When your patio furniture looks and feels welcoming, you can have your own private oasis to relax, entertain and spend warm summer evenings. Unfortunately, the weather can make your furniture uncomfortably weathered and reduce its longevity. In reality, proper maintenance of your lawn furniture isn't all that difficult, and the payoff can be huge.
Unless you live in a very mild climate with little seasonal change, your patio furniture is not meant to be outside all year long. Even if you are able to manage without storing the furniture for the winter, the sun, rain, wind and even small wildlife creatures can cause damage. Regular maintenance will help keep your furniture looking good. Clean the furniture every few weeks; use hot, soapy water on aluminum, vinyl and plastic; use plain water, no soap, on wooden furniture, and wipe it down and let it dry completely afterward; use upholstery cleaner on canvas following the manufacturer directions; and use any glass cleaner and crumpled newspaper or paper towels on glass tabletops.
Remove cushions when the patio furniture is not in use to help cut down on mildew from morning dew or rain, and put them away in a dry shed. You can also cover the furniture with vinyl tarps or custom patio furniture covers. Custom covers will usually fit better and stay on in mild winds; use tie downs or weights to hold tarps in place. Make sure that your cushions pass the sniff test periodically, even if they are allegedly rain-resistant.
If the cushions do get wet, either from the weather or from spilled drinks, rinse, wipe and allow to air-dry. If your cushions have removable covers, toss them in the gentle cycle and let them air dry completely. Canvas and rope hammocks can be laundered although you might need to use a commercial-size machine.
For covers that can't be removed, or for furniture such as umbrellas, mix a mild solution of bleach and water (approximately 3/4 cup bleach to a gallon of water) and, using a spray bottle, test an inconspicuous corner for color fastness. If the color stays OK, then spray the fabric and wipe the solution off with a sponge and cold, fresh water.
Fixing any stains, rust spots or loose hardware as soon as you find them is the best way to prep for seasonally storing your furniture. Even so be sure to give it a close look over before moving your furniture into a dry shed or garage for the winter. Tighten all loose bolts and screws and test to make sure they are holding and there are no wobbly legs. If you find cracks in plastic or wooden furniture you might be able to make repairs with glue or putty, but don't wait for them to get bigger.
Wash all surfaces of metal furniture, and check for oxidation or rust. Use steel wool and rub rust spots gently so that you don't rub off paint from surrounding areas, and then spray with rustproofing paint (in the same or a similar color). Apply a thin coat of car wax, and buff with a soft cloth. Using a brush and the mild bleach-water solution, spray and scrub wicker furniture and rinse with the spray from a garden hose. Use a light coat of spray paint if needed to freshen the finish, and spray water repellant solution on the legs and feet. Store wicker furniture inside and off the floor during the winter.
Use a bleach solution on cedar and teak furniture and allow it to sit for 24 hours to lighten the wood. Sand the surface with a fine sand paper, and apply China wood oil. Treated cedar and teak furniture can be left outside year-round if the weather is not too severe. Use a firm sponge and the detergent, bleach and water solution on other wood furniture. Freshen painted finishes. If the furniture has a natural wood finish, coat it with a clear water repellent and paste wax. This wood furniture should be stored indoors and off the floor through the winter. Plastic resin furniture should be washed with a detergent, rinsed and stored where temperatures will remain above freezing for the winter.
Take care of your furniture now and it will remain looking nice for years.