Decks and patios have become like another room in the home, and if you are lucky enough to have such a space, you enjoy parties, meals, and just relaxing in that outdoor entertainment area all summer long. You probably have spent some serious money on the furnishing as well. The days are long gone when an aluminum folding chair with scratchy plastic webbing was considered adequate!
So, as the weather cools and your fun times move back indoors, it’s time to think about protecting your outdoor furniture so you can continue to enjoy it next summer and for years to come. Here are some tips for caring for plastic, metal, and wicker furniture in the cold months.
Caring for Your Plastic Patio Furniture
Plastic or resin furniture is particularly susceptible to the ravages of weather. Freezing temperatures can make plastic brittle and prone to cracking. And the ultraviolet rays of the sun leach a little life from plastic for every day of exposure.
Fortunately, most plastic furniture is also light in weight, which makes it easy to gather up and store away in your basement, garage, or shed. Most plastic chairs and loungers are also designed to be folded or stackable, so you can store it easily even in smaller spaces.
Before putting your plastic furniture away for the year, give it all a thorough washing. Use a rag and a bucket of water with a little dish soap, and scrub gently at tougher spots of tree sap or bird droppings. Let it dry completely before moving it to storage.
Caring for Your Metal Patio Furniture
Patio furniture made from metals like aluminum is pretty easy to maintain. Keep it clean with mild soap and water. Steer clear of abrasive cleaning agents like bleach or cleanser as this can damage the finish. Rinse thoroughly and use an old towel to wipe it dry.
Aluminum and other metals can sometimes build up calcium deposits, which are whitish spots that mar the finish of the metal and make it feel rougher to the touch. If you notice calcium build-up, wash the furniture down with a vinegar solution. You can make the solution by mixing one part vinegar to nine parts water.
It’s possible to leave your metal deck furniture outside over the winter, but you have to be careful to protect it. The most important thing is to prevent water from accumulating inside the frames, as freezing and melting can warp or damage the structure. Water sitting inside the frame for long periods of time can cause rust to form where you can’t see it or treat it, slowly eating away your investment from the inside.
If you do decide to leave your metal furniture in place over the winter, cover it securely with custom-fitted covers or very secure tarps, and check it periodically to make sure everything has been staying dry and protected. And of course, if you have enough indoor storage space for your furniture, storing it out of the reach of the elements will give it a longer lifespan.
Caring for Your Wicker Patio Furniture
Wicker outdoor furniture is beautiful but requires some special attention. Wicker is prone to drying out and becoming brittle over time. Even in the months when you are using it, you should cover your furniture between uses to protect it from dirt and sunlight. If wicker furniture is wet, don’t sit on it; the extra flexibility in the wet fibers can cause stretching and allow connections to loosen and unravel.
Wicker furniture can be annoying to clean because the very construction that makes it look so attractive can also collect dirt and debris. Vacuum your wicker regularly, using the nozzle and brush attachments to really get into all the grooves. When it’s time for deep cleaning, mix 2 tablespoons of ammonia in a gallon of water and use a nubby rag or soft scrub brush to reach all the crevices. Then go back over the furniture with a clean rag soaked in plain water to rinse off the ammonia. Let it air dry completely in a shaded area.
If your wicker furniture is painted, inspect the paint regularly for wear and chips. If you decide to paint or repaint your wicker to refresh its appearance, choose a paint that is specifically recommended for painting wicker outdoor furniture.
Extreme cold winter temperatures are not kind to wicker. Store it away for the cold months in a garage or storage space that will keep it dry and protected from the elements.
Caring for Outdoor Fabric Cushions and Rugs
Rugs and cushions specifically designed for outdoor use are made of sturdy fabrics with protective coatings that help them stand up to the elements. However, no fabric will last very long if it’s exposed to the weather 365 days of the year.
When temperatures cool, roll up rugs and store indoors in a garage or shed. If it has rained recently, allow them to dry completely before you store them. You may want to wrap a plastic tarp around the outside to keep them dry, but only if there is no chance of humidity building up.
Cushions and pillows can be stored indoors. Put them in plastic tubs with lids to keep them protected from dirt and dust. Deck bins can also work as storage, as long as they are watertight to prevent mold and mildew growth.
A nice-looking set of deck furniture can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Make sure you invest the proper time and attention to caring for that furniture, so you can get many years of enjoyment from it.