Purchasing outdoor furniture should be considered a good investment and with proper care, your patio furnishings can last for many years to come. We all know that winter can create havoc on anything that we leave outside. Whether its bitter cold temperatures, snow, rain or wind, there is very little that can withstand these harsh elements.
Therefore, when the days start to grow shorter and the weather turns crisp, it’s time to winterize your outdoor furnishings. The good news? This extra attention and a little elbow grease are well worth the effort.
First things first. Obviously, patio furniture comes in all different shapes, sizes and materials. What’s good for one type of furnishing may be bad for another. When purchasing your patio equipment, make sure you are well aware of the cleaning methods of your particular choice. It’s always a good idea to check warranties as well as if the furniture is water and stain repellent. Poorer quality furniture may only last a few seasons as they are usually made with cheaper materials that are easily damaged in cold temperatures.
Let’s take it step by step.
For those that have extra room in their basement, garage or enclosed outdoor shed, you can simply store your furniture inside during the winter months. But for many, this is not an option. A good alternative is to use outdoor furniture covers that are designed to protect furniture from the harsh cold but also keep it free from wind, dust and creatures that may like to find warmth from the dropping temperatures. The key is to find covers that are properly sized. Don’t select covers one size up if they don’t match the dimensions on your furniture. Instead, consider custom covers that fit your patio furnishings exactly. This will provide the protection that you need as too big coverings can easily blow away in the wind, allow moisture to set in and create an opening for pests to get inside.
When purchasing covers for your outdoor furniture, you may want to consider features such as elastic hems, zippers, Velcro or other useful purposes to ensure that your furnishings stay dry. Water damage is often the biggest culprit in damaging patio furniture.
But before you even think of covering your furnishings and prior to that first cold snap, take advantage of one of the last warmer days to thoroughly clean your furniture. Precision Properties, an investment company that sells real estate in Fayetteville, NC says, “With your furniture’s heavy use during the summer months, bird droppings, etc., it is in need of a good cleaning. By doing this, you are ensuring your furniture will continue to look its best and will last for several more seasons. This will also aid in the selling process come spring.” Different furniture styles require particular methods of cleaning.
Patio furniture made from teak wood is considered among the most expensive outdoor furnishings available. This is because it is durable, stylish and comes from mature teak trees that possess natural oils that provide greater weather resistant materials than any other type of wood.
As teak weathers over time, the wood turns from a brown to a silver gray finish. The color change does affect its durability so teak furniture can be left alone or a teak sealer or teak oil can be applied to retain its original color.
Cleaning teak is quite simple. Spray your furniture with a garden hose. If you have stains, simply sand away with a fine-grit sandpaper. Keep in mind that if you move teak furniture from the outdoors into a heated room, the difference in temperatures may cause issues with the wood such as splitting. After cleaning, let it dry naturally before using high quality covers.
Wicker and Rattan:
Wicker furniture is not intended to be outdoor furniture because it is extremely vulnerable to harsh weather elements, especially moisture and wind. Despite this, wicker furnishings are very popular even though its life span won’t last long if left outside and without proper treatment.
To clean wicker furniture, use a mild detergent with a damp soft scrub brush. Murphy Oil Soap works well also. Hose down with a gentle spray and dry with a clean dry towel or allow to sit in sun to dry completely. If dirt gets into the crevices, use a dry paint brush to gently wipe away. Always keep wicker furniture away from salt water and from outdoor fire pits or any open flame. To minimize fading, keep it out of continuous periods of sunlight. Wicker furniture should be brought inside in the cold winter months.
Many assume that cane and wicker are one and the same. Actually, cane is the material used in creating wicker furniture and wicker is the weaving method. Cane is the outer layer of the bark on the rattan plant. It is ultimely processed then woven into furniture.
Cleaning cane furniture is a bit different than wicker. Here, furnishings should be cleaned with a slightly damp, cloth in mild soapy water. Some suggest using a bit of good furniture polish on a soft rag and wipe thoroughly. With hard to get to dust between the grooves, use a dry paintbrush or vacuum with a small brush attachment. Never apply harsh chemicals, such as thinners, or any abrasive creams as they can stain. To prevent cane from turning yellow, add lemon juice and salt to warm water and with a brush, scrub the furniture.
Unlike wicker furniture, it is not recommended to hose cane furnishings with water.
Aluminum furniture is very sturdy, durable and low maintenance. Because of its resistance to rust, this is a very popular style of outdoor furniture. There are three different types of aluminum patio furniture:
Wrought and Tubular: This style is an excellent choice as you can leave it outside in any type of weather, whether it is wind, sleet, snow or rain. Affordable, this is a popular style of furniture for those watching their budget. To clean, simply spray with water and wipe with a mild soap to remove dust, pollen, salt air and chemicals. Do not use with any abrasive cleaners or power washer.
Cast Aluminum: Cast Aluminum can improve the look of any deck. With its classic designs it is a popular choice that fits into traditional or contemporary lifestyles. This resilient furniture is built to last and considered an investment, as it is costly.
Like Wrought and Tubular aluminum, Cast furnishings require little care. However, it is important to clean and protect the finish, as unfinished aluminum will oxidize. Specialty outdoor furniture stores offer cleaners that will protect your aluminum furniture without using toxic chemicals. But for overall cleaning, simply wash with a mild soap and clear water.
While aluminum furniture is the most durable, it is always a good idea to store inside during the winter months, particular cast aluminum if you live in an extreme climates, such as the beach. The wind and sand can prove abrasive to the finish.
Helpful hint: With aluminum furniture, and if the finish is smooth, apply auto wax twice a year to help maintain the furniture’s luster. The wax provides a barrier between the furniture and pollen, dirt and rain. If your furniture has chipped paint, lightly rub with a medium grit sandpaper and carefully apply matching paint to the affected area. A specialty outdoor furniture store can offer additional information.
Plastic and Vinyl:
The key to plastic and vinyl patio furniture is to keep it looking new and clean. While this is a popular, affordable and excellent choice for outdoor furniture, harsh weather can take its toll and make it look dirty and worn if left outside consistently.
Fortunately, cleaning plastic or vinyl patio furniture is quite easy. For standard use, simply spray with a water hose regularly to remove light debris. However, before storing this furniture away for winter, a good cleaning is recommended. Use hot water and a mild detergent with a soft brush to scrub away dirt or mud. A natural cleaner that works well with this type of furniture is vinegar diluted in hot water. Scrub down the furniture then rinse with a garden hose.
Keep in mind that plastic and vinyl furniture should not be cleaned with any abrasive products or a strong brush, as it will scratch the furniture. Use only a sponge, soft cotton cloth or rag. Once the furniture is rinsed, let it dry and store if possible.
When summer eases down, chances are, your patio umbrella is in need of a good cleaning. With dust, bird droppings, falling leaves and other debris making its mark, it’s best to wash prior to storing for the winter.
With your patio umbrella, lay a large blanket or tarp on the ground. Open the umbrella and lay it on the covering. Wet it with a garden hose and with a cloth or sponge, lightly clean with a mild detergent mixed in warm water. Either a laundry detergent or dishwashing soap will do. Rinse well with clean water. Stand the umbrella upright and let it dry in the sun before storing. Avoid using any abrasive or harsh cleansers when cleaning your umbrella as it can destroy its finish.
Regularly cleaning your outdoor furniture will help preserve its life and maintain its finish. All it takes is a free afternoon and the help of a few tools: a good sponge, cleaning detergent, scrub brush and a garden hose to transform your patio furniture from dirty, to sparkling clean.