Cleaning and storing patio furniture in the fall

It's always nice to spend time on your patio or back deck during warm weather. But as the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, your outdoor furniture is less likely to see any use.

The autumn is a good time to inspect your patio furniture to see if it needs to be cleaned or repaired. Doing so will minimize hassle in the following spring when you fire up the grill again; you can simply break out the tables and chairs and take a seat.

All types of patio furniture can benefit from a quick blast with the garden hose to remove any dirt, spiderwebs, or other debris. However, the cleaning and maintenance requirements will vary depending on the material it is made of.

Wood

Wooden furniture will gradually develop a silvery patina over time with exposure to the elements. While you might enjoy this change in hue, you'll need to treat the furniture if you want it to retain its color. Kelsey Savage, writing for the home improvement professional Bob Vila, says oil should be applied at least once a year if you want wood to maintain its original appearance.

Allow the oil to sit for several hours. The home improvement site HomeAdvisor says this process not only preserves the color, but helps condition and protect the wood. Excess oil should be removed with a clean rag.

If you haven't been regularly cleaning your wooden patio furniture during the season, get into the habit next year. Every two weeks, spray the furniture with wood cleaner and scrub it with a soft brush. You should also dry off the furniture afterward, since moisture can cause mildew to form on the surface.

A simple cleansing with soapy water can also work well. Mick Telkamp, writing for HGTV, says you should avoid using a power washer or other harsh cleaning methods on certain types of furniture since these can damage soft woods.

Store wooden furniture in a garage, shed, or other dry indoor location once it has been cleaned.

Metal

Iron furniture has likely developed some rust spots over the summer. Tara Aronson, author of the blog Clean Organized Home, says you can use a metal brush to apply rust dissolver to treat these spots. Tri-Village Self Storage, a company in Columbus, Ohio, says steel wool is also effective at removing rust. Once you treat the rust spots, you can repaint the furniture to preserve its appearance.

Rust can form on metal furniture for a variety of reasons. HomeAdvisor says these include paint wearing away over time and exposing metal, rain, and acids in bird droppings. Regularly cleaning the furniture with mild soap and water can help prevent rust from forming, though each piece should also be dried afterward. For safety reasons, severely rusted furniture should be discarded.

Aluminum furniture has a finish to help protect it from the elements. Aronson recommends using a clear automotive wax to help preserve this finish.

Metal furniture will be further exposed to harsh conditions if left outdoors during the winter, so storing it indoors is advisable. Savage says you can also cover metal furniture with a tarp or other durable cover if you want to leave it outside.

Plastic and vinyl

Plastic furniture is durable and easy to maintain. Telkamp says you simply need to wipe it down with an all-purpose cleaner to remove any stains or dirt. Avoid using abrasive cleaners.

While plastic can stand up to snowfall, it shouldn't stay outdoors during the winter. Tri-Village Self Storage says the material can become brittle and crack during extremely cold temperatures.

Vinyl materials, such as straps and fabrics coated with vinyl, can be cleaned with a soft brush and a solution of water and laundry detergent. Aronson says you should never use bleach on this material.

Fabric

Fabric materials, including hammocks and umbrellas, can be cleaned with soap and water. Savage says a solution of water, bleach, and detergent will be effective against tough stains, but shouldn't be applied to cotton or printed fabrics. Thoroughly vacuum these materials first to remove any dirt, which can harbor mildew.

Smaller materials, such as seat covers, can even be cleaned in a washing machine. Telkamp says the cycle should be set to gentle, and materials should be air dried afterward.

Once dry, cushions can be removed and stored separately from the furniture. Tri-Village Self Storage says they should be kept inside plastic bags.

Wicker

Wicker can be a tough material to clean. The crevices might make it difficult to remove dirt, and mold or mildew can form in these areas as well.

Any spills on wicker furniture should be cleaned immediately. A toothbrush can be helpful to thoroughly clean the material. HomeAdvisor says you can apply a mild soap or use a bleach solution to treat mold or mildew.

While some wicker furniture is water resistant, applying a sealant can help protect any pieces that aren't. Store the furniture indoors, or use covers to keep rain and snow off them.

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