Soaring temperatures and plenty of sunshine are much more fun if you’ve got your outdoor space outfitted for summer. But if you’ve pulled out your garden furniture from storage and didn’t remember it looking that dingy, we’ve got great news for you: You don’t need to buy anything new! You can rehab it on your own with these helpful cleaning and restoration tips from Carolyn Forte, the cleaning lab director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Here’s how to regularly care for wood, resin, and metal furniture, and keep them looking their best.
Unlike other materials, weathered wood can be a challenge because it requires more than just cleaning; there’s restoration that also needs to be done. Instead of buying separate products for each step, try using a bundle, like Furniture Clinic’s Garden Furniture Restoration Kit.
“I love that everything I needed to rehab wood furniture comes with it and it’s all stored nicely in a bucket,” says Forte. “Also, the stiff brush it comes with is handy for a variety of other cleaning tasks like scrubbing up planters or cleaning grill grates.”
The 4 Steps of Restoring Wood Furniture
Here’s the process (and be sure to use the products according to label instructions): Start by giving the furniture a good brush to remove dirt and debris. Pay special attention to joints and crevices where things can get stuck. Then, using the teak cleaner and the brush, clean the wood by scrubbing thoroughly. “It’s so important to make sure the wood is completely clean, so don’t be afraid to do a second pass,” says Forte. Rinse the furniture with the hose and then let it dry completely before moving to the next step.
Next, use a teak brightener to even out and enhance the color — wood often turns dull over time if it’s not properly cared for. Let it sit per the package instructions. Rinse again with water and then let it dry completely.
Finally, apply the teak oil, which helps keep the wood from drying out. “Use the provided cloth and rub it on in the direction of the wood grain and let it soak in for four to six hours,” says Forte. Don’t be afraid to use several coats, she adds; three is recommended. You’ll want to repeat this process once a year to keep your furniture looking its best.
Metal furniture needs a wash and rinse process that starts with a bucket of warm soapy water and a scrub brush. Clean it, then rinse and let it dry completely, and don’t forget to tip chairs over to ensure any water completely drains out. If your metal table has a glass top, clean it using your favorite glass cleaner; if it’s really dirty, do a first pass with a paper towel and then a second pass with a microfiber cloth to thoroughly clean it.
“To keep metal furniture cleaner longer, apply a thin coat of car wax to help dirt and bird poop (it happens!) slide right off when it’s time to clean,” says Forte. She also recommends keeping umbrellas closed. “It’s so much easier to clean a table than to have to remove your umbrella and clean it.”
Resin is one of the easiest types of furniture to clean—it needs the same wash and rinse process as metal. All you need to do is use a bristle brush and a bucket of warm soapy water (dish soap works) to scrub down the surface. You’ll likely need to use extra elbow grease if yours is scratched or in places where the plastic is textured.
For stubborn stains, use a melamine foam sponge. Rinse and let the furniture dry completely.
Regular Care is Key
“Just because this furniture goes outside doesn’t mean it’s indestructible!” Forte says. “Outdoor furniture is an investment.” Wipe down outdoor furniture regularly during the season to prevent staining or a tough cleaning job before cooler weather sets in.
In the off-season, it should be cleaned and covered or stored away to protect it from the elements. Forte also pulls pillows and cushions off and brings them inside or puts them in a deck box when they’re not in use. They might be weather resistant, but this helps keep them from getting dirty or fading over time.
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