How to clean and prepare outdoor furniture for the season

As temperatures rise, people increasingly venture outdoors to soak up the sun, enjoy the mild breezes and entertain under the open sky. Clean and comfortable furniture can make outdoor entertaining that much more enjoyable.

After months in storage or nestled under protective tarps, outdoor furniture likely needs a good cleaning before it’s put to the test once again. Mildew may have formed, insects may be hiding out within cushions or other crevices and dirt may have accumulated – even if the furniture was cleaned before being stored away. Experts recommend cleaning outdoor furniture between three and four times per year to keep it in optimal condition.

Before cleaning, determine the material your furniture is made of, as some cleaning products may not be safe for all materials. When in doubt, read the care tags on cushions and other products or refer back to the original packaging for cleaning instructions. Always test a cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area first.

The following are some additional general furniture cleaning guidelines.

Wood

Wood comes in many varieties, from hard and softwoods to wicker furniture. Mild oil-based soaps and products geared especially to cleaning wood can be handy. On wicker and painted woods, it may be best to dilute the solutions before use. Hardwood furniture and built-in decking structures may benefit from annual sanding and then reapplication of a protective finish to maintain the look of the wood for long periods of time.

Plastic resin

Commercial cleansers may be too harsh to use on plastic resin furniture. Before risking discoloration or scratching, try some ingredients that are may be lying around the house. For example, use a wet sponge dipped in baking soda as a mild abrasive to clean resin. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse off the powdery residue afterward.

Automatic dishwasher detergent mixed with a gallon of warm water also may do the trick. The detergent contains a mild bleaching agent that will not cause damage like straight bleach.

Glass

Dish detergent and general home cleaning solutions work well on glass surfaces. Remember to clean all sides, including bottom-facing areas. After cleaning, use vinegar or a glass cleaning solution and a microfiber cloth to produce a streak-free shine.

Outdoor cushions

Outdoor fabrics are derived from different materials. However, this general-purpose recipe, courtesy of the DIY Network, may help clean many outdoor fabrics. Mix 1 teaspoon dishwashing detergent, 1 quart warm water and 1 tablespoon borax together. Saturate a sponge and use it to wash the cushions. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then spray it off with a high-force hose. Stand the cushions on their edges to dry outdoors.

Remember, vinegar can help inhibit mildew growth. Therefore, keep a bottle of diluted vinegar around to spray on plastic mesh and furniture that gets wet from the rain or a pool. Store outdoor furniture away from inclement weather whenever possible to prolong its life.

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