By Erik J. Martin, CTW Features
It’s a comforting feeling knowing that our families are snug and secure indoors when Old Man Winter hits with all his fury, unleashing bitter cold, merciless snow, blowing leaves and debris, and dangerous ice across our home exteriors and yards.
But not all our possessions are safe from winter’s extremes. Outdoor furniture left unprotected – including chairs, tables, barbecue grills, swing benches, and hammocks – can degrade quickly between now and the next thaw come springtime. That’s why it’s crucial to take steps now, before temperatures plummet, to safeguard these prized items.
“Taking preventive measures now can help keep your outdoor furniture looking good for as long as possible. For example, if you don’t clean off any dirt or dust that may have accumulated over the summer, these items will get even dirtier much more quickly during the winter. And if you don’t protect them from water and freeze damage – which can happen when rain or snow seeps into cracks in wood or metal – it will be more difficult to prolong their lifespan,” says Hugo Guerrero, a certified House Cleaning Technician in New York City.
Implementing elbow grease now can also save you from cleanup chores in the spring, when you’ll be eager to start entertaining al fresco-style again.
“Winterizing your outdoor kitchen items is also essential to protect them from the elements,” says Jayme Muller, a design and sales manager at RTA Outdoor Living. “It starts with carefully cleaning your grill, being careful to remove grease and food particles. Keep in mind the grills can be a safe, dry place for critters over winter, and they may consider leftover food as an open invitation. After cleaning your grill thoroughly, dry it completely to prevent moisture from rusting and corroding it. Consider protecting the burners, cooking grates, and other metal cooking surfaces by coating them in a light layer of cooking oil. Remember to turn off the gas line if you have a gas grill, and to top your grill with a winter cover, too.”
Unplugging, cleaning, and drying out your outdoor refrigerator and icemaker is also a smart move.
“Keeping these outdoor appliances running during winter weather can damage the compressor and ruin the units,” cautions Muller.
If you have an outdoor sink, you’ll also want to winterize this appliance before the first freeze by removing all water from the pipes and keeping the water lines from expanding and cracking. Same is true of outdoor spigots/faucets and hoses; disconnect and drain them carefully.
A little extra effort goes a long way when it comes to outdoor furniture fabric.
“Soil – including dust, dirt, and particles from the air – left on outdoor furniture and outdoor fabrics provide the perfect environment for mold or mildew to develop, especially when they get wet or damp. Over time, mildew and mold can be difficult to remove,” says Mary Gagliardi, a cleaning expert and in-house scientist with Clorox in Oakland, California.
If in doubt, check with the manufacturer for proper care recommendations, and before using any cleaning products, test them in an inconspicuous place on the fabric first. Whenever possible, select a sunny day to clean the furniture and ample time for air drying in the sun.
“I recommend using a bleach and water solution in addition to sodium hypochlorite – which is great for cleaning away mold and mildew. Use one-and-a-half cups of bleach added to 14 ½ cups of water to make 1 gallon of solution. Pre-wet your surfaces first by spraying with a garden hose. Apply to the fabric surfaces using a brush or sponge, then rinse away the product thoroughly with clean water,” suggests Gagliardi.
For outdoor cushions, check with the manufacturer first for recommended care instructions. Vacuum cushions and pillows to remove loose dirt and soil. Machine wash any removable covers following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
For best results, move any outdoor furniture to an indoor or sheltered/covered dry location, such as a garage or shed. Store cushions and pillows in large plastic storage bins that are weather-resistant. If you cannot relocate your outdoor fabrics and cushions/pillows, consider investing in outdoor furniture covers.