Tips for Maintaining & Storing Outdoor Furniture

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Here's a complete guide to maintaining and storing your outdoor furniture so that it still looks good-as-new next summer. It's not that hard, but different types of furniture require different care. Save yourself time, money and guesswork with our handy guide.

Caring for outdoor furniture doesn't have to be difficult or time-consuming. Spending a little time on this outdoor project throughout the summer and at the end of the season can save you hundreds of dollars in the long run and give your outdoor furniture a long life.

Aluminum, Wrought Iron and Other Metal Patio Furniture

Aluminum is supposed to be rust-free, but the elements can take their toll on patio furniture left outdoors all year. If possible, store your metal patio set indoors. If you can't, no worries. Take the umbrella in so it doesn't break, stow the cushions someplace warm and dry to avoid mold and mildew from growing, and secure a tarp over the table.

Experts recommend washing your aluminum-frame table with a mild detergent. Do this on a warm, sunny day and also towel dry to be sure it dries thoroughly. Apply a coat of car wax for protection. If your furniture is already showing signs of wear, remove rust with a wire brush, then use Rustoleum or another outdoor spray paint in a matching color. You can use automotive paint for small touch-ups.

Plastic Patio Furniture

Take those plastic chairs and tables—which are pricier than you might think if you need to replace them!—indoors after washing them with your garden hose and toweling them dry. Plastic left in the sun will grow brittle and break or crack. To remove ground-in dirt, mold or mildew, scrub tables and chairs with a Magic Eraser.

Woods, Including Teakwood Patio Furniture

Teak is designed to turn silver with time, but you can prevent this by coating with a specialty oil at the end of every season.

Like any other outdoor furniture, wood patio furniture will last longer if you cover it with a waterproof tarp or bring it indoors. But if your wooden furniture does brave the elements all winter, you can restore it with acrylic paint or stain. This is also a great way to breathe new life into old patio furniture and give your yard a new look come spring.

Fabric Cushions

Speaking of breathing new life in to your outdoor living space, you might choose to replace your cushions every season (look for end-of-season clearance sales!) to enjoy a fresh design each year at a minimal cost.

If you want to keep your cushions, store them indoors. Prevent mold from growing on acrylic fabrics by keeping cushions clean throughout the summer. Give cushions a once-over before you stow them for the season, vacuuming and shaking them clean and removing any stains. For tough black mold spots or stains, clean with a mixture that contains 1 cup of bleach, 1 gallon of water, and a squirt of dish soap. Use soap and water on cotton or printed fabrics. Do the same with your umbrella.

It's also wise to have a shed or special storage spot to keep fabric or acrylic cushions during the summer. The sun can stain and fade fabrics over time, so to extend the life of your outdoor furniture cushions, bring them out only when needed. Cushions should be stored in a space with plenty of airflow to prevent mold growth.

Wicker & Rattan

Some of the most difficult outdoor furniture to maintain, wicker, bamboo and rattan are not designed to be kept outdoors for the season. It's most important to keep wicker and bamboo furniture dry and clean. Store wicker furniture indoors during the winter, as well as during rain storms, when possible.

When cleaning wicker furniture, vacuum with a handheld vacuum or shop vac, or wipe clean with a soft cloth. If you must wash your outdoor furniture, use a damp cloth with a small amount of liquid soap. Allow furniture to dry completely before sitting on it to prevent damage. Use furniture polish to give wicker furniture an extra shine.

This article was written by Dawn Allcot for, an online resource for moving information, products and coupons.

Last Updated: October 14, 2012
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