High-quality outdoor furniture is built to weather the elements for years. That doesn’t mean, however, that a little TLC can’t help to extend its useful life and keep it looking great longer. Maintaining these pieces doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require an understanding of how to clean and care for different types of materials and a commitment to do it on a regular basis throughout the year. This guide provides tips for looking after your patio furnishings, but you should always consult manufacturers’ manuals for the best care of your specific products.
How to clean outdoor furniture
No matter how careful you are, something is bound to spill on your patio furniture. Maybe someone drops guacamole on the cushions of your sectional deck sofa or tips over a glass wine onto the dining table in your screened-in porch. Suntan lotion is bound to get wiped onto poolside sunloungers at some point, and those are just of few of the ways people can muck up your pristine outdoor setting. Mother nature has plenty of tactics too. Wind, rain, sun, trees, bugs, birds, critters and many more things can dirty up and damage your furniture if you don’t take preventative steps and clean it regularly. But woods, metals and plastics all need to be attended to a little differently.
Woods – Cleaning tips for wooden outdoor furniture
Most wooden garden tables and seating are constructed from hardwoods that can be cleaned and cared for in a similar fashion.
- Remove light debris with a soft nylon bristled brush
- Clean the surface using a sponge or damp cloth with mild household soap and lukewarm water
- Soak up any excess water with a microfiber or lint-free cloth
- Allow the wood to dry naturally
If you’re letting the woodgrain patina (typically fade to a lighter color), then you can get by with cleaning wooden patio furniture once or twice a year. If you want to retain the wood’s natural brown color, you’ll need to clean it more regularly and treat it with furniture oil and possibly a light layer of sealant [Jirous-Rajkovic & Miklecic 2018]. The frequency is dependent on your climate and if the furniture is sheltered. Drier climates or areas with more sun exposure will require more frequent maintenance. Spills should be cleaned immediately to minimize potential staining.
Over time, teak furniture develops a pleasing silvery gray patina that’s cosmetic and not an indication of dryness or physical defect. Its natural oils help keep this hardwood strong and durable in a variety of environments, so there’s very little maintenance. In fact, teak is so weather-resistant that it doesn’t need to be stored over the winter or covered with protective tarps.
If you want to retain teak’s original golden honey finish you can periodically oil the wood. This works great if your furniture is indoors, but oiled teak is more likely to mildew and may develop irregular coloring when it’s outside. So, you might want to apply a protective sealant to keep teak’s natural color instead of oiling it or do both just to be sure.
- Give new teak furniture a couple of weeks outdoors
- Clean the wood
- Apply a thin coat of sealer
- Wait one hour before applying a second coat
- Wait an additional 4-5 hours before using the furnishings
Smoothing out weathered texture
The pores of some woods may rise after the first couple of cleanings, creating a roughened texture to the grain. You may need to lightly sand it to retain its smooth surface. Additionally, wood will expand and contract over time, so make it a point to check for loose joints each spring and tighten when needed.
Manufacturer Video Tip – Teak
Shorea (a.k.a. Meranti or Balau)
This dense tropical hardwood has a high oil concentration that lessens the chance that it will rot and protects it from insects. Like teak, shorea weathers to an attractive silvery gray color after it’s been outdoors. If you’re okay with that, you only need to lightly clean your wood patio furniture once or twice a year.
To keep its original warm reddish-brown tone, you’ll need to oil the wood every couple of months. As with teak, be sure to clean and dry shorea before applying linseed or teak oil or sealer. To be safe, test the oil on a small unnoticeable area. Rub it in using a small paintbrush or soft cloth and allow the surface to dry before seeing if you like the color or not.
Dealing with mildew and mold on wooden garden furniture
If you live in a warm and damp climate, it’s possible that mold or mildew may grow on your deck chairs and tables. These fungi are not harmful to most hardwoods, but they could leave unsightly marks and pose health risks to people and pets. Although bleach-based cleaning products are often recommended, some formulations may actually weaken wood and leave discolorations.
If after a normal cleaning, your wooden furniture still shows signs of mold or mildew, you need to step up your game. Mix a solution with the ingredients listed below and apply it to the area in question with a sponge or soft-bristled brush.
- 1 cup of ammonia
- 1/2 cup of white vinegar
- 1/4 cup of baking soda
- 1 gallon of warm to hot water
Any remaining mold that has worked its way into the wood will need to be sanded out. If that’s the case, use fine-grained sandpaper and refinish or oil the wood afterward.
Eucalyptus (a.k.a. Jarrah)
This hardwood has a lower oil content than teak or shorea and is less water-resistant. Consequently, humid environments and climates with dramatic seasonal temperature shifts can cause eucalyptus to expand and contract – compromising the structural integrity of outdoor patio furniture or deck flooring. The most common result is cracking, so it’s a good idea to oil and seal eucalyptus with a polyurethane-type varnish a few times a year. Not only will that maintain the wood’s strength and protect it from rot and insects, but it will also give eucalyptus a rich color and lustrous finish too. Clean and dry eucalyptus furniture before applying 2-3 coats of protective sealer. Allow each coat to dry for two hours before applying the next.
Be sure to wipe off any standing water after a rainfall to minimize unnecessary moisture contact. If your patio or outdoor area permits, try to keep eucalyptus tables and chairs out of direct sunlight. The UV rays can break down the wood fiber over time and cause discoloration. You can also use a vented protective vinyl cover when you’re not using your furniture to help it last longer and stay in top shape.
Ipe (a.k.a. Ironwood, Brazilian Walnut & Pao Lope)
This South American hardwood is reportedly three times as hard as teak and shares many of the same weathering characteristics. If left outside, ipe furniture will mellow from its natural dark brown color to a pewter gray. Despite the aesthetic color fade, the structural integrity of this long-lasting wood will remain strong over the years. Most of the time, light cleaning will suffice. However, should tree sap drip on it or mildew collect on the surface, you can clean ipe with a little more vigor than most hardwoods. Use a stiff brush, mild soap and water to remove or lessen difficult stains. Rinse all remaining residue off with a hose and let dry.
To retain ipe’s naturally dark color, oil it 3-4 times a year. However, before the initial oiling, you should let your furniture weather for 30-60 days. This makes it easier for the oil to penetrate the dense wood. It may also be necessary to lightly sand the surface to remove minor stains before applying the oil. Varnish or wood sealants should not be used on ipe sunroom furniture since the filmy layer will quickly flake and peel after you apply it.
Don’t worry if the wood exhibits hairline surface cracks or minor checking. This is an expected result of constant exposure to changing temperatures and the elements.
White oak is strong, waterproof and rot-resistant, but has a low oil content relative to other hardwoods used for outdoor furniture. As a result, it needs to be oiled annually and should be protected with spar varnish or exterior urethane sealant to retain its original light or stained color. Replenishing the oil content also helps to diminish weather checking that can occur when the wood is exposed to the elements for a long period of time. Without a sealant, white oak will turn dark brown or even black over time. However, it may be a good idea to let new furniture weather for a season or two before applying one. In lieu of a clear coat that allows the natural wood grain to show through, you can also paint white.
Metals – General guidelines to clean metal patio furniture frames
Metallic patio furniture looks amazing when new, but can become a point of embarrassment if neglected and allowed to rust or stain. Most frames are easily cleaned in a similar fashion, but each metal has its own characteristics and nuanced care.
- Remove any upholstered cushions or decorative throw pillows
- Lightly spray the metal outdoor furniture frames with a garden hose to wash away the most significant pieces of dirt and debris
- Wipe the metallic surfaces down using a soft cloth soaked in soapy water
- Rinse the cloth off and repeat wiping with clean water
- Dry with a microfiber or low abrasion cloth
Be sure to pay attention to the underside as well as any joints. Avoid using any acid, solvent or alcohol-based cleansers or abrasive brushes or pads that may scratch the surface.
Hairline brushed steel frames give outdoor tables and seating a sleek upscale look. However, the slightest spot or discoloration can detract from the sophisticated appeal. Greasy hands and rainfall can result in dirty and spotted metal. While furniture made from 316 marine grade stainless steel will not rust, 304 and lesser grades that are not electrostatically polished are susceptible (especially in salt air environments) [Kain 1984]. Fortunately, there are simple remedies for all of these issues to keep your stainless steel outdoor furniture in good shape.
- Greasy Fingerprints & Smudges – Rub white vinegar on the area using a damp soft cloth and rinse clean once the blemishes are gone
- Water Marks – Perform a basic cleaning, wipe any excess water from the surface and let it air dry in the shade
- Rust & Corrosion (a.k.a. Tea Staining) – Lightly scrub the surface (in the direction of the grain) with a paste of baking powder and water using a soft-bristled brush, and rinse clean with fresh water afterward
Cleaning hard water stains (calcium or lime) off steel
Water with a high mineral content can leave a chalky white residue on metal over time. Removing these unsightly stains takes a little extra work.
- Mix a solution of distilled white vinegar and water (25% vinegar for stainless steel and 50% for galvanized steel)
- Apply the solution to the metal with a spray bottle or gently rub it in using a soft cloth
- Rinse a cloth with warm water and wring it out
- Wipe the vinegar solution off with the damp cloth
- Wipe the surface with a dry cloth
Manufacturer Video Tip – Stainless Steel
This matte gray metal is protected from corrosion by a layer of zinc oxide, but that coating wears down eventually. You can slow the degradation by cleaning galvanized steel on a regular basis. Using hot water and mild dish soap, scrub the surface in small circular strokes with a soft-bristled brush. Rinse the surface with clean water and wipe dry with a microfiber cloth.
Neutralizing alkaline deposits on galvanized steel
Galvanized steel may become cloudy and dull over time due to alkaline build-up. This accumulation can also break down the layer of zinc oxide that helps protect the metal from corrosion. To restore galvanized steel’s original finish and maintain its protective layer, there’s an easy DIY solution.
- Mix a solution of 33% baby powder and 67% milk
- Apply the solution to the metallic surface with the toothbrush using small circular strokes
- Rinse with clean water
- Dry thoroughly with a soft cloth
Aluminum is easy to work with and can be used to create a myriad of interesting patio furniture designs. Though strong and lightweight, it’s is more susceptible to denting than other metals. Be careful when moving aluminum furniture for cleaning or storage. Dents compromise the strength of the metal and diminish the protective integrity of any coating.
Powder-coated aluminum patio furniture tends to get scuffed in high traffic outdoor areas. Marks from shoes, tools, toys, as well as lawnmowers, should be removed before performing a general cleaning. Non-abrasive liquid cleaners will usually do the trick. Gently rub the cleanser onto any scuff using a soft cloth and water. It may take a few attempts, but most scuffs should come out pretty easily.
If the original powder-coating has a gloss finish, you can retain the shine by applying baby oil or car wax. Scratches can be mended using touch-up kits that are often available through manufacturers, or you can spray a clear coat to protect the exposed metal.
Manufacturer Video Tip – Powder-Coated Aluminum
Many pieces of wrought iron patio furniture have intricate textures with a variety of nooks and crannies. This makes them a bit more difficult to keep clean than other metal patio chairs and tables. They tend to collect a lot of dust, so you should begin cleaning by first using a vacuum with a small brush attachment to remove as much of the loose dirt as possible. Follow the basic steps for cleaning metals, using a narrow nylon scrub brush or toothbrush on tight curves and crevices.
Caring for wrought iron with peeling paint or corrosion spots
If your wrought iron balcony furniture has rust or chipped paint, you’ll need to get rid of that before cleaning.
- Run a paint scraper over the surface to dislodge the largest pieces
- Scrub it with a wire brush to remove smaller paint flakes and spots of rust
- Use sandpaper to remove whatever rust remains and smooth out any irregularities in the painted surface
- Perform a thorough cleaning
- Repaint or reseal the metal
It’s very important to repaint or reseal wrought iron soon after loose paint and rust are removed. If left exposed, the iron will quickly rust and degrade. Use a rust-proof primer before applying a few light coats of durable enamel paint. If the pieces are ornate, it may be easier to use spray paint than a brush. To help maintain the paint’s luster, polish the iron surfaces with automotive wax and buff with a soft cloth when it’s dry.
Plastics – Taking care of synthetic deck furniture
Plastic is lightweight, fade-resistant and can take on many different shapes, textures and styles. It also does not require paint or sealants used by other materials. That makes this synthetic polymer easy to maintain and a great inexpensive option for outdoor furniture. Cleaning and caring for plastic furniture is really dependent on the form it takes.
Sticky spills and drips like tree sap may require commercial products (e.g. Goo Gone), but rubbing alcohol will suffice in many cases. Regardless of the solution you choose, it’s important that you immediately rinse these agents away once you’ve cleaned the problem areas. Extended exposure to the chemicals in some products can fade plastic and shorten the aesthetic lifespan of your patio furniture.
All-Weather Wicker – Cleaning woven resin furniture
In the past, natural or painted white wicker furniture was used primarily for indoor or porch seating where there was at least some protection from the elements. That was needed because organic materials were used to make the weave. Contemporary synthetic wicker, however, provides all of the aesthetic qualities of a natural weave without the vulnerability to rain, sleet and snow [Raycheva & Angelova 2017]. Cleaning the nooks and crannies in intricate resin wicker patio furniture does take a little effort though.
- Remove all pillows and cushions
- Use a soft-bristled brush to get rid of superficial debris
- Any additional leaves, twigs, soil or other material that may have become lodged in the weave can usually be taken care of using a vacuum with a small brush attachment
- If you still have fine debris lodged in deep or intricate weaves, you can employ a high-pressure washer set at a low or moderate level
- Once the wicker is free of superficial dirt, use the hand brush with mild household soap and lukewarm water to gently scrub the surface clean of any stains or coatings from pollen, berries, bird droppings and general grime
- Rinse the woven material well to ensure that no soapy residue remains
- Air dry the furniture in the shade if possible
Removing mold & mildew stains from resin patio furniture
Plastic outdoor chairs and tables are inexpensive so they’re often overlooked when it starts to rain or the weather turn inclement. However, allowing standing water to accumulate and remain on furniture can lead to the formation of mold and mildew. Fortunately, killing these fungal growths is relatively easy.
- Fill a plastic spray bottle with a quart of water and add a quarter cup of white vinegar
- Liberally spray the stained area
- Allow the solution to set for 20-30 minutes
- Rinse the furniture off with clean water
- Dry with a towel or air dry
Molded Resin – Simple steps for keeping plastics clean
Patio furniture made from plastic or molded resin is relatively low-maintenance and lightweight, but it tends to get dirty. In addition to the normal dirt and grime from everyday outdoor usage, plastic tables and chairs degrade in direct sunlight and often develop a chalky finish. Consequently, you have to do a few extra steps to get plastic clean and looking like new.
- Brush the surface free from debris
- Create a simple mixture of water and mild dishwashing soap
- Dip a sponge, soft-bristled brush or cloth into the soapy water and wipe down the furniture
- Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge and rub down the plastic to clean the chalky finish
- Rinse out the sponge and repeat the process until you’ve covered the entire piece
- Rinse the furniture off with clean water
- Dry it with a towel or in the sun
- Restore the plastic’s shine by applying automotive paste wax with a rag
- Let it dry for roughly 5 minutes
- Buff it with a soft cloth
Resist the temptation to use steel wool or scouring powder to remove spills or stains, as these abrasives will scratch the plastic’s surface.
Cleaning white plastic outdoor furniture
All backyard furnishings get dirty, but white plastic patio chairs seem to try extra hard. Even after applying a little elbow grease and conducting a thorough cleaning, white resin furniture can still have a dingy look. To really put the bright back in your white, you’re going to have to do a little extra work.
- Perform a standard cleaning and dry the surface
- Throw on a pair of rubber gloves
- Mix a couple of tablespoons of powdered oxygen bleach to a gallon of water (one cup of bleach for tougher stains)
- Dab a clean brush or sponge with the bleach mixture and scrub the surface until the grime disappears or won’t fade anymore
- Let everything set for 5-10 minutes
- Rinse the plastic with clean water
- Dry it with a towel
- Apply car wax with a rag
- Let it air dry for roughly 5 minutes
- Buff the surface with a microfiber cloth in small circular motions to renew the shine
Tabletop Materials – Helpful hints for maintaining patio tables
Dining alfresco and enjoying drinks with family and friends becomes more frequent as temperatures rise. No matter how careful you are, spills are bound to happen and your tables will need to be cleaned frequently. These days, tabletops can be made from a wide variety of materials to match your decor style.
High-Pressure Laminate (HPL)
This contemporary material is strong, bacteria-resistant and doesn’t get nicked up very easily [Ghorbani, Mahendran, van Herwijnen, Liebner & Konnerth 2018]. It has an elegant look and stands up in all kinds of weather, making it a great choice for upscale outdoor settings. For the most part, it’s also low maintenance.
- Wipe down the surface using a damp microfiber or soft cloth
- Clean most stains with water and ordinary dishwashing liquid soap
- Wipe again using a cloth with just clean water
- Wipe away all of the liquid and let air dry in the shade
Do not use abrasive powders or scouring pads, as high-pressure laminates can dull or scratch, thereby making the tabletop more susceptible to future staining. Difficult stains may be cleaned with a dab of concentrated detergent and a soft-bristled brush. Vinegar or ammonia-based glass cleaners can be used on greasy marks. HPL tabletops should be cleaned 2-3 times a year, although spills and stains should be addressed immediately.
Glass tabletops require very little maintenance and are relatively easy to clean. Insect and bird droppings may take a little extra elbow grease but refrain from using steel wool or any abrasive pad.
- Wipe down the surface with a microfiber cloth and mild soap or detergent
- Rinse with water or wipe with a damp cloth
- Let the table air dry
Clean the top of the table every two weeks and the underside once a month. Be careful placing or moving objects on the glass, as they may leave scratches the surface that cannot be removed. Some objects, left in place over time, may cause lime deposits to form. Use a glass cleaner or mild vinegar solution to remove these deposits and wipe clean with a soft cloth or paper towel.
Contemporary ceramic sheets used for tabletops are extremely thin yet durable and resistant to weather and scratching. Consequently, they are relatively easy to maintain and only need to be cleaned 2-3 times a year (excluding spills).
- Clean the tabletop using a soft cloth or sponge with water and mild dishwashing soap
- Stubborn stains can be cleaned with a small amount of concentrated detergent
- Wipe the table afterward with a dry clean cloth
Handling removable tabletops
Some outdoor tables are constructed with tops that can be removed, which makes it easier to clean both sides or move the table. Although these large flat pieces are strong, they may crack in the middle if held horizontally at the ends. If you need to carry a tabletop (especially a thin or ceramic one), be sure to hold it vertically while supporting the bottom edge. Some of the materials can be quite heavy, so they should be handled by at least two people.
Slate tabletops are attractive and can last if properly maintained. Untreated slate is porous and can stain if not protected by a sealant at least twice a year. This will extend the lifetime of the tabletop by making it more resistant to dirt and spills that may soak into the material.
- Lightly dust the tabletop and make sure that the surface is clean and dry
- Move the table to an area that is out of direct sunlight
- Apply the sealant using a lint-free cloth, brush or roll to both sides of the slate
- Wipe off any excess sealant
- Let the surfaces dry for approximately 3 hours
Once a slate tabletop has been treated, it’s pretty easy to clean.
- Wipe the surface using a moist soft cloth with mild detergent and warm water
- Frequently wring out the cloth and re-wet it so that you’re not just spreading the dirt around
- Minor stains may be removed by spraying them with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water
- Lightly scrub the area with a soft-bristled brush or pad
- Let air dry
Slate can easily scratch or chip through regular usage. Be careful placing or moving hard-edge items on the table, as they may scratch the surface. Minor scratches can be removed by lightly sanding the area with fine-grade sandpaper. Dust the area afterward and clean it before reapplying sealant.
Getting tough stains out of slate
Depending on what is spilled, there are a number of ways to remove stains from slate counters or tabletops. Don’t use vinegar or other cleaners with acidic ingredients that may degrade the slate. Treat the isolated area, clean normally and then reapply sealant.
- Oily marks – Hydrogen peroxide and flour paste covered by plastic wrap overnight
- Tea & coffee stains – Hydrogen peroxide (1 tablespoon) and ammonia (3-4 drops)
- Ink spots – Nail polish remover
Fabrics – Caring for outdoor textiles
In the past, patio furniture was designed for a simple backyard barbecue with a Weber grill or an afternoon catching some rays by the pool. Most seating was casual and either folded or featured rubbery straps. Fabrication advances, coupled with a trend toward holistic architecture, has led to more elegant and upholstered pieces that blur the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces. These dining chairs, patio sectional sofas and lounge chairs feature modern designs with high-tech textiles that are durable under a variety of conditions. While most require very little attention, there are a few tips that can keep them in tip-top shape.
Synthetic Mesh (slings)
Most high-quality patio sling furniture is made from PVC coated polyester mesh. This strong synthetic textile is stretch and tear-resistant as well as relatively easy to clean [Van Craenenbroeck, Puystiens, De Laet, Van Hemelrijck & Mollaert 2016]. The resin coating protects the woven fibers from damage and fading from the sun and weather, while the perforations in the weave allow the material to dry quickly. Serge Ferrari’s Batyline and Twitchell’s Textilene are two sling fabrics that are popular with high-end outdoor brands. Clean sling pool furniture every three months to prevent mold and mildew from growing.
- Leave the slings on their frames when cleaning
- Remove any dirt or other organic debris of the surface with a cloth or whisk broom
- Add mild dish soap to lukewarm water
- Wash the mesh directly with a sponge or microfiber cloth
- Allow the soapy water to seep in the material before gently cleaning the surface with a soft-bristled brush
- Don’t forget to clean the bottoms and backs of the slings too (you might need to set the furniture on a towel to prevent the frame from getting scratched by the ground)
- Rinse the fabric with clean water
- Let the mesh sling air dry
Manufacturer Video Tip – Synthetic Mesh – Batyline Elios
Synthetic Webbing (straps & ropes)
Some outdoor furniture uses crisscrossing straps or parallel roping to provide flexible comfort. In high-end seating, the open weave is often made from blends of polypropylene, polyester and other materials, including hemp. Before washing synthetic webbing, remove any debris that may have become lodged in the gaps of the weave or where straps overlap. Otherwise, it’s cleaned in the same way as sling furniture – mild soap and water, light scrubbing and a clean rinse. Don’t use alcohol-based, solvent or acidic cleaners or metal bristled brushes.
Upholstery Cushions & Pillows
Upholstered outdoor seats have cushions and pillows that are wrapped in UV and weather-resistant fabric. Typically, the covers are woven from acrylic, polyester or vinyl threads and coated to protect them against water damage and fading. Some covers have zippers or fasteners that allow you to remove their foam inserts, while others are sewn shut. If you want your outdoor sofa and loungers to last a long time, look for Sunbrella patio furniture with Urecel QuickDry foam.
Some removable covers can be machine-washed, but cleaning them by hand is very easy.
- Take out the foam core
- Brush any dirt off the fabric
- Spray it with soapy warm water until it’s soaked through or simply soak the cover in a bucket filled with soapy water
- Gently scrub the cover from seam to seam with a soft-bristled brush to remove light stains
- Do both the inside and outside to remove stubborn stains
- Rinse with clean water
- Let the cover air dry completely before reinserting the foam core
Non-removable covers require a slightly different approach, but it’s still pretty straightforward.
- Apply the soapy water to the outside of the cover with a sponge
- Rub the surface so that the soap bubbles are worked into the fabric
- Use a high-pressure hose to clean off the detergent residue
- Set the cushions on their edge to air dry
Removing mold & mildew stains from synthetic fabrics
Most high-end outdoor upholstery fabrics resist fungus growth, but if moisture and organic substances are not periodically cleaned off mildew and mold can accumulate.
- Prepare a solution with one cup of bleach, ¼ cup of mild detergent and a gallon of water
- Spray the stained area and allow it to soak thoroughly into the fabric for roughly fifteen minutes
- Using a soft-bristled brush, sponge or towel, clean the entire area until the stain is no longer visible
- Rinse the fabric thoroughly to flush away any remaining soapy residue
- Air dry until the cover is free from moisture
Manufacturer Video Tip – Upholstery Cushions – Sunbrella Fabric
Additional ways to maintain and protect patio furniture
If you invested in premium quality outdoor furniture sets, it makes sense to do everything you can to make them last as long as possible. Keeping everything clean and maintaining them throughout the year are the first steps. The next is to protect your pieces when they’re not in use – during inclement weather or the cold winter months.
Furniture Covers – Waterproof protection for all seasons
After you’ve cleaned your patio furniture pieces and sealed them against damage from everyday use, you might want to think about longer-term protection. Furniture covers are a great way to shield chairs, tables and patio sofas from rain and fading UV rays when they’re not in use. Covers can also help keep away pests and dust if you store outdoor pieces indoors or in sheltered areas during the winter.
Protective covers are typically waterproof and woven from coated vinyl, canvas or polyester. Generic covers are designed to protect various types of furniture as long as the items fit within their dimensions. You can even protect small patio furniture sets beneath a large tarp. They provide adequate protection in most instances but may have issues depending on the fit. Custom-tailored covers are meant to fit specific pieces of furniture and are typically offered by manufacturers to coordinate with particular collections. Their snug fit provides maximum protection, but they’re typically more expensive than their generic counterparts.
Regardless of whether you choose a generic or custom cover, be sure to select one that is water-resistant or waterproof, can be securely fastened and provides adequate ventilation. Furniture that is continuously wet can develop mold, rust or wood rot, so it’s important that protective covers can repel rain, sleet and snow. Good patio furniture covers offer some means of securing the fabric to the furniture. Tie-downs wrap directly around furniture legs, while elastic straps grip the pieces. Look for covers with built-in vents that allow some air to pass through, without exposing the furniture to the elements. Trapped condensation can lead to mold build-up, so letting your items breathe is important.
Outdoor pest control – Protect your furniture from insects, birds & rodents
In addition to exposure to the elements, patio furniture can be damaged or marred by small living creatures. Gardens, backyards and other outdoor spaces teem with bugs, fowl and little furry critters looking for sustenance and shelter. Safeguarding your outdoor lounge and dining sets against these pests not only improves the furnishings’ longevity but their aesthetic appeal as well.
General maintenance steps such as keeping items clean and covered when not in use help thwart these bothersome creatures. Additionally, keeping the area free from garbage, food remnants and standing water will make your space less attractive to them. However, there are some solutions to combat specific types of pests.
Patios provide many places for bugs to nest or inhabit. Crawling and biting insects are especially attracted to nooks and crevices found in outdoor wicker chairs, tables and sofas. Additionally, lights that generate heat draw a variety of flying insects that can sting or simply be a nuisance to you and your guests.
Signs – Look for spider webs and egg sacs in the corners where the legs and frames meet. Don’t forget to check underneath seating, as many bugs like dark and moist out-of-the-way spaces. You might also find white or brown specs (bug droppings), light debris or clumps of dirt or mud on or around tables where food and beverages are typically served. Flying insects such as flies, bees and mosquitos are much easier to spot during the daytime, but you might also find a few dead ones beneath hot lamps at night.
Remedies – The best way to deter bugs (aside from regular cleaning) is through smells that are repellant to them. Essential oil sprays or actual plants of mint, lavender, rosemary and eucalyptus are great options because they not only drive insects away but provide appealing scents to your outdoor area. Marigolds are a blooming flower that work, along with cedar chips which spiders do not like. Burning citronella lamps will keep flies and mosquitos at bay, while switching to LED lights will eliminate the heat that some flying insects are drawn to.
While the light chirping of our finely feathered friends may add to the pastoral ambiance of your backyard or patio space, they can also be quite annoying, troublesome and cause potential damage to your outdoor furnishings. Thankfully, there are quite a few ways to keep them from ruining your next barbecue or casual get-together.
Signs – Dropping are the telltale sign that you have an avian issue. Bird poop is not only unsightly, but it can permanently damage finishes and fabrics if not taken care of immediately. You may also see scratches on seating frames or puncture marks in upholstery from their talons.
Remedies – You can keep birds away by scaring them, making them uncomfortable, removing attractions or luring them away. Predator decoys such as fake owls or eagles are sure to make smaller birds think twice before invading your outdoor setting. Be sure to move them periodically so the pestering birds don’t get used to them in one place. Birds are wary of shiny and moving things, so reflective pinwheels or hanging small mirrors, CDs or metallic wind chimes work well. The chimes also make sounds that disorient them as do ultrasonic devices. As with insects, birds don’t like particular smells. Peppermint and chili pepper sprays or plants are effective. Eliminate nearby spaces where birds might nest, perch or hide by pruning trees and shrubs. You might also place a bird feeder far away from where you plan to entertain or dine.
Gnawing rodents with claws can inflict severe damage on patio furniture as they gather materials for their nests. This destruction has financial implications as well, since it is not usually covered by manufacturer warranties. Squirrels, mice and raccoons also carry diseases that can make your family or pets sick. Many of the same deterrents for bugs and birds work for rodents as well.
Signs – The most prevalent damage from rodents are chewed up cushions and torn up wicker fibers. The foam stuffing and thin fibers resemble natural materials that they typically use to build and line their nests. You may also find traces of excrement or evidence of their efforts to access seeds around bird feeders.
Remedies – Hawk and owl decoys scare these small rodents but, like with birds, you need to rotate the location and or type of predator. Plant or spray mint, lavender, red pepper or eucalyptus or burn citronella to make your backyard a little less inviting. Install solar-powered ultrasound devices or motion-activated sprinklers to repel rodents if they do decide to venture onto your property. If you have a dog, let them roam and bark around the house a little while each day. They’ll either chase squirrels and mice away or give them pause. Make sure that any bird feeders are only accessible by birds and not small prying paws or jaws. You might lure rodents away by nailing corn cobs to fencing or trees away from where you set lounge or dining furniture.
If these non-invasive solutions don’t sufficiently resolve your pest problem, you may have to resort to store insecticides and pesticides or professional services. There are also more invasive measures such as predator urine and surface spikes.
Storage & Shelter – Keeping furniture safe in inclement weather
During the rainy season or when Fall temperatures start to drop, might be a good time to bring your patio furniture in from the wet and cold. A little shelter can go a long way toward extending the lifetime of your outdoor seating and tables. Whether you’re tucking pieces beneath your deck, locking them in a storage shed or moving them to a garage or basement, it’s critical that you first make sure that they are clean and dry – even if you don’t immediately see any dirt or debris.
This is because some of the moisture and bacteria you don’t immediately detect can fester in while the pieces are in storage. Warm and humid areas can lead to mildew, so you want to find someplace that is cool and dry or you may have additional work to do when it comes time to remove the pieces from storage. Ideally, you should elevate the furniture off the ground to avoid damage from standing water, ice or snow.
There are several protective sealants on the market that you can use on some types outdoor furniture to keep them in tip-top shape over the course of the winter. Consider applying one to your furnishings if you don’t have a cover or your storage area has some exposure to the elements.
If possible, use a drop cloth or protective cover to keep the furniture free of dust. Even if you’re going to be keeping items in a shed or a garage, it helps you have a cover on your items to prevent any scratches. Avoid putting cushions in plastic bags in favor of cloth ones or storage ventilated boxes.
Frequently Asked Questions – Cleaning Patio Furniture
The cleaning process for patio furniture upholstery depends on whether or not the cushion covers are removable.
- Remove the foam insert
- Brush loose soil from the fabric
- Spray or soak the cover in a bucket with warm soapy water until it's thoroughly soaked
- Scrub the complete cover lightly using a soft-bristled brush to remove minor spills or stains
- Repeat the process on the inside to address stronger stains
- Run clean water over the entire thing inside and outside
- Allow the cover to air-dry completely
- Reinsert the foam core
- Using a sponge, apply soapy warm water to the exterior of the cover
- Work the soap bubbles into the fabric by gently rubbing the surface
- Clean the residual detergent off using a high-pressure hose
- Air-dry the cushions by placing them on their edge
If left untreated, teak will change over time from a warm honey-colored woodgrain to an elegant silver-grey patina. This transition is merely aesthetic and does affect the integrity of the hardwood or its ability to resist the elements outdoors. If you want to restore teak to its original coloration, you can but it takes a little effort.
- Clean the wood - Remove surface grime and dirt with soap and warm water
- Scour it - Using a scrub brush or scouring pad with a gentle cleanser, lightly scour the teak across the grain
- Rinse the teak - Use running water to clear the wood of any loose debris and soapy residue
- Remove stubborn stains - If needed, use a commercial teak cleaner with a strong abrasive and mild acid to get rid of deep stains
- Sand the surface - Use medium to fine sandpaper to smooth out any texture imperfections
- Apply teak oil - Spread teak oil with a soft rag in the direction of the woodgrain
- Apply sealant - Apply one thin coat of sealer and allow it to dry before applying a second
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