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Caring for Outdoor Furniture

Martha Stewart Living, June 2002

Out in the weather, lawn and patio furniture must deflect blows from some mighty enemies: sun and rain, overeager barbecue chefs, messy trees. Still, outdoor pieces are built from durable materials and day-to-day care requires little more than frequent hosing off since pollen and spilled food rinse away when fresh. Periodically, though, stains, scuffs, and scrapes appear.

Luckily, chaises and umbrellas are not alone in their battle against the elements. Some valuable belongings -- cars, boats, and backyard decks -- face the same foes. And products designed for their care tend to perform better and last longer on furniture than standard household cleaners. Simply check whether the material is mentioned on the label: Vinyl straps on lawn chairs, for example, benefit from the same treatment given to vinyl car tops; what works on wood decks is usually perfect for cedar furniture.

Cushions deserve special attention because they are especially difficult to clean. Even though a fabric cover may shrug off moisture, mildew can grow in the padding. Follow the lead of people who love their cars: Keep cushions under cover when not in use -- and move all outdoor furniture into the garage for winter if you live in a cold climate. You'll never face a grimy seat or a scrub job just before guests arrive.

Cleaning and Repair

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