The Accent Awnings Guide to Keeping Your Drop Shades Clean

Cleaning supplies in blue bucket

Outdoor furniture and equipment are an excellent addition to any yard or patio. Adding a drop shade awning is the peak of comfort when it comes to outdoor living. Like most home investments, it is essential to stay on top of regular maintenance for all of your outdoor equipment, especially your awning drop shade. 

Considering how much your awning drop shade system protects you from (sun, rain, bird poop, tree pitch, etc.), it’s easy to understand the importance of keeping it in top form. Regular awning maintenance will guarantee that it continues to provide shade and elegance for many years to come.

We are going to break down all the information you need to know to protect your awning investment. Below you will find cleaning guides for general purposes and heavy messes, along with a list of special case scenarios and how best to deal with them. We’ll show you how to pick the right cleaning supplies for the job at hand and offer some advice about future protection. Let’s dive in!

General Cleaning Instructions

If you are looking for a quick guide on how to provide basic cleaning and care for your awning, look no further.

1. Brush off any loose dirt before cleaning. You can use a dry bristle brush or a towel if you’re able to reach across the awning.
2. Using a hose, spray down the awning to knock loose the top layer of debris and dirt.
3. Spray on a mixture of mild soap (such as dishwashing soap) and water.
4. Using a soft bristle brush, scrub the awning to remove any stains or spots.
5. Allow time for the solution to soak into the fabric for 15-20 minutes.
6. Rinse thoroughly using the hose to remove all soap residue.
7. Let air dry. Do not retract the shade system before it has had time to dry thoroughly, or you will risk developing mold and other unwanted substances.
8. Repeat as needed.

 

How to clean your drop shades

 

Heavy Cleaning Instructions
Sometimes doing the general cleaning won’t eliminate all the problem stains on your awning. If your awning had some severe stains, consider using a mild bleach solution using the following steps. *Important*: Confirm with your manufacturer’s instructions before using bleach on your awning fabric. Not all fabrics are equal, and some can withstand bleach, while others become a discolored mess. Double-check before you proceed.

1. Prepare a solution of bleach and mild soap. Use 1 cup of bleach to one-fourth cup of mild soap or detergent per gallon of water.
2. Let’s mixture sit and soak into the fabric for 10-15 minutes.
3. Using a soft bristle brush, scrub the awning to remove any stains or spots.
4. Allow time for the solution to soak into the fabric for 15-20 minutes.
5. Rinse thoroughly using the hose to remove all soap residue.
6. Let air dry. Do not retract the shade system before it has had time to dry thoroughly, or you will risk developing mold and other unwanted substances.
7. Repeat as needed to remove the stain.
8. Retreat your awning fabric for water resistance (this is crucial to do after using bleach)

Retreating Your Awning Drop Shades After Cleaning
Once cleaned, it is crucial to retreat your fabric for water resistance and UV protection. The best thing you can do is follow the manufacturer’s advice, even if it means buying their branded product. Apply the treatment according to the instructions and allow it to air dry. It is usually best to do this when the sun is not at its peak in the sky.

 

Top-Side vs. Under-Side Cleaning
Regular washing of the topside using a fabric awning cleaner helps to protect the fabric and colors. Residential awnings should be cleaned once a year, while commercial awnings should be cleaned every 4 to 8 weeks, depending on their location. Some textiles are tiny enough to fit in a washing machine, but the vast majority are not. Sweep up leaves, cobwebs, and any loose dirt before cleaning the awning.

Use a mild eco-friendly liquid soap appropriate for the type of cloth in your awning – the manufacturer's instructions will usually provide this information. A tub of cold to lukewarm water with dish soap and a soft-bristle brush works well, as does a pressure washer set on the lowest setting or a hose. Wet down the awning. Begin from the bottom and work your way up. Sweep the brush or power washer on a superficial level, allowing the soap to work in and take the dirt out. Remove the soap and grime by rinsing from the top down. Allow the material to dry before retracting it inside.

Clean the bottom in the same manner as you did the topside. It's also an excellent idea to wash and rinse the metal frame. Grease from open windows, vents, and BBQs frequently gathers on the underside, so apply grease-cutting dish soap as necessary.

black exterior drop shades

Specific Stains
No matter how prepared you are to maintain your awning, invariably, it will get stained with something natural or otherwise. Maybe you got some paint on your awning during a recent renovation project or had grease splatter on it during BBQ season. What if your awning is under a sappy tree or happens to be a favorite bathroom target for your local bird population? Here are some of the most common stains you may deal with and how you can adequately remove them without leaving a trace.

Bird Poop: Birds are known for two things: eating berries and pooping on our homes and vehicles. If left untreated for an extended time, bird droppings can permanently stain your exterior drop shades. To prevent this, treat the dropping first, then the berry stain. With a plastic spoon, scrape up as much of the excrement as possible. In a bowl, combine dish soap and water—wet a soft cloth and dab the affected area. Blot with a dry cloth and repeat until the stain is gone. On obstinate stains, add equal parts ammonia and hydrogen peroxide. When finished, blot with clean water and then dry.

Rust: Iron oxide or rust requires a solution of water and citric or oxalic acid. Gently massage it into the affected area before washing and rinsing. There are several products available that you can apply to help prevent the future development of rust. 

Paint: Don't worry if you got some paint on the awning while touching up window frames or other trim; it cleans up easily. Allow the oil-based paint to dry as much as possible. On natural and acrylic materials, apply a paint, oil, or grease remover, and on vinyl, use an orange-based citrus cleanser. Work it in with a soft brush, then wash with dish soap and thoroughly rinse. For water-based (latex) paint, work a concentrated drop of liquid soap into the paint, then thoroughly rinse. You might have to do it twice for the best results.

Grease: Clean awnings using mild dish soap and water to remove cooking grease, sunscreen oil, bug sprays, and other chemicals. It should remove it before washing and rinsing it away. If you get automobile grease on natural or acrylic, use acetone to remove it, then thoroughly wash and clean the area. Scrape or wipe the grease off vinyl lightly. Using a dry cloth, blot the affected area. Apply dish soap to the affected area and gently rub it in before rinsing thoroughly with warm water.

Tree Pitch: With a mixture of turpentine and liquid dish soap, remove tree pitch from acrylic or natural materials. Use a soft cloth and a grease remover or rubbing alcohol to remove sap from vinyl. Work it gently into the pitch; the goal is to soften the sap rather than distribute it around. Use a gentle soap and water to clean the area. If required, repeat – possibly 2 or 3 times depending on how thick the pitch patch is.

Unidentified Stains: Leaves, tree fruit, mildew, and algae can all stain cloth awnings. Many leaves include tannins and oils that can penetrate the fabric and be difficult to remove. The sooner you remove the leaves, the better. Allow an organic stain remover to rest on the stain for up to 30 minutes before gently washing and thoroughly rinsing – potentially twice. If that doesn't work, try an ammonia-water or bleach-water solution.

For fruit stains, use dish soap and 3-6% ammonia mixture in water. Rub it in with a soft bristle brush or even your finger. Let sit for a couple of minutes, and wash and rinse the area well. Mildew requires a ½ cup of bleach mixed with a ¼ cup of dish soap in a gallon of water. Brush the mixture in, then wash and rinse thoroughly. Algae stains can be more difficult. Mix six parts of water with 1 part hydrogen peroxide and put in a spray bottle. Spray on the stain and let sit for 30 minutes, and then rinse off. Repeat if necessary. To help prevent algae return, mix equal parts of vinegar and water, spray it on the fabric, and let it dry.


*Important:* Never combine ammonia with bleach. Doing so can create chlorine gas which is deadly toxic to humans.


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