How to Care for and Protect Your Outdoor and Garden Furniture

Sure, garden furniture is a great investment for the warmer months, but do you know how to properly store and care for it in the winter? 

Not all outdoor furniture is made the same, so yours may have different requirements to your neighbour’s. To keep your benches, sets, and storage in the best possible condition, we’ve outlined specific tips for all different types of furniture. 

Below, we run through the best ways to clean and protect outdoor furniture, helping it to stay fresh and look beautiful for when summer rolls around. 

How to care for wooden garden furniture

Durable and often more affordable than other materials, wooden furniture is a popular choice for gardens. As it’s a natural product, it’s also more susceptible to weather damage. So, to keep it looking fresh and in great condition, here are a few steps that you can take.

Two wooden garden chairs next to each other in a garden

Napoli Companion Set
Price: £114.95

  1. Wash with soapy water

For general cleaning, give your wooden garden furniture a gentle scrub with warm soapy water. This will lift off any dirt and grime that’s accumulated since it’s been outside. Opt for a sponge or stiff brush if you can, as a fabric cloth may snag on loose grains.

Some wood furniture – like teak — can even take a rinse with a pressure washer. Always check what wood yours is made from though, as the water may lift the grain of other types.

  1. Follow by gently sanding 

If your furniture needs a deeper clean, allow it to completely dry out after washing before giving it a once-over with light sandpaper. This will help to get rid of any deep-rooted stains and scuffs.

  1. Finish with a wood oil

Finally, don’t forget to treat your freshly-cleaned furniture by giving it a good lick of wood oil. Choose a clear or coloured oil in a similar shade to your furniture. Teak oil is a great choice for most types; generously buff into the surface of the wood, working with the grain to rejuvenate its appearance. Don’t forget to treat the base of your garden benches and chairs as these are most susceptible to wear and tear. 

Let the first coat dry for at least 48 hours before applying the second coat. 

  1. Clean and oil wood before putting it into storage

Whether you’re keeping your furniture in storage or undercover during the colder months, always give it a good clean and thorough oiling before putting it away. The surface of the grain will probably be extremely dry after summer, so this helps to rehydrate it before it goes into storage. 

How to care for iron, steel, and aluminium garden furniture

Metal garden furniture instantly brings a vintage feel to your outdoor spaces. Wrought iron benches and patio sets are long-lasting and need little care, making them a top choice for anyone looking for a low-maintenance option. 

Aluminium is a little different. It has the same durability and rural look as other metals, but it’s often a lot cheaper as it’s so lightweight. The downside to this is that it can easily be knocked over in strong weather conditions.

A metal and mosaic garden bench

Casablanca Mosaic Bench Seat
Price: £99.95

  1. Clean with hot soapy water

Metal outdoor furniture’s easy-to-care-for nature means that a good scrub with warm soapy water is usually enough to keep it looking spick-and-span. Use a non-abrasive cloth or a sponge to help protect the surface of the metal. Regularly cleaning your furniture will also give you a chance to spot any spots of rust, so you can tackle them early to prevent them from growing.

  1. Use a pressure washer for ease

Thanks to its hardiness, you can even use a pressure washer to give your metal furniture a deep rinse. Choose a low setting for any fragile parts like glass-topped tables.

  1. Treat iron and steel pieces for rust

Rust is one of the only downsides to iron and steel garden furniture. Thankfully, with a little care and TLC, you can easily treat any affected areas. 

If you spot any scratches or exposed areas of metal on your steel and iron sets, it’s best to treat these straightaway to prevent rusting. If rust has already started, use some steel wool to sand it off. Clean the spot and then touch it up with primer and metal paint to hide the patch.

  1. Prevent aluminum oxidation 

Unlike iron, aluminium doesn’t rust. However , it is prone to oxidising: a process where the colour of the metal can naturally change over time. This won’t affect the hardiness of your furniture, but it can ruin its look.

The best way to stop oxidation in tracks is to clean it regularly using the soap and water method. Once dry, apply a mixture of water and vinegar using a soft cloth to polish the aluminum and give it a layer of protection. 

When you’re not using your furniture, keep it stored inside or completely covered using a furniture cover. 

  1. Double up on protection with car wax

It might sound strange, but you can extend the lifespan of your metal garden furniture by giving it a polish with car wax. Always do this after cleaning and once it’s dried out. The wax helps to add an extra layer of protection to elemental damage and makes it more water-resistant.

How to care for plastic garden furniture

Outdoor plastic furniture, also called resin furniture, is hardy and long-wearing. It’s resistant to stains, mildew and fading, so you don’t have to worry too much about it sitting out in wet weather. It does pick up grime over time, so to save yourself an unpleasant surprise in summer, it’s recommended to give it a clean every now and again.

But while it’s durable, it’s also very light. This isn’t as much of a problem for plastic garden storage pieces as they’ll get filled up and weighed down. However, you might want to keep individual chairs and tables under shelter or stacked together when not in use. This prevents them from flying around your garden and potentially causing damage.

A white plastic garden chair and table in a garden

Image by Daria Nepriakhina from Unsplash

  1. Regularly wash with soap and water

Even though plastic garden furniture won’t be affected by outdoor damage, it can easily look grubby unless you keep it clean. This is especially the case for traditional white plastic furniture.

Freshen up your furniture by giving it a regular scrub. Use soap and hot water; a pressure washer will also do the job. Just avoid abrasive cloths as these can scratch the surface of the plastic.

  1. Bleach white plastic furniture

If you’re really struggling to restore white plastic furniture to its former glory even after washing it, you can try bleaching it. Always wear protective clothing and gloves if you choose to do this. Dilute the bleach in some water and wipe your furniture down until it’s looking sparkling and brand new. Let the bleach mixture sit for 10 minutes before hosing it down thoroughly with clean water.  

  1. Use car wax for added protection

Apply a dab of car wax to your clean plastic furniture and buff it in to give your chairs and tables an added layer of protection. The wax helps to repel water and dirt.

How to care for rattan and wicker garden furniture

Rattan and wicker are the new materials on the block, becoming increasingly popular thanks to their stylish exterior and comfort. They’re a top choice for garden lounge sets as their chunky appearance makes them study and fit for plenty of guests. Rattan and wicker are natural materials, but lots of garden furniture is made with synthetic versions for maximum durability as they’re UV and weather resistant.

A rattan garden seating set with a glass table

ABLO 8 Seater Rattan Corner Lounge Set with Stools
Price: £899.95

  1. Vacuum between the weave

Rattan and wicker outdoor furniture are usually made up of an inner metal frame that’s covered by a rattan or wicker weave. The easiest way to get in between the weave fibres is by giving them a vacuum with a brush attachment. This should dislodge and pick up any trapped dust or dirt.

  1. Cleaning

If your furniture is made of natural fibres, give it a good wipe with a damp cloth to clean it.

Synthetic materials are sturdy enough to take a deeper clean, so you can scrub them down with soapy water whenever they’re looking lacklustre. 

  1. Check the frame

The biggest downside to rattan and wicker furniture is its metal frame and it will probably require more care than the fibres themselves. 

Pay attention to the frame underneath: if it’s made of steel or iron, follow the steps above for how to care for metal outdoor furniture. If your frame is made from aluminium, it won’t matter if it oxidises as you won’t be able to see the change in colour and the structure won’t lose any integrity.

  1. Store natural furniture away

Synthetic rattan and wicker can be covered over the winter, but it’s best to store natural fibres indoors if you can. Avoid leaving it uncovered outdoors all year round.

General tips for outdoor furniture care

Four garden chairs around a glass table with an umbrella

Memphis 4 Seater Grey Dining Table Set
Price: £199.95

  1. Move your outdoor furniture into a shed, garage, or any sheltered area during the winter months.
  2. If you don’t have the space to keep your furniture indoors, use furniture covers instead.
  3. Make sure to tighten your furniture covers to prevent the wind from getting underneath and whipping them off.
  4. When storing outside, group your furniture together to keep it from being blown over.
  5. Hose your sets down regularly after use to prevent any dirt build-up.
  6. Remove any cushions or soft furnishings before winter and give them a wash. Store inside until you need to use them .
  7. Try to keep garden furniture in the shade to prevent UV damage.

Getting the most out of your garden furniture

Whether you shop wooden, metal, or plastic garden furniture, taking good care of it will ensure that it lasts for years to come. Follow our tips for making the most of your outdoor furnishings, or shop our garden storage, lounge sets, and benches to create your own cosy, backyard ambience.

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