How to Maintain and Repair Your Outdoor Furniture

Keep your outdoor furniture in top shape with these tips. Already dealing with worn wood, crusty cushions or rust-marred metal? No worries — we’ve got pointers for repairing not-so-pristine pieces, too.

Urban Dining Deck With Privacy Hedges and Wicker Dining Chairs

Urban Dining Deck With Privacy Hedges and Wicker Dining Chairs

Limit your exposure to nosy neighbors by getting creative with privacy provisions. Shrubs in planters (that you can take with you when you move) are a smart solution that architect Carolyn Trevor used in this lovely dining deck. “The formal evergreen topiary softens the edges and creates a pleasing backdrop whilst affording some privacy for the occupants. It’s an efficient way of enclosing the deck and also providing a natural balustrade — without losing entertainment space. The architectural quality of the planting is also greatly enhanced when lit up at night,” she says.

Photo by: Adam Butler; Design By: Trevor Lahiff Architects

Adam Butler; Design By: Trevor Lahiff Architects

By: Alyson McNutt English

Wicker

How to maintain it: Keep your wicker clean by regularly wiping it down with a microfiber cloth to remove dust and other detritus. Your vacuum cleaner and trusty crevice attachment are also helpful tools for keeping your wicker in good condition, or you can give it a deep clean with a household steam cleaner. If the coating on your wicker is deteriorating, re-seal it with a paste wax to maintain water resistance. Store wicker during winter months, but be sure it is very clean: any moisture or grime can be a boon to mold and mildew spores.

How to fix it: If you start sniffing that tell-tale mildew odor on your wicker, you’ll need to do a deep-weave clean to remove it. Use a 50-50 solution of white vinegar and warm water and make sure it penetrates the thatched layers. For any areas where there is visible mold, protect yourself with a dust mask and safety glasses, then use a small stiff paintbrush or toothbrush and scrub the fungus off. Wash the vinegar solution off with a gentle stream of water, then make sure the furniture dries completely — preferably in the sun. Always discard any brushes, cloths or sponges used to manage mold; you don’t want spores to spread. 

Plastic or Resin

Screened Porch With Durable Sectional

Screened Porch With Durable Sectional

Sectional sofas come in many materials, but woven resin options are much more modern in appearance and are remarkably durable. The sectional used in this porch came in many different modular components that offer a plethora of configurations.

Photo by: Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

How to maintain it: These materials often don’t require intense maintenance: if they’re dirty, spray them down with a hose. More stubborn muck may require a scrub-down with a simple soapy water mix. Protect your plastic and resin outdoor furniture from cold-induced brittleness, which can cause cracking and instability, by storing them in winter.

How to fix it: If you spy suspicious spots on your plastic or resin outdoor furniture, you can use store-bought mold remediation solutions, or you can make your own. Harriet Jones, cleaning supervisor for Go Cleaners London, recommends a mix of warm water — a gallon or so — with a 1/4-cup of household bleach to banish the musty blight. Wearing gloves, scrub down the pieces with a soft-bristled brush. Leave the bleach mix on the chairs for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the severity of the staining, then rinse clean and dry with a cloth.

Teak

Teak Outdoor Bench

Teak Outdoor Bench

A teak wood bench is an ideal resting place for towels and beach equipment during a refreshing rinse.

How to maintain it: New teak outdoor furniture should come with cleaning instructions. Follow those and keep the instructions in a safe place to refer back to them when needed. If you don’t have care instructions for your teak, don’t worry. If you want your teak to wear to its natural silvery sheen, just dust it regularly and clean with a gentle soapy water mixture when needed. If you want to maintain the golden glow, however, you’ll need to apply a UV inhibitor and brush on tung or linseed oil three or four times a year. You can leave teak outdoors year-round. 

How to fix it: If your teak has weathered and you want to reclaim its honey hue, a gentle sanding with sandpaper or steel wool should remove the silvery-gray patina. Apply oil to the wood until it no longer absorbs it. Wipe the piece down to remove excess oil and let dry completely. 

Other Woods

Shady Approach

Shady Approach

“This is the area of that is going to be in the shade during sunset, so it made sense to add an indoor and outdoor space,” says build and design manager Dylan Eastman.

Photo by: Eric Perry

Eric Perry

How to maintain it: Make sure your wood furniture sports an exterior-grade varnish — most store-bought pieces should be coated already, but if you’ve purchased a handmade piece (or made it yourself), this step is critical in both extending the life of your pieces and making maintenance and cleaning simpler.

Coated wood outdoor furniture can be cleaned with a mixture of soapy water — dish soap and water in a bucket should work fine. Use a sponge to gently wash the furniture, then rinse with clean water. Use a backyard hose either without a spray nozzle or with the nozzle turned to a gentler setting to wash the soapy mixture off the wood. Wood furniture (except teak and cedar) should be stored in a climate-controlled area for the winter. 

How to fix it: If your wooden furniture is weather-worn, begin by using a stiff wire brush to scrub away splintered wood or cracked paint, says Kyle Gesuelli, a home improvement expert at Handy. After the surface is smoothed down, use a putty knife to apply wood filler to repair major cracks and holes, and after the repairs dry, sand the patches down flush with the original piece. After repairs are made, prime and paint the piece, applying finishes in the direction of the wood grain.

Cast Iron and Other Metals

Bright Blue Bar Cart With Cocktail Supplies

Bright Blue Bar Cart With Cocktail Supplies

A bar cart always looks best with some yummy beverages on it! Using both shelves of the cart is great for parties; you can store extra glasses and mixers on the bottom shelf and leave the top for drink prep and little snacks. Now let’s party!

From: Samantha Pattillo

How to maintain it: Cast iron can be cleaned like most other outdoor furniture: apply a mixture of soapy water, then rinse clean. Many newer metal outdoor materials are made to be rust-resistant, but if yours isn’t, use paste wax or naval jelly to add an extra layer of protection. Check for any cracked paint and address it before the metal becomes exposed to the elements.  Both iron and other metal furniture can be left outdoors year-round.

How to fix it: Cast iron and metal furniture present a challenge other outdoor furniture materials don’t: rust. If you spot a rust spot on your outdoor furniture, don’t let it fester. If you don’t address it when it is a minor issue, the metal will continue to oxidize around the original spot, and the rust will spread and become a more serious problem, eventually resulting in weak spots and holes that will ruin the piece.

To safely address rust, you’ll need to wear a dust mask and eye protection. Begin by working the rust off the affected areas using either a stiff wire brush or sandpaper. You may also want a paint scraper on hand to pull off any flakes around the rusted area. Once you’ve removed the outer layer, use a rust dissolver to get rid of any remaining oxidized metal. You’re finished when you can see bare metal where there used to be rust. After the rust is gone, make sure the piece is dry. Apply a primer, preferably one intended specifically for metal with rust-inhibiting properties. After the piece is primed, you can repaint it.

Umbrellas

Deck Table and Umbrella

Deck Table and Umbrella

Deck and Master Deck at DIY Network's Blog Cabin 2012 located at Waldoboro, ME

Photo by: Jason Kisner

Jason Kisner

How to maintain it: If your umbrella has a wire frame, you should lubricate the joints at least once a year. For wood frames, care for it as you would other outdoor wooden furniture: first, make sure it’s protective coat is in good shape. If it’s not, you will need to sand off any excess coat and reapply. For covers that are in good condition but just need some basic cleaning, use a soft-bristled brush to apply a gentle soapy water mixture and give it a thorough but gentle scrub.

How to fix it: If your cover is showing signs of mold or mildew, try a scrub-down with the trusty 50-50 mix of white vinegar and water. Wearing a mask and eye protection, open the umbrella and use a brush with firm bristles to remove as much of the fungus as you can before applying the solution. After you’ve brushed away the dry spores, scrub the stains with the solution using a sponge or soft-bristled brush. For resistant stains, try a bleach solution of one tablespoon of bleach to a pint of warm water. Before you apply the bleach solution all over, give it a test run on an inconspicuous spot to ensure your umbrella fabric is colorfast. And remember that you may get bleach on whatever clothing you’re wearing to do the cleaning, so dress appropriately for your umbrella undertaking!

Cushions

Red Cushion on Outdoor  Chair

Red Cushion on Outdoor Chair

Pergola from DIY Network's Blog Cabin 2014

Photo by: Eric Perry ©2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Eric Perry, 2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

How to maintain it: First, only use cushions meant for outdoor use on your patio furniture. “Indoor/outdoor pillows are mildew and waterproof, but when dirt, pollen and other foreign objects are exposed to the pillow, mildew can grow on those tiny pieces,” explains Mary L. Delpit, VP for Business Development at The Blush Label. Regularly brush dust and debris off your cushioned furniture, and use a vacuum cleaner with a crevice attachment to remove dirt along the seams of the cushions, where it often becomes trapped. 

How to fix it: For basic dirt and stains, Meg Roberts, president of Molly Maid, suggests combining 1/4 cup of mild dishwashing detergent with 1 gallon of warm water in a bucket. Scrub cushions with a soft nylon brush, then let the soapy solution sit on the cushions for about 15 minutes. Rinse them clean, then allow the material to air-dry in the sun. To treat mold and mildew stains, use the same cleaning process, but try a mixture of 1/2 cup bleach in a gallon of water — just remember to check for colorfastness before applying to the whole cushion. For oil-based spills (like sunscreen) that can leave greasy spots on your decor, wipe off the surface thoroughly, then treat with a generous dose of flour or cornstarch, which should soak up the oily residue. Clean off fully-soaked absorbents and repeat until the grease is gone.

Outdoor Grills

Stainless Steel Grill

Stainless Steel Grill

Making a large batch of ribs is easy, with four burners for grilling and a side burner for cooking barbecue sauce.

Photo by: Eric Perry ©2014, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Eric Perry, 2014, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

How to maintain it: A clean grill is a happy grill. Never put your grill away while it’s still coated with food debris, or you’ll find pests waiting to pounce. Use a stiff brush and soapy water to clean off grill grates, then coat with a light rubbing of vegetable oil to prevent rusting. When it’s not in use, cover your grill to prevent excessive wear-and-tear. Store your grill in a garage or storage shed over harsh winter months, but if you use a propane tank, leave it outside.

How to fix it: If your gas grill isn’t heating properly, check the burner tubes. They may need to be cleaned. Remove the entire burner and tube assembly and check the tube holes. Brush the holes clean with a wire brush, and unclog any plugged holes with a paperclip or other small wire. Scrub down with soapy water and dry completely before replacing.  For rusted grates, remove and scrub down with a soft-bristled brush to remove as much rust as possible. If the grate is still in good condition, return it to the grill and sprinkle generously with baking soda. Heat up the grill and the baking soda will remove the rest of the rust.

3 Outdoor Furniture Flips

See All Photos

These three outdoor furniture pieces had seen better days before we got our hands on them. See the before-and-after photos and get step-by-step instructions for the projects.

From: Samantha Pattillo

Wooden Chaise Longue: Before

Bringing wood furniture back to life after a year or two outdoors can seem daunting, but it’s actually very easy and oh-so-satisfying when you’re done. This wooden chaise was sun-bleached and a bit grimy after laying out under the sun and rain, but overall it was still in great structural shape.

From: Samantha Pattillo

Wooden Chaise Longue: The Makeover

A good cleaning, sanding and staining will work wonders on a tired piece of wood furniture. But if you want to take your makeover up a notch, consider adding a fun, tropical-inspired design like we did here. Oil-based paint pens make it super easy to add intricate details. Get step-by-step instructions for this project >>

From: Samantha Pattillo

Wooden Chaise Longue: After

This tropical-inspired lounge chair is now the perfect place to relax poolside. Add a few toss pillows and a great magazine and get your chill on. Get step-by-step instructions for this project >>

From: Samantha Pattillo

Metal Bar Cart: Before

Vintage and antique items, like this midcentury modern bar cart, can be great alternatives to buying new. They offer one-of-a-kind style and are often more affordable, but sometimes they need a little TLC.

From: Samantha Pattillo
Tags: 
  1. bar cart

Metal Bar Cart: The Makeover

You can follow the same steps to clean up any outdoor item made of wrought iron. If the piece is rusty, you’ll want to tackle that first with trisodium phosphate (or TSP) and a wire brush. Luckily, this bar cart didn’t have any rust spots, so we skipped straight to sanding and spray painting. Apply multiple light coats of paint (rather than one or two heavy coats) for a smooth finish. Get step-by-step instructions for this project >>

From: Samantha Pattillo
Tags: 
  1. bar cart

Metal Bar Cart: After

After a little elbow grease and a fresh coat of paint, this bar cart looks as good as new. We stored extra glasses and mixers on the bottom shelf and designated the top for drink prep and snacks. Now let’s party! Get step-by-step instructions for this project >>

From: Samantha Pattillo

Rattan Peacock Chair: Before

Intricately hand woven out of rattan, peacock chairs made their way from England in the 19th century and took their place in gardens across the US. Now, they’re coming back in a big way as part of the new boho style trend. This miniature peacock chair just needed a little love and a punch of color to get back on the style bandwagon.

From: Samantha Pattillo
Tags: 
  1. peacock chair

Rattan Peacock Chair: The Makeover

After a thorough cleaning, we gave this chair a fun ombre paint treatment using a chip brush to really get into the crevasses. Next, we wrapped the outer frame with bright teal ribbon. This allowed us to cover the existing black wrapping that was cracked and fading. Get step-by-step instructions for this project >>

From: Samantha Pattillo
Tags: 
  1. peacock chair

Rattan Peacock Chair: After

Bring the whole look together with a fun toss pillow that pulls in the colors of the paint, ribbon and (in this case) the front door. Rattan, while great for outdoor use, needs to be taken care of. Keeping it under a covered porch or entry (as seen here) is a great way to protect it from hard rain and sun. Get step-by-step instructions for this project >>

From: Samantha Pattillo
Tags: 
  1. peacock chair

Photo By: unknown

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