Ah, the great outdoors. Who doesn’t enjoy lounging on the deck or dining al fresco when the weather is warm and sunny? But Mother Nature can wreak havoc on your outdoor furniture, cutting years of enjoyment off of its life.
Can damage to your treasured—and costly—outdoor furniture be prevented or reversed? We’ll show you ways to protect, store, and clean outdoor furniture to maximize its longevity and improve its appearance. Follow our tips and tricks to ensure your outdoor furniture lasts for years—maybe even decades.
Your outdoor furniture faces two big enemies: water and the sun. Water is nothing if not persistent—it gets into every crack, cranny, and crevice of your furniture and settles in to wreak havoc. Sun can destroy furniture over time; its unrelenting rays cause blistering, peeling, and dryness.
But since neither of these formidable enemies is going anywhere, you’ll need to formulate a battle plan to combat their fierce attacks on your valuable furnishings.
Paint is an easy and inexpensive way to change the look of your wood furniture and protect it at the same time. Latex paints have the best sealing properties, so they’re the paint of choice for outdoor furnishings, and they give the added bonus of protecting the wood from sun damage, too! Painting won’t last forever, of course, but it’s a semi-permanent way to stave off water and sun damage and give your furniture a fresh new look every few years.
As with the majority of metals, the big enemy for your metal furniture is rust. While most metal outdoor furniture is coated with rust-resistant paint or other finish, the coating will wear off over time. When you spot patches of rust, steel wool can help buff it away. For more difficult or wide-spread rusting, you should occasionally refinish with a rust-resistant paint, such as Rust-oleum®, to prevent further deterioration.
Wood sealant adds a layer of protection against the elements and helps preserve the beauty of your outdoor wood furniture. Sealant prevents water from penetrating the wood and helps the wood dry faster when it gets wet. You can also use wax as a sealant to protect your wood furniture. Similar to the way you would wax your car, you rub it on, let it dry and buff it off. Water and sun protection as easy as 1-2-3!
Bi-annual maintenance program
Take a few minutes at the start and end of each season to give your furniture a thorough cleaning. Hose it down, scrub off any dried-on or sticky stains, even do a quick wash with a cleaning solution appropriate for the type of furniture you have (see cleaning suggestions below). Most importantly, always allow time for your furniture to dry before storing it away for the season.
Take a good look at your patio or deck to see where water pools or where the sun is the most intense. If at all possible, avoid placing your furniture in those areas. It’s a simple way to protect and prevent water or sun damage.
If you have a place like a shed or a garage area to house your outdoor furniture for the winter, use it! The best way to add years to your furniture is to give it a few months off and away from the harsh elements of nature. There are outdoor storage bins perfect for keeping cushions dry and protected from the sun when not in use. Always properly clean and dry furniture and cushions before putting them away for the season.
Don’t have a shed at your disposal? There are hundreds of outdoor patio furniture covers you can buy that will give your valuable furniture the protection it deserves. The best part of these heavyweight covers is that you can actually use them anytime you want to give your furniture a break—no need to wait until winter to lug them into the shed. Rain in the forecast? Place the covers over your furniture. Going away for a week in July? Cover up your lounger so it doesn’t fry in the sun while you’re not there.
Seat cushions and covers need some TLC to extend their lives, too. If fabric covers zip off, you should periodically wash them according to the manufacturer’s care instructions. For cushions that don’t have zip-off covers, you can make a DIY solution with a drop or two of dishwashing liquid mixed with water and use a toothbrush or rag to treat stains. Once cleaned, fabric cushions and covers should always be air-dried.
There are many different types of outdoor furniture, each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses, and each with its best outdoor furniture cleaner recommendation. Here we break down the top four:
- Wood: Clean wood furniture with a two-to-one ratio of a laundry detergent with bleach and plain water. Apply with a soft bristle brush and hose off to remove leftover cleaner or dirt residue.
- Metal: A sponge or brush dipped into a mixture of a quarter cup of liquid dish detergent mixed into a gallon of warm water should do the trick for everyday cleanups.
- Wicker: A soapy bath of warm water mixed with liquid dish soap (two cups of water to a quarter cup of dish soap) is perfect for everyday cleaning. If you notice mold growth, add a cup of white vinegar to your soapy wash and use a toothbrush to clean hard-to-reach spots. Rinse and make sure the wicker dries thoroughly (it’s best to clean wicker on warm days), and let the furniture air dry in the sun.
- Plastic: Plastic and resin furniture are not only the most affordable but also the easiest to maintain. Avoid using abrasive cleaners, which tend to scuff the surface, and instead, opt for a spray of simple all-purpose cleaner wiped down with a damp sponge or cloth. For extra dirt or grime, spray with ordinary men’s shaving cream, let sit for 10 minutes, and wipe clean!
Your outdoor furniture can be a major investment, but with our tips and tricks, you’ll be able to enjoy it longer and keep it looking newer for years to come. Just an afternoon of cleaning and protecting, and you’ll be able to enjoy a season full of outdoor furniture fun.
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