Isn’t outdoor furniture designed to withstand the elements? Why should I worry about cleaning and protecting it? Good questions! Yes, outdoor furniture is designed and constructed differently than indoor furniture so it can last season after season in outdoor conditions. Just like any other outdoor items, that “outdoor” construction can only withstand so much. From patio furniture to outdoor decorations, you want your outdoor space to be beautiful and functional. Protect and clean outdoor furniture to keep it looking good as new summer after summer.
Weather Affects Outdoor Furniture Materials in Different Ways
UV rays can fade fabric and furniture frames and heat can melt and fade plastics and break down fabrics. Rain and moisture can cause wrought iron and other metals to rust, fabric pillows and cushions to develop mold and break down the finish on wood. Cushion and pillow foam can break down from prolonged heat and get moldy from moisture. If you’re shopping for outdoor furniture, put some thought into where the furniture will be located and how vulnerable it will be to the elements.
If you protect and clean outdoor furniture made from wood consistently, it should last for many years. Wooden outdoor furniture is beautiful and more natural-looking, but it can require ongoing maintenance. Less expensive wood like pine or oak can hold up nicely if it is protected with a good stain and sealant, but it may eventually warp, crack and decompose more quickly than some other woods. Although more expensive than pine or oak, teak, mahogany and redwood may be a better choice. These types of wood are naturally hardy and can withstand the elements with a minimal amount of maintenance.
Metal like wrought iron is durable, but it does require some protection and maintenance. Most metals can be touched up with a bit of sanding and some new paint, but once rust starts to form, you must stay on top of your maintenance to keep the metal from corroding. A better choice for metal outdoor furniture is aluminum. Powder-coated aluminum looks great and is very weather resistant. The coating is virtually scratch-proof and keeps the furniture safe from rust and UV damage.
Plastic and resin furniture is inexpensive and comes in a wide variety of styles, making it one of the most popular choices for deck and lawn furniture. Plastic furniture is low maintenance but is still susceptible to fading and cracking from UV rays and prone to discoloration and permanent stains.
For pillows and cushions, the most durable are constructed with quick-dry foam and a polyester or acrylic outer fabric. These fabrics are less likely to fade from rain and UV rays than some other fabrics, resist shrinking and stretching and require very little maintenance.
How To Protect and Clean Outdoor Furniture
Expensive or inexpensive, high-maintenance or low-maintenance, regardless of their materials, you’ll want to protect and clean outdoor furniture to make it last longer. From spills to dirt and grime, outdoor furniture can get pretty dirty from season to season. Keeping your outdoor furniture clean before, during and after summer goes a long way toward extending the life of wood, metal and fabric materials.
Cleaning Tips for Outdoor Furniture
Even the best outdoor fabrics like polyester will stain and that quick-dry foam could start to break down if you don’t clean up spills and messes when they happen. Natural and synthetic fabrics react differently to cleaners, so unless the manufacturer suggests something different, clean your outdoor fabrics with good old soap and water. The key for any fabric will be to clean up those spills as quickly as possible. If you have covers that can be removed, just take them off and throw them in the washer. Be sure to clean the foam inside quickly and let it air dry to prevent mold and mildew.
For metal outdoor furniture like wrought iron, soap and water will work fine. Be careful not to scrub too hard you chip the paint to avoid rust. Plastic or resin outdoor furniture is easy to keep clean if you wipe up spills right away and give it a good cleaning once in a while. Avoid abrasive cleaners that could scratch the surface and opt for an all-purpose cleaner instead. You can spray down plastic furniture with a hose when it’s really dirty and then wipe it down with your cleaner and a sponge or cloth.
While it’s tempting to grab your pressure washer to clean wicker, teak or other wood outdoor furniture quickly, the strong spray could scar or damage your beautiful furniture. Instead, use mild oil soap or soap and water and a soft brush or sponge to remove dirt and grime gently. You may find a toothbrush helps to get into the nooks and crannies of wicker easier. For hardwoods like teak or redwood, there are plenty of commercial cleaning products designed to clean and protect but avoid teak oil because it can encourage mildew.
No matter what type of outdoor furniture you have, be sure to protect and clean outdoor furniture and let it dry thoroughly before you put it in storage at the end of the season. Even when it’s stored away from the elements, it’s a good idea to give your outdoor furniture a quick cleaning at the beginning of summer, too.
How to Protect Your Outdoor Furniture from the Elements
Preventing damage from the sun’s UV rays and excessive moisture should be a priority. Fabric umbrellas not only keep your family cool, but they also offer protection from the sun for your outdoor furniture. A patio cover or awning will give your furniture even more protection from the sun and rain. Although it can be more work, outdoor furniture covers offer almost complete protection from the elements, just be sure to not leave them on too long to avoid mold and mildew.
For most wood outdoor furniture, the type of wood and the finish will be the most critical deterrents to damage from the sun and rain. Paint is a good way to protect against moisture and UV rays but covers up the natural grain. You’ll need to reapply paint once in a while to cover up fading, chipping and peeling. If you want to keep the natural look of wood, a water sealer is ideal for keeping moisture out. Varnish is another good protector and only requires a new coat every couple of years in most conditions.
Outdoor furniture made from metal is susceptible to corrosion. Other than keeping it clean and choosing pieces with a “weather resistant” finish, there are things you can do to keep wrought iron and other metals looking fresh and new. To repel water and prolong the life of the finish, periodically applying car wax will create a protective coating and prevent rust. Any moving parts should be greased regularly to limit metal to metal wear and keep out moisture. For chips and scratches down to the metal, rub the area with fine steel wool, apply a rust-inhibiting primer, apply paint and finish with a top coat of wax or sealer.
For outdoor pillows and cushions, if your fabrics aren’t treated by the manufacturer to deter damage from UV rays and moisture, you’ll want to apply your own protective fabric guard. You’ll find plenty of waterproofing sprays at a hardware store and you should apply it any time you see your cushions and pillows retaining moisture. Be sure the fabric is clean and dry before you spray it.
Add “protect and clean outdoor furniture” to your seasonal cleaning checklists and your family can enjoy beautiful and sturdy outdoor furniture for years to come. Check out our great cleaning tips, tricks and tools from The Maids.