Preparing your outdoor spaces for the summer may seem like a monumental task, but with the right information and smart strategies, it can be a smooth process. Follow these tips for a splendid seasonal space.
Outdoor woven fabrics generally undergo a chemical treatment during manufacturing to increase stain and moisture resistance, regardless of whether they are made from synthetic fibers, such as vinyl-coated polyester or acrylic, or from cotton blends. Before putting them out for the new season, scrub with a utility brush and a solution of mild soap, such as Dr. Bronner's, and lukewarm water. Avoid detergents and hot water, which can strip the protective coating off of umbrella fabric. If umbrella is badly stained or mildewed, scrub with a solution of 1/ 2 cup oxygen bleach and 5 gallons warm water.
Although brick is durable and can last for generations, gentle cleaning is still the best way to keep it looking fresh. Use a masonry cleaner. Mix according to directions, and scrub with a stiff-bristle broom or brush.
To keep efflorescence, a salt residue that creates a white, powdery haze, at bay, avoid deicers with calcium chloride. Experts don't recommend sealing brick, as sealers can trap moisture in the pores, causing damage. Be vigilant in cutting away plant growth with garden shears. Plants direct moisture into mortar joints, loosening the bricks. A plant's roots will die shortly after it is cut and can be gently pulled out.
To remove stains, use a masonry poultice, a solvent mixed with an absorbent material, such as kaolin clay. The solvent dissolves the stain, and the absorbent material pulls it from the brick's pores. Read labels to ensure that you're buying a poultice appropriate for the stain. Those with naphtha or trichloroethylene are most effective on oil stains. Efflorescence can be removed with water and a stiff-bristle brush or a masonry efflorescence remover. To remove moss or other organic growth, scrub brick with a solution of one part chlorine bleach to 10 parts hot water.
The same carnauba paste wax that maintains a car's finish does a dynamite job on painted metal furniture. Once a season, apply an even coat with a damp terry cloth towel to furnishings; let dry, then lightly buff with a soft cotton rag. The wax will repel water, preventing rust, and also restore luster to dull paint.
Concrete is a durable, forgiving material, but strong acids may damage it. Even a weak acid solution can roughen the surface if it is left on for any length of time. For an initial deep cleaning, mix together hot water and an all-purpose household cleaner or a concrete cleaner in a bucket. Use a stiff-bristle broom or brush to scrub the surface thoroughly. To remove oil that has leaked from a car's engine, blot with paper towels. Then cover the spot with cat litter, and leave overnight. Remove the litter, and repeat until oil is no longer being absorbed. If needed, follow with a poultice: Mix one part trisodium phosphate with six parts water. Apply, and leave on for 24 hours. Scrub and rinse with plain water. To remove grease caused by food, scrub with a household scouring powder. To remove moss and organic matter, apply a solution of one part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water.
Sealing concrete will make it stain resistant (but not stain proof) and easier to clean. If you opt to seal, choose a penetrating concrete sealer. A clear, silicone-based water-repellent sealer is a good choice if you want to maintain the appearance of the concrete. If you want to do more than preserve the surface -- for example, enhance the color (often desirable with exposed aggregates) or add gloss -- choose an acrylic-based sealer. Don't use deicers that contain ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate, which can destroy concrete. Never let fertilizer sit on concrete; if it gets wet, it can leave stains.
Composite decking materials are made of wood and plastic (sometimes recycled grocery bags or milk jugs). Manufacturers typically do not recommend painting, staining, or sealing composite surfaces. To deep clean, most composites can be washed with deck cleaner containing phosphoric, oxalic, or hydrochloric acid, or sodium hypochlorite, and a stiff-bristle brush or broom. Consult the composite manufacturer. Like regular wood, composites can become moldy and develop tannin stains. A deck cleaner that contains sodium hypochlorite should remove mold; one that contains oxalic or phosphoric acid will remove tannin stains and get rid of dirt and rust. The best way to combat mildew and other stains is to keep the deck clean with regular use of a broom and a hose.
Material for outdoor use, often called performance fabric, is designed to resist sun damage, stains, moisture, and mildew. Solution-dyed fabric, woven with pigment-infused fibers, is less prone to fading and can handle more-aggressive cleansers than printed or piece-dyed cloth. To determine which you have, check both sides of the fabric. If they are identical, it's probably solution-dyed. Otherwise, it's printed or piece-dyed.
Removable covers sometimes can be machine-washed in cold water, using mild, bleach-free laundry soap, and then air-dried. To hand-wash, submerge the fabric in a solution of 1/4 cup gentle liquid soap, such as Ivory, and 1 gallon lukewarm water (do not exceed 100 degrees), swishing gently. Rinse, and air-dry. To clean mold from solution-dyed fabrics, mix 1 gallon warm water with 2 tablespoons oxygen bleach if the care guide lists it as an approved cleaning agent. Wet the affected area, and scrub with a soft-bristle brush. Rinse, and air-dry.
All wooden surfaces eventually turn gray from sun exposure. North American woods, including Southern pine (which is often pressure treated), cedar, and redwood, benefit from regular sealing; this can help prolong the rich look of the wood. Tropical woods, such as ipe, Bangkiria, and mahogany, are dense and oily and usually don't need sealing. At the start of the season, give it a thorough cleaning. In a bucket, mix a gallon of hot water with powdered oxygen bleach, according to directions. Scrub well using a soft-bristle brush or broom. Rinse and repeat. The first scrubbing gets rid of visible mold; the second destroys the mold spores. Don't use chlorine bleach, which destroys the ligninthe "glue" that binds wood fibers.
To remove mold and rust stains, bird droppings, and tannins, mix oxalic-acid crystals (often labeled wood bleach or wood brightener) with hot water, according to directions. Apply with a soft-bristle brush or broom. After stains have faded, rinse well.
North American woods need to be sealed yearly to protect them from the elements. Clean surfaces, and remove any stains. Sand off any existing finishes. Apply either a clear water-repellent preservative or a penetrating semitransparent stain. Semitransparent stains protect better than clear water-repellent preservatives. Neither coating will need to be sanded during your next annual cleaning. Products with an ultraviolet protectant may slow the graying caused by the sun, but they won't prevent it. Be sure to follow the directions: Never apply more coats than recommended; doing so can lead to serious mildew infestations and rot.
For the initial seasonal cleaning, rinse the awning, then use a long-handled brush to apply a solution of water and mild soap, such as Dr. Bronner's. Rinse again. Rinse regularly with a spray hose throughout the outdoor season. Allow the awning to air-dry thoroughly after cleaning; always open awnings after rain to let them dry thoroughly. Clean awnings thoroughly and let them dry completely before storing. Store awnings off the ground to lessen the chance that they will become winter homes for rodents.
If your screened porch has suffered a few tears over the course of the winter, use this easy method to keep it looking like new.
To make your own patch for nylon or fiberglass screens, cut a patch just barely larger than the hole. Apply a thin layer of fast-drying glue along the edges of the patch, and press it in place. To avoid sticking fingers to glue, use low-tack painters' tape to hold the screen together as it dries; cut a piece of tape larger than the patch, gently tape it to the patch, and leave until dry. To make your own patch for a metal screen, cut a patch from a length of screening. Trim edges of the hole into a neat square opening. Make sure the patch is 1/2 inch larger all around than the hole to be repaired; bend edges' teeth into right angles. Set patch over opening so teeth penetrate the screen. Turn screen over; bend teeth flat on other side to hold in place.
The neighborhood feathered friends will love visiting your yard for this homemade treat. Mix peanut butter and vegetable shortening; melt in a microwave for 1 1/2 minutes on high. Mix in quick-cooking oats, cornmeal, and flour. Pack mixture into two paper cups, then cool. Remove from molds, and place in mesh bag, plastic clip side down. Secure open end of bag, and hang feeder from branches at a good height above ground.
Patio stone can be divided into two categories. Siliceous stone (granite, slate, sandstone, brownstone, and bluestone) is hard and durable. Calcareous stone (marble, travertine, and limestone) is more delicate and porous, so it is susceptible to stains. To tell which kind you have, put a drop of white vinegar in an inconspicuous spot. If it fizzes, the stone is calcareous. To clean, use a pH-neutral stone cleaner, and scrub with a soft-bristle brush or broom. Avoid household detergents, which tend to be too acidic or too alkaline. Repeated use of them can erode calcareous stone and dull the polish on siliceous stone.
To remove stains, use a stone poultice. Read the label to be certain you're choosing the right stain remover for your needs. When cleaning siliceous stone, you can boost the power of a stone poultice by adding a little all-purpose household cleaner, as long as it doesn't contain chlorine bleach.
To remove moss and organic matter from siliceous stone, use a stone cleaner that has phosphoric acid. For calcareous stone, choose a nonacidic algae remover. Weathering and the sun will fade most stains over time, but they fade the luster of surfaces, too. A stone enhancer will bring a more saturated look to the stone, particularly to slate and tumbled marble. If you opt for an enhancer, choose one with a built-in sealer to add stain resistance.
Calcareous stone surfaces in high-traffic areas will benefit from sealing to aid stain resistance. Remember that the sealer won't make surfaces stain-proof. Choose a penetrating stone sealer, which allows vapor transmission to prevent damage from freezing and thawing. As always, read labels to be sure the sealer is designed to protect against the stains you're likely to encounter. Reapply it every three to five years.
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