With summer right around the corner, you will be glad you spent the time to prepare your outdoor furniture for fun in (or out of) the sun! No matter what type of outdoor furniture you have, and no matter where you store it out of season, a buildup of dirt and dust needs to be removed to prepare for a thorough cleaning.
Spray furniture with a hose and wipe it with a soft cloth to easily remove this layer of grime. As you are wiping down the furniture, make sure to assess the condition of the hardware. The bolts holding your table, chairs, or chaise lounges together should be replaced if they are rusted or any are missing.
If algae are present, remove and sterilize the furniture before proceeding. Purchase a fungicidal wash to kill the algae and spores, or for a DIY mixture, combine household bleach with water, and spray directly on the spots. Set for 24 hours, then wash with clean water. You may need to use a scrub brush to ensure it is all removed, then repeat as needed. If you are prepping wood or wicker furniture, be sure to wipe it down with a dry towel as soon as possible after cleaning, regardless of when you finish the summer preparation work.
WICKER OR WOODEN FURNITURE
Wooden or wicker furniture takes more work than other types of outdoor furniture. An in-depth annual treatment can maintain the beautiful look of either material. Begin by filling a five-gallon bucket of water with one cup of white vinegar and a quarter cup of Dawn dishwashing liquid (or any dish soap that cuts grease). Wipe the furniture with a terry cloth towel, let sit for five minutes, and rinse thoroughly. Dry immediately with a soft cloth.
Condition the wooden or wicker furniture with teak oil or a wood oil blend. This is generally applied with a paintbrush and helps protect the natural materials from sun and rain damage, which cause graying of the wood. UV-blocking sealants can be applied (in addition to the oil) to provide further protection against the sun.
When applying any treatment to wood or wicker, make sure everything is clean and dry to assure proper painting. Follow the directions on the chosen product and apply in a systematic manner. Rotate the furniture to ensure full coverage. Brush out any drips or pools of oil, so they do not dry. If teak oil does not complete the job, consider fully re-sanding and re-staining the furniture. Apply a sealant to protect the like-new appearance.
To keep outdoor furniture looking its best all summer, hose down wicker once or twice a month to prevent dirt buildup in crevices, then wipe the wood with a damp (not wet) cloth.
Regardless of the type of outdoor furniture, take any cushions off and dust the fabric with a soft bristled brush. To spot clean, combine a quarter cup of white vinegar with sixteen ounces of water and one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid. If necessary, take a hand vacuum to the cushion to remove more stubborn particles. If the fabric is really holding on to dirt and dust, consider pressure washing.
To spot clean, combine a quarter cup of white vinegar with sixteen ounces of water and one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid. Saturate the stain and let it sit for fifteen minutes (out of direct sunlight). Spray with a hose and stand each cushion on edge in the sunlight to dry. Continue to dust and vacuum and rotate the cushions throughout the season of use. Protect your fabric by treating with a weather-proofing spray. This will aid in repelling spills and water and (bonus) can slow down sun fading. If any water does pool on the cushion, be sure to wipe it off as soon as possible.
Finally, if the fabric is damaged but inserts remain in good shape, have the cushions reupholstered. There are many weather-resistant fabrics on the market. This technology adds to the cost of the fabric but pays for itself by extending the life of the material.
With proper care and maintenance, metal furnishings can last a lifetime. Begin by spraying the furniture down with a hose. Then, use a soft bristled brush, looking for any chipped or flaking paint.
Chipped paint exposes the metal base that allows water to adhere to the metal and create rust. If no chipped paint is found, simply wipe the furniture with a soft cloth after brushing. For areas with chipped or flaking paint, use a steel brush to remove the paint and create a scuff on the surface. Dust any particles off and apply a coat of paint to this area to match the rest of the piece. If a full renovation of the furniture is needed, scuff the entire surface with fine-grained sandpaper. Spray painting is surprisingly easy. Painting wrought iron furniture is not recommended. Rather, consider having it professionally sandblasted, and powder coated every other year, or as needed.
UMBRELLAS AND AREA RUGS
To complement your outdoor furniture, add umbrellas and outdoor rugs. To prepare for summertime use, just unroll the rug and slightly open the umbrella. Use a broom to brush and loosen dust. Then, hose away any remaining debris. Dry completely in the sun before placing the rug under the furniture or closing the umbrella.
PLASTIC OR RESIN FURNITURE
Plastic or resin furnishings are relatively inexpensive and difficult to damage. Some styles are designed to look like wood or wicker; their smooth surfaces make this furniture easier to clean than their organic counterparts.
Begin by spraying the furniture with a hose to dislodge the larger particles of dust, cobwebs, etcetera. Next, fill a bucket with slightly soapy water and use a cloth to wipe the furniture on the front, back, and undersides of each piece. To prevent streaks, rinse, then dry with a soft cloth. Plastic furniture should be kept out of direct sunlight and extreme heat, as some pieces can become soft and warped.
Once complete, take a few minutes to admire your work. Then, pour yourself a cold drink and sit down and relax on your clean outdoor furniture!