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.

Comments

  1. A. Smith says

    I had white vinyl chairs that my husband hauled to the road to be picked up by the trash service. I told him to wait and I’d try one more thing before tossing these into the landfill. I sprayed off the chairs with the hose, scrubbed them down with a scrub brush and Dawn detergent, then rinsed with the hose. They looked better, but were still stained pretty bad. I then took a sponge paintbrush and “painted” the chairs with straight household bleach. (I wore old white clothes to do this) I let the chairs sit in the sun and viola! They were like brand new white in a few minutes. I sprayed them down again with the hose and let them dry in the sun. Then, because the chairs were pretty old and getting that chalky feel, I took Pledge furniture polish and sprayed it thickly all over the chairs and used my hands to spread the goo all over! A few more hours in the sun and you’d think I had NEW chairs! I’ve been doing this for over 10 years…every spring and the chairs have held up beautifully…and never went into the landfill!

  2. Mary T. Johnson says

    We have resin plastic patio furniture. It was painted taupe last year. My question is what should I use to wash, and, if possible, to wax or otherwise protect its surface. In the past, I have used cleansers and wax from Patio Clean, made by B.C.G.M. Inc., St-Eustache P.Q., Canada J7R 5B2. It worked well. Unfortunately I cannot seem to find it this year.

    Thank you very much

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