How to protect your garden furniture this winter

Some of the harsh weather we will get in the UK over the coming months can take its toll on any of the different types of garden furniture, be it wood, metal or plastic.

Some of the harsh weather we will get in the UK over the coming months can take its toll on any of the different types of garden furniture, be it wood, metal or plastic.

If you have the space to store it indoors then we would strongly advise you do so. However, before you even think about popping it in the garage or shed, we would advise that you follow these simple cleaning and maintenance steps to ensure it looks as good as new when you get it back out:

  • Clean off all the accumulated dirt and grime
    Wash off any dirt which has built up over the summer with mild soapy water mix and a soft sponge then rinse the furniture with cold water and let it dry thoroughly in the sunshine. It’s best to do this on a sunny day too so that the furniture dries off quickly.
  • Remove and clean all cushions
    Machine wash the cushions and pads from your chairs if you can, but please make sure you check the care instructions first. If they can’t go in the washing machine, then sponge-clean the cushions and leave them to air dry. Cushions should always be stored indoors and not in a shed or garage which could be damp. Make sure they are fully dry before you put them away, don’t store them in an air-tight container or bags as this will help to prevent any mildew.
  • Take down and put away your parasol
    Sponge-clean your parasol, leave it to dry and bring that inside too.
  • Fold away or stack your chairs
    Fold or stack chairs where possible to save space and store them in a shed, outbuilding or garage. If you can’t keep them indoors, then move them to a sheltered part of the garden and cover them with a secured waterproof patio furniture cover of a suitable size. This should be close fitting but not too tight so that some air can circulate around your furniture. Tie the cover to your chairs so they can’t blow away.
  • Fold away and store your patio table
    Again, if you can store your table inside along with the chairs then please do so. If you simply don’t have the space or if it’s too heavy to move, store it under a waterproof cover and tie the cover to the bottom of each table leg to secure it.
  • Check your furniture before you put it away
    If you need to store furniture outside then keep an eye on it over winter. After any heavy rain or snow, you should always check that water has not gathered under the cover and dry everything off if necessary. Also, brush any snow or leaves from the stored furniture to prevent it from getting damp and the dirt from building up.

All the different types of patio furniture you can now get require different cleaning and preparation, so with that in mind we’ve pulled this little overview together so that you can care for your specific type of furniture and keep it looking like new for Summer 2013:

  • Timber
    You can clean your wooden patio furniture with a soft brush and a good wood cleaner available from any DIY store. Always rinse well and allow to dry thoroughly before applying a fresh coat of stain or finish. At Lazy Susan we clean our wooden furniture with a mix that’s a solution of 2 parts washing powder with 1 part bleach in a large bucket of warm water. Apply this to the wood with a soft bristle brush to help remove any surface dirt. Thoroughly rinse by spraying with a garden hose (not a pressure washer, they are too powerful and can strip the surface) to remove any leftover suds or any dirt the brushing has removed. If you’re satisfied with allowing the elements to ‘weather’ your wooden garden furniture, then this is all you’ll need to do, to be honest. Otherwise, you’ll need to apply a finish/sealer to protect the timber.
  • Wrought Iron
    It is always best if you can put iron and steel patio furniture sets away in the garage or shed for the winter. If you do not have a place to store the garden furniture and you would like to cover it, just remember to make sure that your furniture is dry before you cover it. Some plastic furniture covers can promote mould growth or leak, so be careful and always buy quality covers that are specifically designed for garden furniture as these are water-resistant but breathable. We always recommend you bring your cushions in from the outdoors in rainy conditions and for winter storage. A little rain will not harm your patio furniture cushions, but consistent exposure to rain or winter weather will fade your cushions and shorten their life expectancy. Using a sponge, kitchen brush, or a softer bristled scrubbing brush, gently remove any dirt or debris from your furniture. Dip it into the soap and water solution as often as you need to. You don’t need to worry about wringing it out. Make sure you simply scrub all parts of the furniture, including the top, bottom, sides and legs. You can rinse the soap from your furniture by using a bucket filled with clean water (just pour it on the furniture) or by using the garden hose, which will of course take less time. Don’t use too strong of a setting on the hose nozzle or you could risk damaging the paintwork. Your furniture should air dry fairly quickly and if you have any rust spots on your iron patio furniture, you will want to nip it in the bud as soon as possible. If left it will only get worse.
  • Cast Aluminium
    Cast Aluminum will not rust because it develops a protective outer exterior to prevent corrosion after being exposed to air known as 'pitting'. This can be a little unsightly but is extremely easy to clean off. Start by brushing away dirt particles including leaves, flowers, branches and dried bird droppings. Use a handy nylon-bristled brush or broom. If you have a leaf blower, these are great for blowing away any fallen leaves and accumulated dust and dirt. Hose away any dust and dirt. Use the garden hose to wash away all the grime, bird droppings etc, as well as any build-up of plant or tree sap and stains. Use hot soapy water (warm water with a little washing-up liquid will suffice) and a soft nylon-bristled brush or old toothbrush to scrub off any ingrained muck or stains that didn’t come off with the hose. Rinse with clean water. Clean, polish and protect aluminium furniture with a soft cloth dipped in a water and vinegar solution. Avoid any abrasive materials that can scratch the aluminium. We always advise our customers to then polish and protect aluminium garden furniture with a couple of thin coats of car Turtle wax to give it a little extra protection.
  • Plastic & Resin
    Cleaning plastic furniture is not difficult, to be honest. However, plastic is porous so merely wiping it down with a damp sponge and washing up liquid usually won’t get it totally clean. White outdoor patio furniture may need a mild bleach solution to keep it sparkling white. Fill a bucket with warm water and detergent. With plastic garden furniture, you can use everything from car shampoo, washing up liquid or
    any general-purpose detergent. Add about a quarter of a cup of bleach to the detergent if the furniture is white or heavily mildewed. Make sure you’re wearing rubber gloves when using any bleach solution because chlorine can irritate the skin. Turn the furniture upside down, if possible. Grime and mildew accumulate on the underside too. As long as you are taking the time to really wash your furniture, might as well get all the undersides clean. Wash and rinse the underside, then turn the furniture right side up and wash that side last. Scrub the furniture thoroughly with the sponge. Use a toothbrush to get into any nooks and crannies. If the furniture is older or very inexpensive, softer plastic, do not use the scrub side of the sponge unless you really need to remove a stubborn stain. It could scratch the finish. Rinse the furniture completely. If this can be done outside with a garden hose, all the better and plastic garden furniture can withstand the blast of a pressure washer. Dry with a soft cloth to prevent water spots. Finish with a coat of car wax for a water-repellent shine. Simply follow the directions for waxing a car and make extra sure to buff it smooth and dry before use.
  • Wicker & Rattan
    The best place to start with both synthetic and natural wicker and rattan is to hoover it with the soft brush attachment to remove any dust and debris from the weave, then wipe it down with a damp cloth. If it's a natural wicker and it still looks bad, then you may have to sand or strip the piece down and repaint. A coat of clear varnish, paint, or a combination of the two is often applied to natural wicker to protect the surface. Sunlight is the main enemy of natural wicker, so you should always cover it if you intend to leave it outside for more than two weeks at a time. Only clean both natural and synthetic rattan with a mild washing-up liquid and avoid using too much water with the natural type, as this can weaken the fibres, poly-rattan on the other hand can withstand a large amount of moisture. Regular cleaning is recommended for natural wicker, as it generally cannot endure harsh or abrasive treatments and this will also minimize potential mildew buildup. Poly-rattan will need cleaning every couple of months or so to primarily prevent any dirt from building up between the woven resin, but also to keep it looking like new.

Garden Furniture Covers

Even if your garden tables and chairs are stored safely in the garden shed or garage, you might still want to cover them to keep the dust off. If you can’t store inside and you’re going down the canvas patio cover route, then there are a few simple protective measures you should take to ensure the best possible protection. The following precautions and tips from Lazy Susan will help ensure your furniture is fit for use come summer 2011.

  • Waterproof furniture covers
    Make sure the garden furniture covers are totally waterproof to ensure the best possible level of protection from moisture.
  • Find a cover that fits
    Rather than covering all your garden furniture with one large patio cover, try and get the covers that fit the individual items of garden furniture. This way the cover is more likely to cover everything and stay on your furniture when the wind picks up.
  • Secure your covers
    Before you purchase your covers, check to see that they come with eyelets or some way of fastening the cover securely down so that the wind can’t blow it off. If you’ve already got the covers and they don’t have this feature, then look to secure them with something heavy such as some old bricks etc.
  • Keep furniture sheltered
    Even with a cover on and secured, it is always best to move your garden furniture into a sheltered part of the garden if you can. If your furniture is left in an exposed area, then strong winds may blow your furniture over, which could cause damage to the furniture and not to mention the rest of the garden.
  • Store on a solid flat surface
    Rather than leaving your furniture on the lawn move it to a patio or decked area if possible, as this will significantly reduce the furniture’s exposure to moisture. If you can’t avoid this, then try standing the table and chair legs in saucers of wood preservative for several hours to add some extra protection.
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