How to clean different types of garden furniture
With the summer season finally gracing the British Isles (for now), garden furniture is by far the must have garden accessory for you to make the most out of the sunshine. Whether you’re buying a new set of furniture or dusting yours out of storage, we wanted to share a few tips with you on how to best take care and maintain your furniture so that it stays looking brand new and lasts for years to come.
First things first, which products will you need?
The Garden Furniture Essential Tool Kit
When it comes to cleaning furniture, there are a few basic tools that will work wonders on all types of garden furniture, regardless of their material:
- Sponge / soft wash cloths
- Hose / pressure washer
- Protective covers
- Car wax
- Washing up liquid
Material Specific Extras
- Wood preserver
- Oil / varnish
- Wood cleaner
- Anti-rust treatment
- Steel wooRattan
- Linseed Oil
This basic list is great for all furniture, but the of type of material you have – be it softwood, hardwood, rattan, metal, resin or plastic – will determine how much and what kind of maintenance your furniture will need. In all furniture cases, a regular routine should be put in place to make sure your furniture lasts. This should consist of:
- Regular cleaning
- Making sure all fixtures and fittings are safe and secure
- And annual treatment routines (usually for wood and metal types)
So, lets breakdown cleaning and maintenance routines for each specific material.
For both softwood and hardwood sets, a bucket of soapy water with a sponge or cloth to wipe down dirty surfaces is sufficient enough for a regular cleaning routine. If your set hasn’t been cleaned in a while and has developed a layer of grime or has some stubborn stains, there are three recommended options to consider:
- After cleaning, use some sandpaper and sand any marks away. Remember to give the surfaces a wipe after sanding.
- Add a little bit of bleach to your warm water and washing up liquid solution. Use a soft bristle brush or toothbrush to scrub the solution onto the wood to remove stubborn dirt.
- Buy a good quality wood cleaner and again use a bristle brush / toothbrush to deep clean the surfaces of your furniture.
Patina is a natural process in wood. If you have neglected your furniture and want to restore it back to its glory days by removing the patina, then you will need to buy a strong caustic cleaner to scrub it away. Be sure to thoroughly read the cleaner’s instructions before use and carefully follow the steps as caustic cleaners are very strong and can be harmful if not used properly. After achieving your desired look, lightly sand the wood to fully remove the patina. To finish, add a coat of sealer on the wood to prevent any mould from forming and to protect and maintain the wood’s condition.
Patina can also form on some metal furniture too. If this is the case, then you can use the same process as above to remove it.
When it comes to maintaining the appearance of your wooden furniture it really comes down to personal taste and how much TLC you are willing to put in.
For both softwood and hardwood sets, we advise on-going maintenance to preserve their quality and durability. This mainly includes painting and treating softwood and oiling hardwood.
Here are a few options:
- You can let the wood age naturally. Let nature run its course and the wood will develop a silver patina look. To preserve this, it’s a good idea to cover the wood with either car wax or a transparent oil.
- Brighten up or revamp your wooden furniture by using good quality wood paint. Apply 2-3 coats of paint if you want a solid colour and then add a layer of car wax to preserve the paint, it should last for about 3 years.
- Or, to keep the brand-new look of your furniture, treat the wood by applying a stained oil finish after you buy it. Repeat this oil application on an annual basis to maintain the desired effect.
How to Treat Wooden Furniture: Step by Step Guide
Softwoods, like pine, are more prone to rotting. Once purchased, be sure to protect your furniture by applying a water-based wood stain. Reapply the stain every year to reduce rotting and maintain the appearance of your furniture.
Hardwood furniture, like oak and teak, is very strong and weather-resistant so doesn’t really need much treating. But, over time the wood’s colour can develop patina (grey/blue colouring). If you’d prefer to prevent this process then, after purchasing your furniture, apply a layer of hardwood oil. Repeat this as often as you like to maintain the original colour, otherwise an annual application will be sufficient enough.
Step by Step Guide for Oil / Stain Application:
- Firstly, clean your furniture using a bucket of soapy water and use a soft cloth or sponge to remove any garden debris and dirt.
- After cleaning the furniture, the next step is to lightly sand its surfaces until you achieve a smooth finish. Make sure to clean away the dust before applying any varnish.
- Before applying the oil, stir it thoroughly with a stick until the oil is uniform in colour and consistency. Then use a long-haired bristle brush to apply the first coat of oil / varnish, making sure you follow the direction of the grain for an even application.
- If you want to apply a second coat of oil, let the first coat completely dry before you do this.
- When you have finished varnishing your furniture leave it to dry for approximately 48 hours before using it again.
- Repeat this process every year to maintain this look.
Metal / Wrought Iron Garden Furniture
Metal furniture is not as high-maintenance as wooden furniture, but a little TLC will keep it looking great for years to come.
For most metal garden furniture, all they need is a regular clean with some soapy water. Use a soft scrub brush, cloth or sponge with a mix of hot water and washing up liquid to clean up any dirt and debris. Then rinse the furniture with clean water to remove soap and leave to dry.
Once the furniture has been cleaned, a great way to keep it protected is to apply a layer of car wax as the wax is great for preventing water damage.
Dealing with Rust and Paint Chips.
If your furniture’s paint has started to peel or the surfaces have started to rust, you can easily treat this. The earlier you treat rust the better, so when you see the first signs of rusting and chipping on your patio furniture you can either:
- Buy some anti-rust treatment to remove the rust
- Sand the area down with some steel wool and remove any traces of rust. This will also smooth out any cracked or chipped paint.
Once the sanding has been done, clean the furniture with a damp cloth / sponge and soapy water, let it dry and, where needed, apply a layer of metal paint that matches the rest of your furniture. After applying the paint, finish off your furniture with a coat of car wax for protection.
We would also highly recommend that you cover or store your metal furniture over the winter months to protect it from unnecessary weathering. This will reduce the risk of any damage or rusting.
Cast Aluminium Garden Furniture
The advantage of having an aluminium garden set is that this metal doesn’t rust, but it can become ‘pitted’ over time due to weathering.
Cast aluminium furniture is very easy to clean and doesn’t really need to be maintained.
All you need to do is brush away garden debris and give to a clean. A dustpan and brush and wet cloth are ideal for this. Finish by rinsing the surfaces with clean water.
If some stubborn stains remain, mix a bucket of warm water and fairy liquid, use an old toothbrush or bristle brush and some elbow grease. Rinse again to remove excess soap.
How to Get Rid of Pitting
Make a solution combining water and vinegar and dampen a soft cloth with the solution. The cloth must be soft as aluminium is easier to scratch than other metals. Clean the surfaces until the pitting disappears. Rinse and finish off by sealing the furniture with a protective layer of car wax.
Plastic and Resin Garden Furniture
Cleaning plastic furniture is pretty easy and doesn’t require any other maintenance. You can get away with just simply using a damp sponge and some washing up liquid. Scrub all surfaces thoroughly with the soft side of the sponge to avoid any scratches and use an old toothbrush to get into more difficult areas. You can also add a little bleach to the solution if you have white or very dirty surfaces. Rinse the furniture with clean water. It is also best to dry this furniture with a cloth to avoid any water marks and then finish with a layer of car wax to give the furniture a nice shine and protect it against any water damage.
Rattan Wicker Garden Furniture
The rattan weave is delicate so only clean this furniture when it is absolutely necessary to do so.
When it’s time to clean your rattan furniture, use a bucket of warm water and a very mild washing up liquid. Dampen a soft cloth with the solution and rinse the cloth thoroughly, as too much water will not be good for the rattan material, and gently clean the surfaces.
Rattan is a very sensitive material, too much cleaning with water and soap can make the material fade, so only use very small amounts of fairy liquid (a drop or two).
Use a toothbrush to remove any stubborn stains and to get into all the rattan’s crevices and grooves. You can also apply furniture polish or lacquer to the surfaces. This helps to enhance and protect the rattan’s appearance.
If you have any cracks, splits or dry spots in your rattan furniture then linseed oil will help repair the damage. First you need to boil the linseed oil. Once boiled apply it to the problem areas with a small paintbrush until the rattan can’t absorb any more oil. Wipe the area clean with a soft cloth and let the oil dry and harden.