Caring for Your Outdoor Furniture
Comfortable and stylish furniture is one of the most important keys to enjoying your outdoor space. Although outdoor furniture is, by nature, designed to be extra durable, it still requires a bit of dedication and care in order to last many years and stay in tip-top condition. Here are a few tips that all outdoor furniture owners should follow:
- Read guidelines. Each and every piece of furniture is unique–and any manufacturer worth their salt is going to provide a set of customized instructions for care and use to their valued customers. Pro-tip: if you’ve already thrown away or lost the owner’s manual or the packaging on which instructions were printed, these can usually be found pretty quickly through the company’s website.
- Light-clean regularly. Simply dusting off your furniture and/or cleaning it with a damp rag regularly can do a lot to extend the life of your furniture. Although a more thorough cleaning may be necessary from time to time, such cleaning will help prevent a buildup of dirt, dust or grime on the furniture’s most exposed sections. This is important because once a buildup has occurred, it can oftentimes only be removed through abrasive means that can harm the furniture itself–which brings us directly into our next point.
- Avoid harsh cleaning solutions. Make sure you only use a non-abrasive soap, or, better yet, cleaning material specifically designed for the furniture material itself. Regardless of what type of cleaning solution you are using, it is always best to start by scrubbing very gently with a non-abrasive cleaning tool, gently increasing the pressure and/or changing your cleaning tool as needed in order to minimize any impact you have on the furniture itself. Last but not least, be sure to test out any cleaning products on a small and discrete portion of the furniture and wait until the furniture has dried before cleaning the entire piece: this will prevent you from causing any irreversible damage in a visible place.
- Keep an eye out for mold. Fungal growth is another important danger facing outdoor furniture. Because outdoor furniture is in virtually constant contact with the primary risk factor for mold, moisture, it can experience mold growth at virtually any time. Mold can make furniture dirty and uncomfortable, while also triggering certain health conditions such as allergies and asthma. Moreover, the treatments for mold can be just as damaging to furniture as the growth itself. For this reason, prevention is far preferable to treatment. There are many mold-prevention products available on the market, though many DIY advocates will also claim that allowing a mixture of water and borax to air-dry on your furniture can be just as effective.
- Cover furniture. There are many enticing reasons to use furniture covers. First of all, they allow you to adapt the look of your furniture according to the season you wish to celebrate. (You could use a light-colored cover in the spring and summer months, a darker, folksier look in autumn, and a more festive cover during the holiday season, for example.) Just as importantly, however, furniture covers also help prevent damage or wear and tear–and if an accident does occur, it is generally far easier and more cost effective to replace a cover than to replace or reupholster the furniture itself.
- Wood and wicker require special care. Wicker furniture can be extra susceptible to harsh cleaning materials or overly rigorous scrubbing. Because of the light, airy design of wicker, however, a water spray alone can often remove a great deal of grime. Wood furniture, on the other hand, can generally be cleaned with a more powerful and diverse array of cleaning solutions. However, you should be aware that, depending on the furniture, it may be important to apply a regular coat of finish or sealant in order to protect the wood from the elements.
- Cleaning the fabric. Some outdoor furniture may include removable furniture upholstery. In this case, there will almost certainly be instructions in the user’s manual detailing how this fabric can be cleaned. (If you are lucky, it may be possible to simply throw the upholstery in the washing machine, although it will almost certainly need to air dry afterwards!)
- Bring fragile elements indoors when necessary. Throw pillows, knick-knacks, and other potentially fragile outdoor decorations should always be brought inside your house or garage before storms or other potentially damaging weather events. If you plan on going away on vacation for a time, or if you know you will not be using your outdoor space during a period of time in the winter, it is also worthwhile to move your furniture indoors in order to reduce unnecessary wear and tear.