After a few seasons on the porch, your furnishings may start to show their age with rust marks, mildew, or stains. These general care tips will ensure that your chairs, tables, and cushions look beautiful for years to come.
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.
This pliable weave used to make furniture is traditionally constructed from rattan, split reed, or coated paper and is sometimes reinforced with metal. Coats of clear varnish, paint, or a combination of the two are often applied to protect the surface. Sunlight is the primary enemy of wicker. Always cover wicker furniture if you intend to leave it outside for more than two or three weeks.
To remove dirt and debris, vacuum with a dust-brush attachment or use a dry paintbrush. Clean with a mild soap solution. Scrub, and rinse. Avoid using too much water, which can weaken the fibers. Dry as described.
Regular cleaning is recommended for wicker, as it generally cannot endure harsh or abrasive treatments. This also minimizes mildew buildup. Sand lightly with fine-grit sandpaper to remove any peeling paint, and touch up with paint as necessary.
Most lumbers used for outdoor furniture naturally resist decay and withstand the elements. Although sealants help preserve color and protect against wear and tear, they aren't necessary. Left unfinished, the wood acquires a silvery-gray patina and requires little maintenance.
To remove stains or mildew, mix 1 gallon hot water with powdered oxygen bleach according to directions. Scrub the area with a soft-bristle brush, and rinse. To remove rust stains or bird droppings, or to restore original color, sand lightly along the grain using fine-grit sandpaper, and rinse. If the area is too large to sand, mix hot water with oxalic acid crystals (also called wood bleach or wood brightener) according to directions. Apply with a soft-bristle brush, and rinse. Don't use chlorine bleach, which can damage wood fibers.
To protect from ultraviolet rays, dirt, and moisture, or to preserve restored color, seal the wood. First, clean surfaces, and sand off any existing finishes. Touch up with paint if needed. Apply a clear water-repellent preservative, which contains a mildewcide, or a penetrating semitransparent stain. (The pigment in the stain helps minimize sun damage.) Consult the manufacturer's instructions to learn how often to reapply; in general, you'll need to do so every 1 to 3 years.
Aluminum, iron, steel, and other metals can be wrought (heated and hammered into shape), cast from molds (often in solid pieces), or formed into hollow tubing. Because most of these, except aluminum, are subject to rust, metal furniture is usually finished with layers of clear varnish, paint, or a durable powder coating.
Use a mild soap solution, and scrub, rinse, and dry as described. To remove rust stains or mold, sand the area lightly using fine-grit sandpaper. Wipe it clean, and apply touch-up paint if needed (available through the manufacturer) in several thin layers. Let dry between coats. Humidity may affect the paint, so it's best to work on a dry day.
After cleaning, apply a coat of quality liquid or paste auto wax with a lint-free cloth if recommended by the furniture's manufacturer. Use a silicone spray to lubricate swivels and glides on chairs, as well as ribs and poles on umbrellas. Inspect for rust or chips regularly, especially in hidden areas where the surface may be unfinished (even stainless steel can corrode in salty environments).
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