Cleaning Your Patio Furniture
Backyard entertaining on a beautiful deck, patio or around a glistening swimming pool can be less than pleasant without a comfortable chair or lounge in which to relax. Moreover, basking in the sun too long can result in a nasty sunburn or, worse yet, heat stroke. Thus, the shade provided by a freestanding or table umbrella can offer some much-needed relief.
When we were kids, our patio furniture got more use during the summer than our furniture indoors. It seems as if dad was endlessly grilling something on the barbecue while mom served up the evening meal on the patio table. It was as close to camping as we got. What fun!
As adults, we find ourselves doing much of the same with our families. We both enjoy backyard barbecuing and family entertaining. Without patio furniture, our job of making both young and old happy would be monumental. The only thing worse than having no patio furniture is having patio furniture that is dirty, damaged or unsafe.
Aside from being unsightly (which can cause one to lose his appetite), stained and dirty patio furniture can turn a clean pair of shorts or a skirt into something that looks more like an automotive shop rag. Not the kind of impression (no pun intended) that you want to leave on your guests.
The only thing that we can think of that could be worse than getting dirty is getting hurt. This can happen if a chair leg is loose, rusted, bent or cracked. Guests should also be cautioned not to lean back too far in certain rocking-type chairs as they could take a nasty spill backwards.
More often than not, regular cleaning and periodic repair and maintenance can prevent all of the above disasters from occurring. If more people treated their outdoor furniture like they treat the outside of their cars, it would look better, last longer and be safer.
The good news is that you don’t need to wash your outdoor furniture as often as you wash your car. However, a thorough rinsing with the garden hose once a week can make periodic cleanings a breeze. Most furniture should be thoroughly cleaned every four to six months with a solution of dishwashing detergent in warm-to-hot water. Use a sponge, cloth or soft nylon brush to apply the solution. Never use abrasive cleaning products or an abrasive applicator such as a scouring pad or steel wool as these could permanently damage the finish.
Among the most difficult-to-remove stains are those caused by tanning lotion. Thus, we suggest that a towel be placed between the tanner and the chair or lounge to prevent staining.
Outdoor wicker is becoming increasingly popular for patio furniture. The wicker and cushions should be periodically vacuumed using an upholstery tool. Both the frame and wicker can be washed with the detergent solution mentioned earlier. Wipe dry with a soft, clean, dry cloth and apply a coat of auto wax to the frames.
Wax my patio furniture? Have the Carey Brothers gone nuts? Well, not totally. If it’s good enough for your fancy set of wheels it is certainly good enough for your outdoor furniture. Be it plastic (PVC), vinyl-coated, fiberglass or metal, a coat of wax can make your furniture look almost like new. What’s more, the wax will help the finish to resist staining, make it easier to clean and slow down natural deterioration that results from prolonged exposure to the elements (sun and rain).
Acrylic cushions should be spot-cleaned by sponging briskly with soap in lukewarm water. The area should then be thoroughly rinsed with clean water to remove the soap and allowed to air dry. Stubborn stains can generally be removed with a commercial cleaning product or stain remover.
Solution-dyed acrylic does not promote mildew – dirt does. Therefore, if mildew is present, you’re sure to get rid of it using our famous solution that consists of one-third cup powdered laundry detergent, one quart of liquid chlorine bleach and three quarts of warm water. Add the bleach to the water first and then the detergent. Put the solution into a spray bottle and spray it onto the affected areas, but don’t let it dry. Rinse with fresh water and towel dry. Keep in mind that even though this solution is mild, you should wear rubber gloves, safety goggles and have plenty of ventilation.
Many people have outdoor furniture with vinyl straps. These should be cleaned as previously outlined. Wash with a mild detergent solution, rinse, and towel dry and wax. Using an electric buffer (like what you would use on your car) can make the job of waxing your patio furniture infinitely easier. Scuffmarks can usually be removed using a soft dry cloth and a dab of toothpaste.
Rusted wrought iron furniture should be cleaned using a wire brush and rust removal product. Any rust that remains should be painted with a rust converter. Bare metal should be primed with a metal primer. A high-quality oil-base semi-gloss or gloss enamel is your best bet when it comes to painted furniture.
Wood patio furniture should be washed as least once each year with a solution of synthetic trisodium phosphate (TSP) and coated with a high-quality stain or penetrating oil finish.
Tip: A great way to improve the lasting quality of your outdoor furniture is to store it indoors during damp weather when it is not being used.
What’s that we smell? Oops, the chicken on the barbecue is burning!
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