10 Green Outdoor Cleaning Tips

Keep your outdoors clean with green.
Keep your outdoors clean with green.

Household cleaning tasks will often lead you straight into the out-of-doors, especially if you live in a climate that allows you to use your backyard and patio many months of the year. Green cleaning is a must when cleaning outdoor furniture, grills, and toys. Plus, it's a nice feeling to know you're not harming the environment while you're out there surrounded by it. Baking soda, salt, vinegar and lemons and lemon juice are a huge help, this time with your outdoor cleaning.

So, let's get started! with patio furniture!


Patio Furniture

Lawn furniture seems to be a magnet for all the grit and muck that nature can come up with. Outdoor chairs, tables, and loungers can be found caked with dirt, cobwebs, and grease, especially if they've been in storage for a while. Clean them off with a baking soda solution, using 1 cup baking soda added to some warm water. Wipe it on the furniture, then rinse thoroughly.

White wicker furniture is lovely to have for your yard and patio, but it can take a beating if out in the sun too much or left in the rain. You can help keep it from yellowing by scrubbing it periodically with a stiff brush that you have first moistened with salt water. Scrub every nook and cranny in the chairs and loungers and rinse thoroughly. Then let the pieces sit in the sun to dry, changing their position (upside-down, sideways, etc.) every so often.



The Green Outdoors

If you and your family are campers - whether rugged backpackers or vacationers in an environmentally friendly RV - baking soda is a great multipurpose tool to take along with you. You'll be saving valuable space by packing something that can clean just about anything you'll need to clean on your trip (pots, pans, hands, teeth).

Start out by using it to deodorize your sleeping bags. Sprinkle them with baking soda and let the sit for a day, then shake out the begs and let them sit in the sun as long as possible. Baking soda is also quite handy for putting out campfires. You can even put an open box of it in an outhouse to deodorize the air. Good luck with that!



On the Deck

You know, your garage floor isn't the only place in your home that can be stained by grease and oil -- your deck or patio may also be prone to these stains. And as with most cleaning projects, it's best to tackle any stains as soon after the accident as possible.

If your wooden deck has become stained with suntan lotion or grease from an outdoor grill, sprinkle baking soda on it immediately and let it sit an hour. After brushing away the baking soda with a broom, check to see if any of the stain remains. If so, repeat the procedure.




You'll find all kinds of fancy sprays and specialized formulas in a store for cleaning the burned-on gunk off your outdoor grill racks, but good old elbow grease and a stiff brush are all you really need. It'll help if you can tackle this project when the grill is still a little warm (though not hot!), but it will work regardless.

If you have stubborn charred remains on the racks, try treating those areas with a vinegar and baking soda mix. First apply baking soda and then dab with vinegar to get the foamy action started. Both vinegar and baking soda are safe to use around food, of course, but you'll still want to rinse your grill racks thoroughly before using them again.



Pool Toys

If you have a backyard pool or just a collection of beach toys for the kids, you can remove the musty and mildewy smells that may accumulate during the off-season by washing them with a baking soda solution. Use 1/4 cup baking soda for every quart warm water.




The screens on your home are where the elements -- pollution, auto exhaust, tree leaves -- stubbornly grab hold. Cleaning them will help you have a brighter outlook onto the outside world from inside your home. Clean your screens by dipping a damp wire brush into baking soda and scrubbing. Then rinse the screens thoroughly with a damp rag or sponge. If you have removed the screens from the windows, use a hose to rinse them.




If your home has aluminum siding or other aluminum parts, clean them with a baking soda and water solution applied with a soft-bristled brush usually used for car washing. Afterward, rinse clean.




Say it's spring, and you're taking inventory of your yard and landscape. If you're like many of us (especially many of us with children), perhaps you've found a few things that were left out in the rain and snow when they shouldn't have been. Not to worry -- you can clean off any lightly rusted items in an earth-friendly way by using some of the items in our Fantastic Four cleaning kit (baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and salt).

General cleaning

First, mix equal parts salt and cream of tartar, moistened with enough water to make a paste. Use this paste on metal outdoor furniture, for example, or rusted metal parts on an outdoor grill. Apply the paste with a soft cotton cloth and set the item in the sun to dry. Wipe off and repeat if necessary. Afterward, rinse clean. You can also try making this paste using lemon juice and salt, rather than cream of tartar. Be sure to keep the amount of lemon juice or water you use consistent with making a paste thick enough to not slide off any vertical surfaces.




If you have a collection of rusty nuts, bolts, and nails sitting around in your workshop, give them a makeover by placing them in a glass jar, filling the jar to about halfway with the metal pieces. Cover the pieces in undiluted vinegar, seal the jar, and let it sit overnight. The next day rinse the pieces thoroughly, and make sure to dry them -- after all, we don't want to go through all the work of cleaning just to have them rust up again!

Rusty tools can be revived in a similar way as the nuts and bolts. Place them in a container big enough to hold them as well as enough vinegar to cover them thoroughly, like a plastic bucket or tub. Soak the tools for several hours, then rinse them completely with clean water. Using a cotton cloth, dry them well. If you see the vinegar becoming cloudy before you think the rust has been loosened all the way, change out the vinegar and continue to soak the items.




Whether you're tackling a painting project outdoors or inside your home, you can use the Fantastic Four products in a number of ways. When painting in small spaces or enclosed rooms, you can help absorb any paint odors if they bother you or your family by setting out dishes of vinegar. Keep dishes out for a few days after finishing your project, adding new vinegar each day.

Surfaces, particularly metal ones, should always be as clean as possible before applying paint to them. In the past, this has usually meant using a toxic solvent, but vinegar is also a great product to use to truly clean a metal surface. You can achieve the same effect as with a solvent by using 1 part vinegar to 5 parts water. This solution will cut through any dirt or oily residues on the metal, which can really mess with your paint job. It will also make future problems with peeling paint less likely.

Perhaps you didn't clean your brushes properly after using them the last time, and now the bristles have become hardened. Fix this by boiling the brushes in 1/2 gallon water, 1 cup of baking soda, and 1/4 cup vinegar.