This winter has been particularly brutal on garden furniture. A succession of gales have taken turns to toss, tumble and scatter our defenceless garden chairs to the four corners of the garden, whilst the combination of monsoon-like rain and unseasonably warm weather has helped provide a fertile breeding ground for mould and mildew to flourish. Now that spring has officially sprung, it’s time to get reacquainted with a spot of outdoor lounging, but no-one wants to recline or dine on filthy furniture. So, here’s a few tips on how to restore garden furniture.
Wooden garden furniture comes in many guises. Down at the cheaper end of the market, you’ll encounter furniture made from softwood such as pine. Softwood tends to deteriorate quickly, so this type of furniture will most likely have been pre-treated with a wood preserver or painted with wood stain for protection. A light sanding in spring, followed by a re-application of wood stain or paint should see it looking smart for another season. Soft wood furniture tends to deteriorate the fastest at the points where it contacts the floor, so for extra protection, stand table or chair legs in a preservative overnight and allow it to penetrate up into the wood. Wipe off any excess preservative in the morning and place your wooden garden furniture upside down to dry.
Top range outdoor furniture tends to be made from teak, a wood with high oil and natural rubber content which makes it extremely resistant to weather and rot. Teak garden furniture can be left untouched for years and will turn a silvery grey colour when it begins to age. For those preferring those warmer, woody tones of brand new, box-fresh teak, prepare to flex your sanding arm. Here’s how to restore that golden glow…
- For this job, you’ll want to use a medium/light grade sandpaper. Try to avoid using steel wool. Although it’s one of our favourite abrasives (see our blog on looking after your hand tools) and will speedily strip back grime-encrusted wood, it will deposit steel strands that will catch in the wood grain. These in time will turn rusty and spoil your lovely finish.
- Sand in the direction of the wood grain using long, steady strokes. You don’t need to sand it to submission – just apply enough pressure to smooth down any rough patches. A sanding block is helpful here if you want to avoid blisters.
- When sanded to satisfaction, dust over the surfaces with a soft brush.
- Finally, treat your freshly sanded surfaces with teak oil or teak preserver. Apply generously with a large brush, then work into the wood with an old cloth or rag. Make sure you mop up any excess oil as this – somewhat counterproductively – can actually promote mould growth, especially if you then go and store your freshly oiled furniture in a damp shed.
Metal garden furniture shouldn’t need much maintenance, but if you see any rusty patches, act fast to prevent it from spreading.
- Brush over the rust-encrusted area with a stiff wire brush, then follow up with wire wool for a smooth finish.
- Treat the freshly buffed metal with a rust-inhibiting metal paint and allow to dry.
- Give any fittings and brackets the once over (checking for any that may have worked loose) and treat them with a squirt or two of WD40 or similar, to help prevent rust forming.
Plastic garden furniture will turn 50 shades of grey when left uncovered outside and exposed to the elements. Here’s how to buff them up as good as new.
- Grab your grubbiest chair and plonk it on your patio or similar hard standing surface.
- Crack open a pack of soda crystals (available from most supermarkets), add them to a bowl of hot water and stir to dissolve.
- Apply liberally to your filthy furniture using a cloth or sponge.
- If possible, leave the soda solution to work its magic for a few hours before rinsing off with clean water.
- Repeat this process for any stubbornly-stained areas.
For those wishing to avoid the chemical route, you’d best get hold of a pressure washer. You can also use a pressure washer for cleaning wooden garden furniture, but be aware that some of the more higher-powered washers can be pretty brutal and will damage wooden surfaces.
Before pointing and squirting at your dirty plastic goods, don’t forget that you will inevitably suffer splashback, so dress appropriately in waterproof attire. You may also want to check the wind direction to ensure your neighbours clothes-laden washing line doesn’t cop any collateral damage.
To clean your garden furniture, simply work your way back and forth across the surface, and pay particular attention to any particularly filthy nooks and crannies. It’s also worth pinning your target down with a well-placed wellington boot to stop it skidding away under pressure.
To ensure your garden chairs and tables remain clean, prevention is always better than a cure. If you’ve got room in your shed, garage or outhouse, stash your furniture away over winter and during times of extended bad weather (or ‘British summer time’ as this is often referred to). If space is an issue, investing in a tarpaulin or bespoke furniture cover will help keep it pristine. Just remember to secure any coverings to prevent strong winds from whisking them away.