How to care for metal garden furniture

After a few summers on the patio, your metal garden furniture will inevitably start to show a few of the tell-tale signs of age, and just like skincare, there’s no miracle cure.

After a few summers on the patio, your metal garden furniture will inevitably start to show a few of the telltale signs of age, and just like skincare, there’s no miracle cure. Depending on how you’ve looked after your furniture, it could be as bad as rust marks and mildew stains, to the not-so-bad of a few chips on the feet or food and drink stains on the cushions. Lazy Susan’s general care and maintenance tips will help to ensure that your metal garden chairs, tables, benches, and cushions look as good as new for many years to come.

However, before you start following our guidelines, please read the manufacturer's care instructions. By using unsuitable products, you could easily damage your metal garden furniture and void the warranty. If the furniture is a few years old and you can’t find the original instructions, then contact the original supplier, and I’m sure they’ll send a copy out to you. If that fails, then always test any cleaning materials on a small inconspicuous part of your furniture first.

Metal garden furniture care advice

Metal garden furniture constructed from aluminium, iron, and steel, comes in three common forms. Firstly, it can be ‘wrought’, where it is heated and hammered into the shape you want. Second, it can be ‘cast’, whereby it is heated to liquid form and poured into moulds to create a solid piece. And finally, it can be ‘formed’ into hollow tubes that are then bolted together to form the furniture. Most metals, with the exception of aluminium, are susceptible to rust. Aluminium on the other hand can oxidize and the surface can become what’s known as ‘pitted’. However, to prevent this, most metal garden furniture sold in the UK is finished with layers of clear varnish, paint, lacquer or a durable powder coating, to add strength and protect the furniture from the elements.

Wrought iron garden furniture for example used to be highly susceptible to rust and needed regular maintenance to protect it. However, many of the modern-day iron pieces, while they can still rust, require significantly less maintenance as they are finished with a spray treatment that protects the furniture. The problems generally tend to start if they get chipped, the protective coating is worn away, or the furniture is not kept clean. Feet are the usual ‘weak’ spot as furniture gets dragged/moved about, they will chip, so keep them touched up. Lazy Susan’s cast aluminium furniture will not rust but the protective layer added to it can chip off over time, so you must touch it up with the special paint we supply.

The key to longevity is regular cleaning. Generally, most metal garden furniture can be cleaned by simply using a little mild washing-up liquid in a bucket of warm water. Sponge-clean the furniture to remove any built-up dirt, rinse it with cold water, and then leave it to dry in the sun. Most metals, with the exception of Lazy Susan’s friend aluminium, are subject to rust, so most (if not all these days) metal garden furniture you buy in the UK is finished with a protective coat of clear varnish, paint, or a durable powder coating.

To clean metal just use a mild washing-up liquid in warm water, scrub with a soft sponge or cloth, rinse with cold water, and dry. If rust does develop you can sand the area lightly using fine-grit sandpaper and apply touch-up paint. As with us, these should be available through the manufacturer, but check with them before you start. After cleaning, apply a coat of quality liquid or paste car wax with a lint-free cloth for a little extra protection. As with your car, it will help moisture run off without leaving any residue that you can feel or will damage clothes. A little silicone spray on any moving parts is always a good idea and helps to keep them lubricated.

Check for rust spots or chips regularly, especially any hidden areas where the surface may be unfinished such as the underside of tables, and tackle them as per the manufacturer's guidelines immediately. And it is not just wrought iron, even stainless steel can quickly corrode when you live by the coast.

Invest in garden furniture covers

One of the main reasons that many consumers choose cast aluminium garden furniture is because it doesn’t rust. However, regardless of what type of metal garden furniture you have, and no matter what steps you’ve taken to protect it, if you can’t store it in a garage or shed, then we highly recommend covering it with good quality garden furniture covers when not in use. This will not only give the furniture some added protection from the elements, but it will also keep it clean and ready to use.

And finally, keep those cushions clean too

Outdoor cushions generally undergo a chemical treatment during manufacturing that increases their resistance to stains and moisture, but they still need a little TLC if you don’t want to replace them every summer. Always read the care labels before you do anything and if in doubt, check with the retailer. If they’re relatively new or they’ve been well looked after, then chances are they’ll just need a little basic cleaning. And if the covers can be removed, then you can simply take them off and pop them in the wash on a cool cycle with a mild detergent.

Whatever you do, try and avoid ever washing the foam inserts, as you’ll run the risk of causing mildew and encouraging mould growth. If your foam inserts do get wet or you can’t remove the covers, and therefore you have no choice but to wash them together, then make sure you dry them completely before replacing the cover. The best way lazy Susan has found to do this is to place between two towels and walk on the cushions to squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Then leave them to dry against a radiator or in an airing cupboard if you’ve got one. Do not tumble dry the foam or covers as the heat will damage them!

If you have cushions that are a little neglected and heavily soiled, then you might want to consider soaking them first to loosen the ingrained dirt before you buy new ones. Mix a solution that is equal parts of washing up liquid and a good stain remover such as Vanish Oxi-action powder with a litre of warm water. Place the solution in a spray bottle and have the garden hose at the ready. Use the spray bottle to apply the cleaning solution to your cushions. If you are dealing with a large or tough stain, be sure to give the cushions a good soaking with the cleaning solution. Also, pay close attention to the seams where dirt tends to build up.

The more solution you spray onto the cushions the less scrubbing you will have to do as the Oxi-action will fizz away and take care of things. Allow the cleaning solution to sit for a good 15 to 30 minutes, but do not let it fully dry. And re-spray if need be. After that time, place the garden hose on high (a pressure washer is even better for this job), spray the cushions thoroughly to remove the dirt/cleaning solution and then follow the gentle cleaning process and wash in the washing machine.

Take a little preventative action too! To reduce the amount of cleaning you will have to do on your outdoor furniture chair cushions, and prevent the need to replace them, it’s a good idea to be proactive. For example, consider spraying the cushions with Scotchgard™ Outdoor Fabric Protector before using them. This forms an invisible barrier which repels water-based liquids such as rain, wine and coffee and helps protect against stains, making them easier to clean in the future. Another way to cut down on cleaning time is to properly store the cushions during the winter. Consider using airtight containers to store your cushions and keep them dry.

Please, whatever you do though, don’t wrap your cushions in plastic or store them in bin bags, because mould and mildew will grow rapidly if air is trapped inside the plastic. At Lazy Susan we always advise our customers to store in an airtight container with a few Cedar Balls in the container alongside your cushions. This is the most effective way to prevent spiders/bugs etc (especially if you’re storing in a shed), it will give a long-lasting fresh fragrance to your cushions and prevent build-up of damp musty smells and mildew.

Share this article
Please enter these characters in the following text field.

The fields marked with * are required.