How to Clean a Patio Umbrella. After a full season outside in the elements, your patio umbrella can get pretty dirty. Between falling leaves, berries, seeds and bird droppings, your umbrella will need a good cleaning before it is stowed away for the winter. Cleaning a patio umbrella can be a little challenging because it is so cumbersome, but it's one of those chores that needs to be done to winterize your home.
Lay down a protective surface on the ground. This can be a bunch of towels, a tarp or an old blanket. Make it as big or bigger than the umbrella when it is fully open.
Open the umbrella and lay it on its side on the protective surface. No part of the umbrella should touch the ground.
Wet the umbrella with a hose. If you don't have a hose, you can pour clean water from a bucket. You may need someone to hold the umbrella in place to keep it from rolling off the protective surface.
Fill a bucket with clean, warm water mixed with a mild detergent. You can use dishwashing soap or laundry detergent.
Scrub the umbrella lightly using a cloth or soft sponge. When working on tough stains you can brace the area by putting your hand on the other side of the fabric.
Rinse the soap off with clean water, making sure there is no soap residue left.
Stand the umbrella back up and let it sit in the sun to dry.
Wipe down frame parts with a damp cloth. Use mild soap if necessary. Turn the umbrella upside down, put it into a clean garbage can filled with soapy water and let it soak. With some fabric the stains will lift out and all you have to do is rinse it with a hose. Get a convertible top cleaner from an automotive goods store to clean vinyl umbrellas. Sometimes soap and water is not enough to clean vinyl thoroughly. Take your umbrella to a do-it-yourself car wash if you don't have access to a hose. Do-it-yourself car washes allow you to wash and rinse your umbrella with a power-washer, but be careful not to use too much pressure. Get an umbrella that has a removable canopy that can go in the washing machine. Some of the more durable fabrics can be washed on the delicate cycle and then replaced on the frame.
Don't wait until the weather turns to clean your patio umbrella. You need to let your umbrella dry completely to avoid mildew before stowing it away. That requires letting it sit in the sun for at least a day. Don't use abrasive cleaners on the frame or pole of the umbrella, since you could scratch the finish.