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How to Clean Your Hammock

Posted by Candace Osmond on

If the world were perfect, we would never have to worry about rain interrupting our get-togethers, clouds on a starry night sky, or mildew on our hammocks. Unfortunately, eventually everything that goes up must come down, and whether you’re pulling your beloved hammock out for use over the summer or preparing to take it down for relocation or storage, it’s worth removing all traces of mildew and algae stains that might have made your hammock their home. A simple cleaning is an easy enough process and if your beloved hammock or lawn chair cushions are showing signs of heavier staining, learning how to clean mildew from fabric only takes a few minutes!

Basic Washing Techniques

If you hammock or lawn chair cushions haven’t started showing signs of mildew or algae yet, but you still want to keep them clean, your best option is to use warm water with a little squirt of mild dish soap and a brush. Lay your hammock or cushions out on a large, flat surface (porch, driveway, deck, etc.) and toss down a tarpaulin if you’d prefer. It can make for easier clean up in the long run. Grab that brush and scrub the whole thing down, rinsing it with the garden hose. Hang it up to dry if you can, but try to keep it in the sun so it dries completely.

If your hammock doesn’t have spreader bars, you can use your washing machine so long as you prepare well enough ahead of time. Don’t just toss it in, or you might end up with one big pile of fibers fit for a large cat toy. Lay it out, fold it in half, using the metal rings or tie-offs on the ends as guides. Tie the rings together with any heavy duty string, then do the same down the sides, so you have a squared-off hammock bag of sorts. Place the whole thing inside a pillowcase, tie it off, and let fly.

Don’t use chlorine bleach at all. The chemicals will degrade and damage the fibers and fabric. If you must, use oxygen stain remover, something I’ll talk about more in a bit. Don’t toss the hammock in the dryer. The best option is to take it outside and let it air dry naturally in the sun.

Battling it out with Mildew and Algae

Take down your hammock and lay it out on a large, flat surface. I recommend putting down a tarpaulin first, for the same reasons as general cleaning. Depending on how many steps you follow, you’ll have to rinse or shake out the tarp between each step, just to ensure you aren’t letting the hammock steep in its own grit, just like rinsing out your brush. It’s easier than constantly spraying down the deck, driveway, or wherever you plan to use.

If you’re looking for how to clean outdoor furniture cushions, this will answer that question as well. If you can, remove the internal padding and check to see if the mildew has managed to penetrate to the cushion. If it has, you’ll likely want to clean the inside of the cushion liner itself along with the outside surfaces.

If your hammock is hanging under tree shade, make sure it’s entirely dried out before you start. Take a large scrub brush and scrub away at the stains. Wearing a dust mask is a pretty good idea, too, even if you don’t have allergies or asthma, to prevent rogue spores and nasties from getting into places they have no business being. What this does is removes excess gunk and such from the surface, allowing you to penetrate more deeply into the fibers while cleaning. Don’t forget to flip the hammock over, shake off the tarp to clear off the dust and grit, and do the same to the underside.

Once you laid your hammock or cushions out, use a bottle of vinegar to target the most troublesome spots and let them soak for about ten to fifteen minutes. You don’t need much for each stain, just enough to penetrate the fibers.

Rinse out your scrub brush (to get rid of all the spores from before) and scrub over the whole thing, rinsing every once in a while to make sure you aren’t dragging dirt and grit from one part of the hammock to the other. This is where laying the hammock out makes things so much easier than trying to scrub at it while it’s still hanging up. When you’ve successfully scrubbed over one side, pick up your hammock, rinse off the tarp, and flip over the hammock to scrub the other side.

If this process didn’t completely clear out every single mildew and algae stain, grab a box of baking soda. Scrub the baking soda into the stains after letting it sit for fives minutes, then rinse the brush.

Take a bowl of warm water, add a squirt of mild dish soap, and mix it up with your hands. Using the rinsed brush, give each stain another good scrubbing. Keep the brush rinsed whenever possible, as it will prevent grit and grime from getting back into the fibers. Once you’re done scrubbing away, take your garden hose and rinse until the tarp runs clear. Try to avoid the spreader bars or hooks if you can because rust is no one’s friend. Remove the tarp and hang the hammock off a laundry line, over the deck railing, whatever allows it to remain in the sun to dry completely. Returning it to the shade will just start the process all over again, and no one needs that. If you have wooden spreader bars, make sure they dry as well.

Advanced Cleaning Techniques

By now, you’ve successfully removed all but the most aggravating of stains from your hammock or outdoor cushions. If this isn’t the case, you should consider using diluted oxygen bleach (not chlorine bleach) if some still remain.

Chlorine bleach like the classic Clorox will damage and weaken the fabric and fibers, and can react with the vinegar or household ammonia to create toxic gases. So needless to say, avoid that at all costs! An oxygen bleach is a gentler, more environmentally friendly option in the long run. While slightly more expensive, oxygen bleaches like Oxiclean, Oxi Stain Remover, and Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Bleach will break down into safe neutral components as the oxygen is released, leaving only water behind. Powdered oxygen stain remover may take a little longer to dissolve in water and start working, but the benefits (a longer-lasting, brighter hammock) far outweigh the cost.

Don’t pour the oxygen bleach solution directly on the hammock or cushions. Dip the brush and use that to power away the most stubborn of spots. Rinse with the garden hose and hang to dry, preferably outside where the sun and wind can help dry and disperse the smell of cleaning agents.