Outdoor Furniture Care (outdoorfurniture)

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Outdoor Furniture Maintenance

Submitted by Lorene Bartos, UNL Extension Educator

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Outdoor furniture needs care just as any other furniture a family uses. The furnishings used in outside areas usually are quite durable, but need regular maintenance to look their best. Washing is one of the best ways to preserve outdoor furniture. When dirt and residues are allowed to set, metals corrode and become pitted, while plastics and fabrics loose their color.

At the beginning of each outdoor season clean outdoor furniture. First dust each item, then wash in a solution of mild detergent and water. Dry thoroughly. Check all nuts, bolts and screws, tighten any that are loose. Missing, broken or rusted fasteners should be replaced with rustproof ones made of aluminum, galvanized steel or stainless steel. Next, lubricate all hinges and wheels with a silicone lubricant. Oil should be avoided because it tends to cake and attract dirt. Additional care depends on the material the furniture is made from.

Red wood furniture is attractive and weather resistant and not likely to rot or warp. It will almost surely turn grey within a year if not cared for properly. Commercial brands of redwood stain and sealer are available to help prevent discoloration. Before applying the sealer, wash the furniture and replace any fasteners starting to rust, as they will eventually stain the wood. Lightly sand all exposed parts with sand paper. Dust and finally wipe with a rag moistened in paint thinner. The final step is to apply one or two coats of water repellent specially made for redwood.

Plastic resin is extremely durable and weather resistant. It can withstand the elements and ordinary use. It can also be stored easily, as it usually stacks or breaks down for storage. Most soils and stains can be cleaned off with a non-abrasive all-purpose cleaner, a glass cleaner, or a cleaner-polish, following label directions. A solution of hand dishwashing detergent and warm water also works well. Always rinse thoroughly and dry with a clean soft cloth.

Wicker furniture is best kept in the shade. Once a year, soak it in water to put moisture back into the fiber. Wicker should be washed and refinished periodically to keep it in good condition. Vacuum the furniture first, then wipe down with a rag soaked in a mild detergent and warm water solution. Wicker furniture with a natural finish, that has dulled, can be restored by applying lemon oil furniture polish.

Aluminum furniture resists rust but has to be safeguarded against any type of pitting. Frequent washing helps prevent pitting if the metal is in good shape or has an enameled or baked-on finish. Protect the surface with a light application of automobile wax then buff to remove any excess. Ideally, aluminum should be washed and waxed every few months.

Cushions should be cleaned and vacuumed. Store them out of the sun to prevent fading in the off season.

Regular maintenance will help keep outdoor furniture looking good for many years, so take a few minutes to care for your furniture as you enjoy using it during the summer.

Ask Lorene

(This resource was updated May 2012 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition - 2005. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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