Keeping your outdoor furniture clean and fresh is one of the key elements to having a beautiful garden. No matter how expensive your garden furniture is it will not be attractive or welcoming if it is covered in little presents from the birds or worn and faded, with rusty spots.
While most types of outdoor furniture will only require some simple action with soap and water, some will need more work than others so consider this carefully before you purchase anything for your garden – if you do not have the time or inclination for constant maintenance, it might be better to choose an easy-care plastic option, even if you lose out a bit in the style stakes!
This is the hardest to maintain but many people love wood for its timeless quality of elegance and beauty. If you can afford it, teak is the best choice as it contains a natural oil that makes it resistant to wet weather. Otherwise, cedar, pine, mahogany and other types are popular – and much more affordable – choices.
Regardless of type, all wooden furniture should be stored indoors in winter and ideally cleaned once or twice a year. Unless it has come to you painted or pre-treated, it is also best to protect your wooden furniture with oils, stains or polyurethane coatings and clear sealants. Be careful not to put sealant over the screws as wood will contract and expand over time and the sealant will make it harder for you to tighten the screws.
You can simply wash sealed wooden furniture with a mild detergent, taking care to scrub gently and rinsing only with a low pressure garden hose. In particular, if you have painted wood, high pressure sprays can flake off the paint completely so it is best to just wipe it down. You can also finish with a liquid wood cleaner. In areas of frequent rain, strong winds or harsh weather, you may need to clean your wooden furniture every two weeks to keep them in good condition.
If your garden furniture is made of aluminium, first determine if it is painted or not. If it is painted, then you can treat it like any other kind of painted metal surface and just use some mild soap and water to clean it. Make sure that you thoroughly rinse away any sticky soap residue and follow with an automatic paste wax to protect it. If the aluminium is unpainted or “unfinished”, however, then you will have to do a bit more.
While aluminium doesn’t rust, it does oxidise in the open air and extreme oxidation can result in ugly pitted marks. You can tackle this with a metal polishing paste, which contains very fine abrasives that remove the oxidised top layer. Once the metal is smooth and shiny again, you must protect it with an automotive paste wax to prevent further oxidation.
Remember, alkaline cleaners will also cause oxidation so don’t use any cleaners that contain chemicals like ammonia. If the metal is only lightly oxidised (e.g. from pollution), then you can treat it with a mild acidic solution of equal parts white vinegar and water.
If you have cast-iron furniture, then rust will be your No. 1 enemy. Catching any damage early is the key to preventing problems: you can simply sand the rust off, as well as any damaged paint and then prime the area and paint over it again with a rust-resistant paint. Make sure that you only use a mild detergent when washing the furniture and scrub the surface very gently, then rinse with a low-pressure hose.
Keeping iron furniture clean is essential in preventing rust as any particles of dirt and dust will help moisture to stick to the paint and corrode the coating. Again, applying automotive paste wax on the top is a good way of protecting the metal and keeping moisture from sitting on the surface. If this is impractical with some designs, try a spray-on liquid wax – but remember that this won’t be as durable.
Plastic outdoor furniture is usually made of resin plastic, which is extremely durable and economical. The only problem with resin plastic is that it has a very smooth and slightly porous finish, which means that it attracts and holds stains easily (and especially as white seems to be the most popular colour!).
To wash, simply spray with the garden hose and then scrub with a mild detergent and warm water. Rinse thoroughly. If you have white furniture, leaving it in the sun will have a natural bleaching effect, again, automotive past wax is a good surface protector, repelling both moisture and dust and grime.
While cleaning your garden furniture may be one of the more dreary chores, it is well worth investing some regular effort. A little time spent in cleaning and maintenance means that you will have stylish and beautiful pieces to enjoy for many years to come.