How to Take Care of Your Stainless Steel Outdoor Furniture

  • Written By: Rachel
  • Time to read: 5 min.
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Much of the outdoor furniture you see at parks, at schools, and in public-owned spaces turns out to be steel. To me, that’s a testament to the longevity of the furniture itself. If it’s taken care of, this stuff lasts a very long time. 

Stainless steel outdoor furniture can be kept clean with microfiber cloths, a Ph-neutral soap, and warm water cleanings. Never use any cleaners or tools that can scratch the furniture to prevent exposure to the elements thus increasing the risk of rust.     

It’s almost unbelievable how easy the care and maintenance of stainless steel outdoor furnishing is. If you want to get more detailed on the differences in the various steels used for furniture and how best to take care of your stainless steel outdoor furniture, keep reading! 

What is Stainless Steel Compared to Other Manufactured Steel?

Though all steel is iron-based, stainless steel also contains at least 10% chromium. Therefore, where steel is susceptible to rust (oxidation of iron) stainless steel has a passive layer of chromium that resists rusting. 

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Stainless steel then lasts longer than steel. It can also have other additives that will make it resistant to other kinds of wear and tear. There are even “food and medical” grade stainless steel available specifically for those types of applications. 

Our focus will be on stainless steel outdoor furniture. And that can also be made of several grades of stainless steel. If you want the best durability in stainless steel,  grades 304 and 316 (marine grade) are those I’ve run across most. The best comparison I found came from Arthur Harris & Company

That’s because 304 stainless steel touts a mixture of elements that offer excellent protection from corrosion. It’s used in all sorts of commerce, and residential applications, including hardware like nuts, bolts, screws, plates, and handles, equipment used for processing food, piping, residential kitchen appliances, pots and pans, utensils, wheel covers, storage tanks, or automotive trims. 

316 stainless steel is molybdenum-alloyed steel. It is the preferred steel for use in marine environments because of its greater resistance to pitting corrosion than most other grades of steel. You find it most often in marine components, but also in outdoor enclosures, commercial kitchen equipment, chemical storage containers, and outdoor furnishings. 

So look for the grade of steel you’re getting for your furniture. 304 is usually fine, but if you’re going to be anywhere damp or near salty sea air and water, 316 is superior and will last much longer. 

How Often Should Steel Patio Furniture Be Cleaned?

There is no true timeframe to give you when it comes to stainless steel furniture. It’s really best just to keep your eyes on it and clean it when it needs cleaning. Soap and water should be used maybe once or twice a year. 

Obviously, higher humidity, marine, or smoggy environments will call for more cleaning. Look for cloudy oxidation or physical debris or dust on the furniture and clean anything you find off of it. 

What is the Best Way to Clean Your Steel Furniture?

On most stainless steel furniture, a strong microfiber cloth can be your best friend. No need for harsh chemicals. Wiping down or “polishing” the metal with the microfiber cloth can remove the cloudiness and filth, replacing it with a lustrous shine. 

Never use bleach or any chloride-based cleaners on your stainless steel. Use a pH-neutral (dish soap) soap and warm water along with a sponge or another cloth for best results. You may want to use a stainless-steel cleaner to remove fingerprints and the like, but the only time I use that is inside. My stainless steel outdoor furniture has always gotten just the cloth and soap & water treatment.  

A great option for a stainless steel cleaner is Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Steel Outdoor Furniture

As always, covering furniture with a breathable cover when there will be long periods of time that they are not in use is helpful and can extend your furniture’s life. But with stainless steel, you can simply keep it clean and outside year-round. 

Not all steel furniture is stainless steel. Some of the most popular steel furniture is powder-coated manufactured steel. It looks durable and strong, but it has a hidden weakness. If that powder coating is ever weakened and moisture gets to the steel, rust can happen. By the time you notice the rust, it could be too late. 

This is why I suggest just paying a bit more money for the 304 or 316 stainless steel. I had never heard of the differences until I wrote the article. But I have had a few pieces in the past. Thankfully, it had been given to me. After all, that initial investment can be expensive, but well worth it considering the care and protection will cost you less time in the future.  

How Long Will My Steel Patio Furniture Last?

Stainless steel furniture can last lifetimes, just like wrought iron furniture. And it’s easier to care for. Of course, it comes with a hefty price tag for that convenience. If you have a busy lifestyle or just don’t want to spend a lot of time waxing and oiling and cleaning – stainless steel will get you all of those years without the fuss. So perhaps it’s worth it? 

Plus, it’s heavy enough to probably leave out year-round with no issues, even in windy, salty, or humid environments. So it will last longer and also not need as much protection. Still, it should last upward of 40+ years, maybe even a lifetime. 

In Closing

The choice and care of the furniture you have in your outdoor space matters. This is the space where memories are made. Family and friends of all shapes and sizes will be there. It’s your little relaxing get-away spot without actually having to travel anywhere. 

So if you choose stainless steel furniture, you’ll have an outdoor oasis where the furniture will definitely see you through your life. It’s strong enough for heavier people and rougher treatment. Most importantly, the care of that furniture is simple and inexpensive. Just do it!