Outdoor Furniture

Aluminum

There are two types of aluminum furniture. Painted and not painted. The painted aluminum can be treated like any other painted metal surface. Clean it with a mild soap and water, rinse it to remove sticky soap residue, and protect it with an automotive paste wax.

Unfinished aluminum doesn’t rust, however it does oxidize. This type of corrosion actually protects the metal from the elements, however it is not nearly as brilliant as the piece looked originally. This can be rectified by using a metal polishing paste. This paste has very fine abrasives, which actually remove the oxidation. Once polished up, protect this surface with an automotive paste wax. Bad oxidation may cause pitting which looks like small specks, however the metal polish will not be able to remove deep pitting with a light polish. Alkaline cleaners will CAUSE oxidation, so avoid chemicals like ammonia (found in Windex), and TSP. If a piece is lightly oxidized (from pollution) try an acidic solution (1:1) of white vinegar and water.

Cushions

Wiped regularly, store out of the sun and rain, and keep away from the elements of winter. Cushions designed for exterior household use will last a very long time. These cushions are usually made with a water and mildew resistant fabric, however continued saturation in rain water, beneath feet of snow, or soaked in beer and little Johnny’s ketchup, will drastically shorten their useful lifespan.

Fill your tub, or a large rubber maid bin or garbage can with mild detergent and hot water. If the cushions are solid white add bleach for a 1:4 ratio, to help kill any mildew. Rinse thoroughly. For colored cushions, you cannot use bleach without damaging the color, so be certain to wash these more frequently.

Dry, in the sunshine for a couple of days. This will lighten stains and help kill any remaining mildew.

Hammocks

Hammocks are like big outdoor air filters. They collect dust, pollution, bird and bug excrement, mold spores, not to mention the beer and crumbs you add to the fabric. When you put up your hammock for the season, spray it with two light coats of a commercial water-repellent such as Scotchgard Heavy-Duty Water Repellent. This protectant will be removed after washing, so it is a good idea to re-apply after each washing and at the beginning of the season. It will protect the fabric from becoming saturated quickly with water, and it makes cleaning easier. This is not a replacement for taking down your hammock during heavy rains, but damage is much less likely to occur if you forget to take it down during a sudden rain shower.

To wash your hammock, lay it on a nonabrasive surface like a clean wooden deck, or on a clean nylon tarp. Hose it down thoroughly and scrub it using a soft brush and a solution of warm water and some liquid dish soap. Rinse the hammock off, and turn it over, and clean the other side. Again, rinse it thoroughly, and hang it in the sun to dry. If night falls before it dries, hang it in your garage or basement.  Any moisture in a fabric can cause damage, especially when it is cool and out of direct sunlight.

Hanging the hammock in the sunshine is also the only way to bleach it whiter. Never use chlorine bleach, as it will weaken the fibers, and they are the only thing between you relaxing in the breeze or falling onto the lawn.

Metal (Iron) Cast and Formed

Iron rusts. Remembering that will drive everything you do in keeping your furniture looking good. When you wash it, check for paint damage, and the tell tale rust. If you catch this damage early, it can prevent a great deal of subsequent damage. Sand the rust off, along with the damaged paint right down to bare metal, then prime, and paint with a rust resistant paint. When washing use a mild detergent, scrub the surface gently and rinse with a low pressure hose. Dirt, and dust on the surface will hold moisture against the paint, which will lead to premature failure of the coating. To keep your furniture in good condition, the first step is to keep it clean.

The second best advice is to apply two coats of automotive paste wax, which will help keep moisture away from the surface. This may be impractical with some detailed designs, so you can also try a spray on liquid wax. This wax is not as durable, however it will easily reach into tight corners and doesn’t need to be buffed as vigorously.

Patio Furniture

Most patio furniture is made of a resin plastic, which is very durable, and inexpensive. It’s one failing is that the finish, while being very smooth, is also slightly porous, which attracts and holds stains. It is wise to protect new furniture with an automotive paste wax, to repel water borne dust and make cleaning easier. This is made all the worse when you consider the most popular color is white, and this furniture is usually left outdoors for seasons, if not years at a time. Washing these chairs in the spring, and again in the fall before you store them, will help immensely, as does storing them in a shed or garage through the winter.

Spray down the furniture with a garden hose, and then scrub with a mild detergent and warm water, before rinsing the furniture off. There are some chemicals marketed specifically for this purpose, but nothing has come close to a product called Simple Wash made by Biowash (www.biowash.com). It can be found in many large Home Centers, and if your local store doesn’t carry this product, ASK them to. Just sponge it on, let it sit or give a quick scrub for heavily soiled furniture, then rinse it off. It is environmentally friendly, so it won’t kill your grass, either.

To help brighten white furniture, set it in the sunshine for the natural bleaching effect of the sun. You can even wax these chairs with automotive paste wax. This will make water bead off, and make washing them much easier.

Bleach can be used for cleaning, however it is not good for the environment, or your new blue jeans. When cleaning avoid solvents as they can eat away the plastic and make the furniture surface a sticky goo.

Sun Shade Patio Umbrellas

Clean your patio umbrella annually before putting it into storage for the season. Wash with a mild solution of dishwashing detergent and warm water, and then rinse thoroughly. Don’t leave this task until the day the snow begins to fall, as the umbrella should be left open in bright sunshine for a full day, to be certain it is dried completely. If there is ANY moisture in the umbrella, you can be almost certain to find mildew growing in the spring when you go to set it up again.

If your umbrella is made of vinyl, and it will not come clean with mild detergent, try an automotive convertible top cleaner.

Wood

There are dozen of types of wood such as cedar, pine, spruce, or mahogany, but the ultimate wood for outdoor furniture is Teak.  Teak is very expensive, but it contains a naturally occurring oil, that makes it especially resistant to wet environments.  All wood furniture is best stored indoors through the winter, and should be cleaned once or twice a year. There are some excellent products that help lighten darkened wood, as well as oils, stains, and polyurethane coatings that can add a durable protective finish on wood furniture. When washing wood, use a mild detergent, and gently scrub and rinse with a low pressure garden hose.

Painted wood can be wiped down, but avoid high pressure sprays, as it may flake off the paint entirely. With care, even outside wood furniture can last for decades.

Overview of Pool Opening Procedure:

A pool properly maintained during the winter months can be prepared for a new season of swimming with a minimum of effort.

Pump, hose, or sweep away water, dirt, or debris from the cover and deck.

Remove the cover and plugs from all openings. If the water was in good shape at the end of last season, proper cover removal will ensure that your pool opens relatively clear. If they were removed at the pool closing, raise the underwater lights from the bottom of the pool and install them in their niches

Turn on the electric power and start up the support system. Check for leaks and proper operation. If you find any problems, consult your owner’s manual or contact a local pool service company.

Have the heater professionally serviced before you use it.

Test and adjust the pH and total alkalinity.

Super chlorinate and adjust the PH & Alkalinity levels of the water.

Run the pump 24 hours a day at the beginning of the season when it may be difficult to get the pool water balanced. You can reduce the pump operating time in one-hour increments once you’ve got the water in shape.

Treat the water with an algaecide. After several hours of operation, test the chlorine level and adjust it as needed. If the chlorine level is high, do not use the pool until it drops to normal levels

Opening the Pool (General):

The reopening process begins the moment the pool is closed. By keeping an eye on the pool over the winter, the reopening process becomes that much easier. Snow or rain can raise the water level or sink the cover. Since heavy debris can fall in, it is better to remove it immediately than waiting till the spring.

Reopening the pool entails reversing the instructions for closing it. The following is a handy checklist:

Supplies

Take the supplies (chemicals) out of storage and replace those that have exceeded the expiration date.

Uncover

Remove the cover, and then clean it. Allow it to dry (to prevent mildew) before folding and storing it for the summer.

Equipment

Reinstall or reassemble the pump, filter, and other removed items.

Deck

Reinstall ladders, diving board, and other deck fittings. If used at closing time, most of the petroleum jelly used to coat exposed metal fittings will have weathered off. Use a dry terry cloth towel to wipe off the remainder if necessary.

Plumbing

Remove the plugs and replace return outlet fittings.

Refilling the Pool

Bring the water level up to normal.

Electrical

Restore circuit breakers, switches, and time clock trippers to normal operating positions.

Cleaning

Restart the circulation equipment and clean the pool.

Chemistry

Balance the water chemistry and check the levels frequently during the first few days (until they stabilize). Run the circulation system 24 hours straight for three days or until the water has cleared completely. Depending on how dirty the pool became over the winter, the filter must be backwashed frequently during this period.

Opening the Pool (Detailed):

1- Remove the leaves and debris from the pool cover with a leaf net and/or skimmer net. Pump off any excess rain water with a submersible pump. If an above ground pool, the excess water may be siphoned off instead.

2- Remove cover. Try to minimize the amount of water and/or debris that gets into the pool water. Some dirty water will always manage to get in – don’t worry about it. You will be adding shock to the water and filtering it soon, so a little dirty water will not hurt anyone !

3- Lay out pool cover and sweep or brush off any remaining debris. If you do not store your cover indoors, and you keep it outside or in a shed, then you do not have to worry about getting the cover particularly spotlessly clean. If you do keep it in the garage or basement, you may want to clean it to a greater extent. Properly fan-fold cover and store away.

4- Empty the water out of any water tubes you may have. On above ground pools, deflate the air pillow. Clean off items and fold properly and store away.

5- Unplug all piping, both in the pool and at the filter system area.

6- Re-attach any deck equipment you have such as ladders, rails, diving boards, etc. Make sure to reconnect any grounding wires or straps that may have been attached to the metal parts last year.

7- Lubricate all bolts on the dive board, ladders and/or rails. This will prevent them from rusting over the summer. Remember, you are probably the one who will be closing the pool, so you want the bolts to come off easy at closing time !

8- Re-install the skimmer baskets and any return jet eyeball fittings. If an above ground pool, you may have to re-attach the actual skimmer and return fittings onto the pool (depending on how the pool was closed). If an above ground pool, also hookup any hoses from the skimmer and return jets to the pump and filter.

9- Hook up pump, filter and any other additional equipment you might have (booster pumps, spa equipment, waterfall circulation pumps, heaters, etc.).

10- Turn on the power to the pool system. You may have to turn on the circuit breaker from the house. Start and check system. Check for leaks or drips. Make sure any grounding straps or wires are properly connected to the pump and any other components that need them. Make sure pump primes properly. Check for proper flow. Backwash the filter thoroughly. Add new DE if you have a DE filter. If some pieces of equipment do not appear to be operating properly, you might want to first check our INFO/TIPS page under the POOL TROUBLESHOOTING section. If you cannot repair the problem yourself, contact a local pool professional for assistance.

11- Shock the pool with any chlorine shock product. This is available in liquid or granular form. You want to add enough to raise the chlorine level of the pool to at least 3.0 ppm (darker yellow color in most liquid test kits). If you use granular shock, do not throw it directly into the pool ! You could bleach and stain the liner. It is best to mix the granular shock chlorine in a bucket and then add that mixture into the skimmer while the system is running.

12- If your pool is a “green swamp” when you open it, see the poolandspa.com TIPS/INFO section under HOW TO CLEAR A GREEN POOL for further information.

13- If your pool water is relatively clear, accurately test your water for chlorine, PH and Alkalinity levels. If available, also test for Stabilizer (cyanuric acid). Adjust these chemicals to the proper levels. Add a high quality algaecide to the water. See our TIPS/INFO section under EZ POOL WATER CHEMISTRY section for more information.

14- Let pool run for at least 24 hours. Vacuum any debris out of the bottom. Retest water. Do not go into pool until water is crystal clear and chlorine level is under 2.0 ppm (medium yellow color on most test kits). –

Uh oh … Houston, we have a problem

Sometimes things don’t go so smoothly after you open your pool. Here are some common problems and what actions you should take:

1- Obvious drips coming from filter tank, pump or visible pipes. Try tightening the fittings. If you cannot get leaks to stop, contact a local pool professional.

2- Sand in pool under or near the return jets. This may mean the pool has an underground pipe leak or, if you have a sand filter, it could mean that something in the sand filter is cracked. If you are loosing water as well, we suggest contacting a local pool professional. If you are not losing water, then take apart the sand filter and look for a cracked part.

3- DE in pool under or near the return jets. This means that there is something in the DE filter that is ripped or cracked. Take the filter apart and look for cracked part or ripped element.

4- DE filter isn’t putting out enough water pressure and/or isn’t effectively filtering the pool. You should backwash the filter immediately. Add new DE. If problem persists, filter may be in need of an “acid wash”. If you do not know how to do this, we suggest contacting a local pool professional.

5- Sand filter isn’t putting out enough water pressure and/or isn’t effectively filtering the pool. You should backwash the filter immediately. If problem persists, filter may be in need of a sand change. If you do not know how to do this, we suggest contacting a local pool professional.

6- You notice many air bubbles mixing with the water coming out of the return jets. Probably means that there is a suction line leak, usually under or by the skimmers. You could try digging down and see what you can see, but we suggest contacting a local pool professional to repair something like this !

7- You notice settled or wet dirt. You see bricks or patio blocks around the skimmers or return jets settling or sinking into the ground. Probably means an underground pipe leak at that point. You could try digging down and see what you can see, but we suggest contacting a local pool professional to repair something like this !

8- Pump makes a loud squealing noise, it heats up or is not running to its full capability. This indicates that the pump is in need of professional service. Either remove it and bring it to a pool store or pump shop for repair – or replace the pump.

9- You notice that your pool is losing water…

>>> If the pool water level goes down to the bottom of the skimmer and stops, this usually means that it is a suction line leak, most likely directly under the skimmer. We suggest contacting a local pool professional to repair something like this !

>>> If the pool water level goes down to the bottom of the return jets and then stops, this usually means that it is a return line leak, most likely directly by the wall jet return fitting – but it could be anywhere in the return line. We suggest contacting a local pool professional to repair something like this !

>>> If the pool water level goes down to the top, middle or bottom of the light unit, this usually means that the light is leaking. This is usually the fitting in the light niche where the metal or plastic conduit pipe is attached to the metal niche. We suggest contacting a local pool professional to repair something like this !

>>> If the water level goes down to any other level on the side walls and then stops, this usually means that the leak is in the liner on the pool side wall or possibly in the step unit gasket. Inspect the pool visually around the water level and check to see if you can see a hole. Check the area where the LADDER comes in contact with the liner. This is a very common leak point ! If you cannot clearly see a leak hole, we suggest contacting a local pool professional to locate & repair the leak.

>>> If the water level goes down past they side walls, then it usually means that the leak is in the pool floor. This is bad ! You do not want all the water to drain out of the pool. It is bad for the liner and very bad for the pool walls – you do not want the pool to fall in ! If you see that you are quickly losing all the water in your pool, put a hose in the pool, start to refill it and contact a local pool professional to locate & patch the hole.

Information compiled from articles found on Poolandspa.com (www.poolandspa.com)

Skylights

The snow piles up on them, trees dump sap and leaves on them, mildew can grow on them, and we won’t even discuss what birds do to them.  Okay, we will…did you hear about the rich pigeon?  He just made a deposit on a BMW.  Same thing for skylights, except that if you have to look up at “the deposit” during breakfast every morning, it isn’t all that funny.

You should clean your skylights once or twice a year to keep the grime from building up, and permanently damaging the surface, especially on Plexiglas skylights.  The grime and dirt can cause minute scratches to Plexiglas skylights, which will leave them with a clouded appearance.  This can be expected for older skylights, as Plexiglas degrades over time, or even for new skylights in areas that have acidic rainfall.  One great, albeit unusual tip, for Plexiglas and regular glass, is to wax the skylight with an automotive paste wax after it has been cleaned thoroughly.  A couple coats of wax, will protect against environmental damage, and will make rainfall bead off…..so you can see those horrible grey clouds.

Try to clean the inside and exterior on the same day.  Start on the inside by moving any furniture from beneath the skylight opening and lay a plastic cloth on the ground to catch any spills. Skylights are rarely placed for cleaning convenience, so determine the safest way to access the opening. Is it over a tub? Above a staircase? On a vaulted ceiling?  The inside doesn’t get very dirty, unless the skylight is in a kitchen, above a shower or tub, or near a fireplace. Usually the worst problem is spider webs, followed by grease build-up, and plain old dust.

If the skylight is flat glass, use a squeegee on the end of a broom stick or extension pole.  See the Window section for specific instructions.  For ‘bubble’ style lights, use a regular glass cleaner. If the skylight can not be reached by hand, try spraying some window cleaner on a clean rag draped over a broom. Replace that rag with a fresh, dry rag, to wipe off any residue and prevent streaks.

KEEP THE PLASTIC DROP SHEET IN PLACE WHILE CLEANING THE EXTERIOR!

  • Bring up a bucket with dish soap and a sponge to the roof.  Don’t fill it with water until you are on the roof. 
  • Take up your garden hose, and hose down the skylight. 
  • Fill your bucket with water, and wash the skylight with the sponge.
  •  Rinse thoroughly. If there is sap, bird, or bug excrement, use a citrus based cleaner. Be certain to test any chemical on a corner of the skylight to be certain it does not damage Plexiglas skylight lenses.

Safety:  It is advisable to have someone spot you when climbing the ladder. Always use caution on a wet roof or ladder. Never take undue risks, if in doubt, call a professional!

Bricks and foundation masonry

A question recently submitted:

The rocks on the lower part of our house are discolored. I am assuming that it is mold as it is along the lower part and where I have done a lot of watering.

How is this best way of cleaning this off?  We don’t want to use anything that will damage the mortar.

Masonry can discolour for a number of reasons. Most masonry cleaners are acidic in nature and will remove most mildew or algae that grow on rock work. You have to be careful with bleach based products that will hurt your soil and produce some nasty effluent. Look for a environmentally friendly product such as a biodegradable cleaner that will not kill your grass.  A little elbow grease and a long handled brush should do the trick.

To prevent this from happening in the future, apply an inexpensive masonry sealer to the rockwork and mortar. It will provide an attractive “wet look” if desired and prevent penetration of organic matter that can lead to mildew and algae growth.

Window mounted Air Conditioner

Remove the air conditioner from the window.

Depending on the size of the air conditioner its best to take it out of the window if possible. Some air conditioners that cool large size rooms can be very heavy. Once removed you can take it outside in close proximity to a garden hose.

When removing the faceplate there are a few screws that you have to remove to pull of the faceplate. If your room air conditioner has knobs on the front remove those too. Remove the faceplate and wash it using a garden hose to spray out all the dust and dirt. When you’re done you can wipe it down with a magic eraser.  Rinse the faceplate and let it sit in the sun to dry.

Remove the filter. Most air conditioner filters can be cleaned. You can use a hose or compressed air and make sure it gets cleaned thoroughly. Older window air conditioners had replaceable filters, but no matter which one you are cleaning, make sure to replace or clean the filter so no dust or dirt remains. If you spray it with water allow it to dry before re-installing.

Cleaning the air conditioner unit.  The easiest and most thorough method is to spray the coils with a garden hose. Avoid spraying the motor (wrapping a plastic bag around the fan motor can help keep it dry) although the fan motor is typically sealed and water won’t get inside.  Dust and dirt makes the unit work harder and use more electricity. The unit will cycle more often when dirty which can cause blown fuses and circuit breakers.

Once you have cleaned the coils wipe the unit down and put it back together. Allow it to dry before replacing it in the window, over night is ideal.  Once you turn the unit on, you will notice the difference in how much colder it gets, and the fact the compressor will cycle on less frequently.

paint brushes

Cleaning brushes can be a pain but it will save you money to not have to buy brushes every time you have to paint.

Latex Paint

Wash immediately after painting with warm soapy water. Do not soak overnight. Comb and straighten bristles before storing.

Oil Paint

Clean immediately after painting using a solvent (paint thinner) or cleaner recommended by the manufacturer. Do not soak overnight. Comb and straighten bristles before storing.

If I am in a hurry and can’t clean the brushes I wrap them tightly in a plastic bag and place it in the freezer. This prevents the paint from drying out before I have to use it again.

Barbecue – Outside

Here is a question submitted by Diane:

There is a saying in the cleaning business, “let the chemical do the work for you” You need to use a heavy duty degreaser, if you are cleaning the BBQ on a regular basis then just a spray mixture of 1 ounce of dish soap and water in a spray bottle would be effective.

But if your like me (I have not cleaned mine since I bought it) you will need a commercial grade degreaser which you can get at any major hardware store or janitorial supply store and just spray on let it sit for several minutes agitate a little with a medium brush and hose off. If you can’t hose off just use a bucket and a sponge with clean water.

In some cases I have heard off people using a pressure washer to wash down their BBQ, but the way I see it if you have to use a pressure washer you may as well same yourself to trouble and just buy a new BBQ.

Barbecues

Tools & Techniques:
Keep your barbeque clean by cleaning every time you use it. Start it up and use a grill scraper scrape the grill before you start cooking. If you have a porcelain grill, soak and clean it when you do your dishes in your sink. Scraping the porcelain will damage it.

You will from time to time have to clean the burner to keep the burner holes clean. The flame coming from the burner should be blue, if the flame is orange or red you may need to replace or clean the burner. At this time you should also check the gas supply tubes to be sure that there are no obstructions. If you use your barbeque heavily you may want to spray a food safe organic cleaner or degreaser and let it sit for a while and hose the entire barbeque off. And for safety sake on your BBQ, you should only open the propane tank valve half a turn. It will work just as well and if there is ever an emergency, you can shut off the gas in an instant!

Cleaning Particles From Swimming Pool

Here is a question from Angelina;

I can’t get the little particles out of my pool, they just go through the net.

Pool season is once again upon us, which is great except all the work to get the pool going. What would help you a great deal is a clarifier which helps maintain the sparkle by coagulating small particles into larger masses which will enable your filter or skimmer to remove them. You should add clarifier as part of your start up procedure. You should read the directions of the brand you buy however since there are many chemical makers with different concentrations etc.

Watch the filter pressure and back wash as necessary since the particulates will fill the filter (which is what you want in order to have sparkling water).
A pool supply store is a great resource, they usually test your water for free and they test everything from ph to calcium hardness etc. which is essential if you want your pool components to last. Have Fun!

Before & After Cleaning

General Information:
Have a specific area set aside for your cleaning supplies. It will be easier and more enjoyable to clean if your supplies are easy to find and ready to go.

Keep your tools clean. Finish your job by cleaning your equipment and storing it properly. Wash out mops, sponges, cloths, etc. and hang to dry. Store your brooms and brushes off their bristles to prevent deformation. Keep your chemical products properly sealed and out of children’s reach.

Replace items as soon as they are worn or empty. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to start a job but not having the proper supplies available.

Don’t keep around old, expired, or useless items to clutter up your supplies.