How to clean and maintain wooden garden furniture

We don't sell it, but we know our outdoor furniture materials, so the Lazy Susan team is sharing our go-to method for cleaning and maintaining wooden garden furniture…

We recently looked at how to protect and maintain our cast aluminium furniture range if you live on the coast and in that, we touched on how the sea air can quickly degrade wooden garden furniture.

It is not just at the coast though... City or countryside, up hill or down dale, wooden garden furniture, when left exposed to the elements, will fade and weather over time.

Some people like the silvery-grey patina of weathered furniture and are happy to replace it when need be, others prefer it stained, protected and longer lasting.

One thing is certain, if you do choose the first option, depending on the type of wood, you will run the risk of it fading, splitting, rotting, warping, cracking, or discolouring.

With some types of wood, that weathering is actually what protects it from the elements, much like the chalky white oxidation that appears on uncoated aluminium, which protects the raw metal from corrosion.

For the record, our range is powder-coated, and we looked at this in detail in our What are the advantages and disadvantages of powder-coated aluminium garden furniture? article, so definitely no chalky stuff!

When wood is exposed to the elements though, including the mix of sun, rain, snow, and fluctuating temperatures we experience here in the UK, without proper care and maintenance, it could quickly deteriorate.

Moisture is the biggest issue. Rain can seep into the woodgrain, causing it to swell, warp, and eventually rot. Regular maintenance will seal the wood's surface and prevent moisture penetration.

The sun’s UV rays will also, in time, fade and degrade the wood, so the application of the right protective finish or sealant will help to prevent this, whilst also enhancing the wood's natural colour and grain.

In the UK, our climate sees us flip flop from rain to sun multiple times, often in one day, which is the perfect storm (pardon the pun) for the formation of mould and mildew.

On our cast aluminium, the powder-coated finish protects it from any build-up of dirt and debris, and it can be easily washed off. However, on wooden surfaces, it can lead to unsightly stains.

Proper maintenance of your wooden furniture, including cleaning and applying specialist finishes/treatments, will easily prevent all of the above from happening.

By maintaining your furniture, you will prolong its lifespan significantly. Regular cleaning, sealing, and refinishing will also help to keep it looking good too.

Yes, you need to invest time and effort in the maintenance of wooden outdoor furniture, but that will pay off in the long run, ensuring it maintains its weather resistance, functionality and good looks.

This is our simple guide to cleaning, maintaining, sealing, refinishing and protecting wooden garden furniture:

What type of wooden garden furniture do you have?

Here in the UK, there is a diverse range of timbers used to make patio furniture. Knowing what wood your’s is made from is critical in knowing how to protect and what type of products are best applied.

Some of the common types of wood used in the UK garden furniture market include:

  1. Teak
    A durable hardwood that is naturally resistant to moisture, making it expensive but ideal for outdoor use. It has an elegant appearance, smooth texture, and is highly resistant to rot and decay.

  2. Eucalyptus
    A more common hardwood with similar durability to teak but more affordable. It can be stained or oiled to enhance its appearance and further protect it from the elements.

  3. Acacia
    Prized for its durability and attractive woodgrain patterns, Acacia is affordable and versatile. In the UK it is best treated with a protective finish.
    A softwood known for its natural resistance to insects, rot, and decay. Cedar has a rustic charm and is lightweight, making it easy to move.

  4. Pine
    Pine is a commonly used affordable softwood that is less durable than hardwoods like teak or cedar. With the correct care and maintenance, it can still provide many years of outdoor use.

  5. Reclaimed
    Reclaimed wood is crafted from recycled or salvaged lumber, giving it a unique and eco-friendly appeal. It often has a more weathered appearance.

These are just a few examples of the common types of wooden patio furniture on sale in the UK. There is a wide range of options to suit your outdoor living needs and the level of maintenance you’re prepared to take on.

How to clean wooden garden furniture

Cleaning wooden garden furniture, regardless of the type of wood, is essential in our opinion to maintain its appearance and prolong its life.

Teak is as close as you will get to our cast aluminium range in terms of low maintenance, while pine on the other hand will require regular sanding and re-finishing if you want to keep it for many years.

Here is how we would recommend you clean the different types of wooden garden furniture:

1. Teak Furniture

  • Brush off any loose dirt or debris with a soft-bristled brush or a dry cloth.

  • Mix a washing-up liquid in a bucket of warm water.

  • With a soft sponge or cloth gently wash the the furniture.

  • Rinse thoroughly with a garden hose on the spray setting. DO NOT use a pressure washer as they can strip and even gouge the wood.

  • Allow the furniture to air dry.

  • Apply a coat of teak oil or sealer such as Colton Woodcare to protect the wood and restore its natural grain.

2. Eucalyptus, Acacia, or Cedar Furniture

  • Follow the same steps as for teak furniture, using the washing-up liquid solution to clean the wood.

  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water.

  • Allow the furniture to dry completely.

  • Apply a wood sealer or protective finish according to the manufacturer's instructions to help preserve the wood and prevent moisture damage.

3. Pine Furniture

  • Pine furniture is highly susceptible to damage from moisture, so avoid using excessive water when cleaning.

  • Dust the furniture with a soft cloth or brush to remove any loose surface dirt.

  • Spot clean any stubborn stains with a mixture of mild soap and water, using a soft sponge or cloth.

  • Rinse the area with a clean, damp cloth and dry thoroughly.

  • Apply a wood conditioner or protective finish to nourish the wood and help protect it from the elements.

4. Reclaimed Wood Furniture

  • Reclaimed wood furniture often has a weathered or rustic appearance, so cleaning methods will vary depending on the condition/type of wood.

  • Dust the furniture with a soft brush or cloth to remove dirt and debris.

  • For stubborn stains or dirt buildup, spot clean with a mild soap solution and a soft brush or cloth.

  • Rinse with clean water and allow the furniture to dry completely.

  • Depending on the type of wood and its condition, you may choose to apply a protective finish or leave the wood untreated for a more natural weathered look.

Regardless of the type of wooden garden furniture you have, it's essential to clean it regularly and help protect it from all the rain we sadly get here in the UK.

As we always say, prevention is better than the cure. Regular maintenance will prevent the need to do a full sand-down repair and refinish, or worse, replace it altogether.

How to seal wooden garden furniture

Sealing timber outdoor furniture is essential as it protects it from water ingress, rot, decay, and UV damage, making the surface more durable and longer lasting. Regardless, of which type of wood too, even teak, we think protecting it is a must and our go-to method is as follows:

  1. Product
    Select a sealant that is suitable for outdoor use and compatible with the type of wood you're sealing.

  2. Prepare
    Before applying, ensure that the surface of the wood is clean and dry. If the furniture has an existing finish or sealant, it will require light sanding to create a smooth surface for the new sealant to adhere to.

  3. Apply
    Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the specific sealant you're using. In general, you'll want to apply light even coats using a brush, roller, or paint sprayer. Follow the direction of the wood grain to ensure even coverage. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next.

  4. Sand
    Depending on the type of sealant and the desired finish, you may also need to lightly sand in-between coats with a fine grit to achieve a smooth finish, remove imperfections and build up protection.

  5. Dry
    Ensure that the sealant has fully cured and dried according to the manufacturer's instructions (typically 24 to 48 hours) before using the furniture or exposing it to the elements.

  6. Maintain
    After sealing, maintain the wooden garden furniture by cleaning it regularly and reapplying additional protection such as wax or oil or re-sealing as needed (typically every 1-3 years depending on the type of wood, level of wear, and exposure).

By properly sealing your wooden garden furniture, you can protect it from the sun and rain and keep it looking beautiful and functional for many years to come.

How to refinish wooden garden furniture

If your weather-damaged wooden garden furniture is too far gone to reseal, then refinishing can breathe new life into it and fully restore appearance and functionality.

It is a big DIY job but one that can be extremely satisfying and money-saving. Here’s our step-by-step guide on how we would refinish weather-damaged wooden garden furniture:

  1. Assess
    Start by assessing the level of the damage. If there are signs of rot, mould, mildew, cracking, peeling finish, or discolouration, then determine if any repairs are needed before refinishing.

  2. Clean
    Thoroughly clean to remove dirt, grime, mould, mildew, and any old protective finishes. Use washing-up liquid in a bucket of warm water and a soft-bristled brush to scrub the surface. Rinse with cold water and allow the furniture to dry.

  3. Sand
    With a medium-grit sandpaper (80 to 120 grit) sand the surface of the furniture, including any rough or damaged areas. You need to remove the old finish, smooth out imperfections, and prepare the wood for refinishing. Follow the grain and sand evenly to avoid leaving uneven patches.

  4. Repair
    If there are any cracks, splits, or holes in the wood, repair them with a multipurpose wood filler (ready to apply) or epoxy wood filler (2-part so only mix a small amount at a time as it cures fast) according to the manufacturer's instructions. Allow it to dry and then sand it smooth with fine-grit sandpaper.

  5. Stain
    If you want to change the colour or enhance the natural grain, apply wood stain according to the manufacturer's instructions. Use a brush or roller to apply them evenly. Again follow the direction of the grain, wipe off any excess with a clean cloth and leave it to dry.

  6. Seal
    Once the stain (if used) has dried, apply a protective finish or sealant to protect it from moisture and UV. Choose a finish that is suitable for outdoor use, such as an exterior-grade polyurethane varnish or sealant. Following the manufacturer’s application guide and allow each coat to dry fully before applying the next one.

Once the final coat of finish has dried, you can pop it back into your garden. With regular cleaning, protection and reapplication of your preferred finish/sealant every couple of years, you can keep your refinished furniture fully protected from weather damage.

How to protect wooden garden furniture

Protecting your wooden garden furniture in the UK is essential due to our inclement climate. If you’ve made the effort to seal or fully refinish, then it pays to take a few simple steps to keep it looking good and reduce the need to do it as often.

These are our simple tips to help you protect your wooden garden furniture:

  1. Wood
    The best way to protect your garden furniture is to start by opting for a wood species that is durable and weather-resistant, such as teak, cedar, eucalyptus, or acacia. Their high natural oils/resin content makes them better suited to our climate.

  2. Protective Finish
    As we’ve already mentioned, you must apply a protective finish or sealant to further protect it from the elements. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines or shop around for a product that will give you both the protection it needs and the finish you like.

  3. Maintain
    Regular maintenance will always help to keep it in good condition. Clean your garden furniture periodically to remove dirt, and debris, and reapply your finish or sealant of choice as and when it is needed to maintain protection.

  4. Cover
    When your wooden garden furniture is not in use, consider covering it with a breathable, waterproof furniture cover to protect it from the elements and keep it clean and ready to use.

  5. Shelter
    If possible, provide shelter for your wooden garden furniture during extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rain or prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. This could involve moving the furniture under a covered patio, or awning, or popping it in the garden shed during the winter.

  6. Furniture Pads
    Place furniture pads or glides underneath the feet of your tables and chairs to lift them off the ground. This will help to prevent moisture from being trapped underneath the furniture at the point of contact with the ground and reduce the risk of rot.

  7. Inspect
    Inspect the wood regularly for any signs of damage, such as cracks, splits, or rot. Address any issues promptly by repairing them to prevent further deterioration.

By following these simple tips, you can keep your wooden garden furniture protected from the elements and ensure that it remains in good condition, even in the ever-changing weather conditions in the UK.

Our final thoughts...
Our final thoughts…

Wooden outdoor furniture, especially hardwood furniture such as teak and acacia, is a significant investment, and protecting it will help ensure that you get the best return on your investment.

By taking the simple steps we’ve listed above, you can extend its lifespan and avoid the need for a too-soon-replacement. Neglecting to protect in the UK climate, especially with the more affordable softwood furniture, will only lead to damage such as warping, cracking, rotting, or staining.

Re-finishing is messy, time-consuming, and costly, especially if the wood requires extensive repairs. Regular maintenance and protection will help prevent such damage from occurring in the first place.

Taking the time to protect your wooden furniture will also ensure that it remains visually appealing and inviting for you and your guests. And while it may require some initial effort, for the team here at Lazy Susan, the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term DIY inconvenience.

If you have any photos of your Lazy Susan Garden Furniture, we’d love to see a few for our Do Some Good charity campaign. You can tag us @LazySusanFurniture on Instagram or Facebook or Upload Here.

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