up and your awning is in regular use, it's also a good idea to give it a quick rinse once a month to remove any loose dirt and stop it building up or bedding into the fabric. 

patio awning with garden furniture and topiary

(Image credit: Caribbean Blinds)
Sarah Wilson
Sarah Wilson

Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, 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.