It’s hard to believe that Labor Day will be here in just a few weeks. In some parts of the country, that means the end of the season for patio chairs, picnic tables, and grills. Of course, those who live in warmer climates, or have enclosed porches, patios, sunrooms, or gazebos, can use their outdoor furniture all year long. However, millions of porch swings, chaise lounges, outdoor dining tables, and patio umbrellas will be cloaked with outdoor furniture covers, and/or headed for sheds and garages.
No matter where your porch furniture will be spending the cold months, now is the time to clean and, if necessary, repair it. After all, at this point in the summer, it has probably seen a lot of action, and is likely to have been spilled upon, or somehow marred, along the way.
So, if you’re going to continue to use it, you’ll want to spiff it up for the fall; and if you’re not going to be seeing it until next spring, you’ll be glad you cleaned it before you put it into storage. Furthermore, depending upon the material that it’s made from, and the type of injury that it has sustained, there’s a chance that the damage could worsen over the winter.
For example, certain kinds of metal, such as cast iron, or wrought iron, may develop rust patches. Naturally, these will get larger anyway; but if left untreated for several months, they can really get out of hand. Therefore, you should do regular inspections for rust, and get rid of it immediately. Whenever you spot a spot, sand it down, cover it with primer, then apply a rust-resistant paint that is made for outdoor use.
Fortunately, today’s aluminum outdoor furniture is a lot more durable than some of the flimsy specimens of old. In fact, many of the newer aluminum outdoor chairs and picnic tables can be exposed to the elements, year-round, without ever rusting, bending, chipping, or breaking. You may be able to clean these with only a wet sponge.
However, for outdoor aluminum furniture in general, or other aluminum items, such as patio umbrella stands, or lounge chair legs, use dishwashing liquid and water. Never use a product with an alkaline base, such as window cleaner, or anything else that contains ammonia. Clean the piece with a cotton cloth, rinse thoroughly with a hose, and dry. Then, with a soft cloth, rub on some non-abrasive car wax, and buff when dry.
To clean plastic outdoor furniture, apply the same dishwashing liquid solution with a sponge, and let it soak in for a few minutes. Use a toothbrush to get dirt out of crevices. You can also make a paste out of baking soda and water, spread a layer of it on with a sponge, scrub gently, and rinse thoroughly. To keep spilled liquids from penetrating and setting in as stains in the future, follow up the cleaning with a coat of car wax.
Now, if you don’t have, or don’t want to use, dishwashing detergent or baking soda, there is another alternative. Although it is not widely recognized as such, shaving cream is a gentle, non-toxic solvent and cleaner. Just spray it on, let it soak in, rub with a soft cloth or toothbrush, and rinse it off completely.
Hmm. Shaving cream, wash cloth, toothbrush; well, if nothing else, your patio furniture will certainly be well-groomed!