By Erik J. Martin | CTW Features
Indoor sofas, loveseats, chairs, and other furnishings face their fair share of stains, rips, blemishes, and various wear and tear. But outdoor furniture has it even tougher, being forced to endure the sun’s harsh rays, abuse of the elements, and multiple risks posed by Mother Nature.
That’s why it’s wise to appropriately safeguard and choose the right kind of al fresco furniture.
“The biggest problem for outdoor furniture is the effect that ultraviolet rays, air, and humidity have on the furniture’s finish. This is especially true for homes close to the ocean,” says Tammy Leeman, owner/operator of Absolute Powder Coating & Patio Furniture Restoration in Pompano Beach, Florida. “Routine care and maintenance will enhance the appearance of your patio furniture and extend the life of your frames, slings, strapping, and cushions, too.”
The most important recommendation to follow regards the offseason.
“Try to store outdoor furniture in a cool, dry place during seasons when it is not used. This will help prevent fading and wear,” says John Linden, and interior design are with Los Angeles-based MirrorCoop Design.
That means removing the cushions, in particular, cleaning them, and storing them in a proper location like your garage, attic, or basement.
“If you can store the frames in a dry location as well, that would be ideal. But if you lack the space, at least clean the frames and cover them in a way that will keep them as dry as possible,” advises Christine Kobervic Munger, director of merchandising and sourcing for Fernish, a furniture rental service.
Invest in quality outdoor furniture covers in this instance.
“Your furniture cover should completely cover each piece from top to bottom – not just the cushions,” suggests Corey Lee, senior vice president of SunVilla Home.
During seasons of use, take the time to clean and wash the frames with a solution of mild detergent and water, followed by a rinse with clear water and thorough drying.
“You can apply a fine, clear automotive wax for maximum protection against harmful ultraviolet exposure and salty air if you have aluminum or wrought iron furniture,” recommends Leeman.
In addition, clean your slings or vinyl strapping periodically with a multipurpose cleaner designed for patio furniture. You can remove light stains with a solution of mild detergent and water, then rinse with clear water and dry thoroughly, Leeman adds.
“Mildew and heavy stains can be removed with a quality commercial outdoor furniture cleaner and protectant. Do not use any bleach or solvent-based cleaners unless specified by the manufacturer. And avoid pressure-washing your outdoor furniture,” she continues.
When your furniture isn’t in use, consider tilting the back cushions downward so that they cover the seat cushions, Munger suggests.
“Keep a soft, natural bristle brush on hand to brush off any dust or debris between uses so that it doesn’t build up,” adds Munger.
If you are preparing to purchase outdoor furniture, aim for products with the lowest maintenance possible, such as powder-coated metal.
“All-weather wicker and woven rope are durable, but they will require more maintenance and cleaning to keep them looking new because of the textured surfaces of these materials,” Munger explains. “Wood is classic and can last a long time with proper treatment, but choose outdoor wood furniture that has been sealed for the longest life without much maintenance. Teak is the gold standard for wood that will whether well outdoors, as the oils in teak help give it natural water repellency.”
Making the right fabric choice is also crucial.
“Polyester fabrics are made from plastics and tend to break down easier when exposed to weather, salt water, or harsh chemicals. Olefin is more durable than polyester and crafted from synthetic fibers. It’s one of the most comfortable fabrics and has moisture-wicking and water-resistant properties. But it is sensitive to heat, so you need to remove this fabric from direct sunlight during sweltering days and air-dry it in the shade after washing,” Lee cautions.
The most durable outdoor fabric is solution-died acrylic, which is extremely strong, UV-stabilized, and water-, fade-, and weather-resistant.