We treasure our garden furniture all through summer when it provides us with a place to soak up the sun and entertain our friends. However, winter is when our garden furniture needs us most. Unfortunately, two out of five Britons don’t take precautions for their garden in winter1, but neglecting it, especially your furniture, will have consequences come summer. The maintenance of garden furniture depends on the material it’s made of. So, whether you have wooden garden furniture or plastic, this is the complete guide to taking care of all garden furniture materials so you can keep hold of them for longer.
Maintaining Wooden Garden Furniture
Wooden garden furniture remains a popular choice due to its traditional, elegant addition to any outdoor space. Whether you’re the proud owner of an urban garden or you let the plants take control in a cottage garden, a timeless wood piece is bound to slip seamlessly in. Wooden garden furniture can be made from two wood styles – hardwood and softwood – and both will require treatment. Treating outdoor wood isn’t difficult but must be done well to ensure complete protection.
Hardwood Garden Furniture
Hardwood garden furniture has been a firm favourite among garden lovers for many years because of its durability and versatility. Due to the high oil content in tropical hardwoods (like eucalyptus and teak), garden furniture pieces made from these materials are naturally weather resistant. This means it is possible to leave them outside without treatment all year round. However, you must elevate wooden garden furniture, so its feet don’t touch the wet ground and use a high-quality cover in extreme weather. If it is left outside uncovered, wooden garden furniture will naturally crack and weather. Also, many hardwoods will naturally turn a beautiful silvery colour over time due to moisture washing the wood of degraded lignin. To avoid this, you can treat your furniture. (Put page jump here)
Hardwood garden furniture should be cleaned once a year using a very soft brush dipped in warm, soapy water and thoroughly clean the whole surface. Ensure that any built-up debris, algae and lichens are removed. You mustn’t let the water linger for long as this may tarnish the wood, so dry quickly and thoroughly.
Softwood Garden Furniture
Softwoods are cheaper and more readily available than hardwoods, though furniture made from them is unlikely to last as long. Despite this, softwood is an increasingly popular choice due to its sustainability and lower maintenance. Since softwood isn’t as hard-wearing as hardwood, it will need treating with a preservative regularly. When treating outdoor softwoods, you should pay particular attention to areas where water gathers or damp soil comes in contact with the wood, as this is where deterioration is more likely to begin. Dead knots may also appear on softwood furniture. You can easily knock these out and fill them in with a wood filler.
You should clean softwood garden furniture once or twice a year – before you put it into storage and after you take it out is ideal. Use a mild, warm water and soap solution with a soft, damp cloth to wipe down the entire piece. Then, again, dry quickly and thoroughly to avoid damaging the wood.
Treating Outdoor Wood
Treating outdoor wood is vital if you don’t want your furniture to turn silver or weather too quickly. There are several ways for you to do this:
- Wood Oil – Wood oils penetrate the wood grain and replace the essential oils lost from weathering. They will seal the surface of your wooden garden furniture to protect the inside and the out.
- Wood Stain/Dye – Wood stains or dyes will protect the exterior wood from weathering and wear and tear while adding beautiful colour to the finish. They also provide a hard-wearing finish by enhancing the wood grain.
- Wood Preserver – Wood preservers are resistant to mould, algae growth and woodworm attacks, providing furniture with durable protection. Preserver should be applied liberally for it to permeate the wood grain.
- Wood Varnish – Wood varnish provides high-quality protection from UV rays and water. It also reduces the chances of cracking, peeling and blistering that may occur from regular usage.
- Wood Paint – Wood paints are the easiest way to alter your wooden surfaces, offering new colours and upgraded protection. They will protect against fading, peeling and all weathers and are available in a wide range of colours.
Although hardwoods don’t require treatment to increase their longevity as softwoods do, if you want hardwood garden furniture to maintain its golden-brown colour, you should treat it at least once a year. However, softwoods will likely require treatment at least once or twice a year.
Maintaining Rattan Garden Furniture
Rattan garden furniture is an attractive option, with an intricate weave and stylish finish desired for many a patio or lawn. However, rattan is rather delicate and can easily dry out and split. To help stop this, you can coat your furniture in boiled linseed oil after cleaning. Linseed oil will swell the rattan fibres, however, do not use raw linseed oil since it won’t harden. Stop applying the oil when the rattan stops absorbing it, then wipe the surface down with a soft cloth. Also, to lessen the chance of splitting, ensure that you always pick up rattan furniture pieces by the frame rather than the woven panels. Additionally, rattan is susceptible to UV rays, so avoid direct exposure to the sunlight.
To clean rattan garden furniture:
- Use a handheld vacuum or a soft brush to clear the surface of any dust and debris.
- Follow this with a gentle wipe down using a soft cloth dampened by warm, soapy water – try not to drench the rattan, as this will cause mould and mildew.
- Finish by drying the wicker thoroughly before use.
Alternatively, you could choose the low maintenance synthetic rattan. It looks just as beautiful as natural rattan but is specially designed to cope with different weathers and only needs cleaning once or twice a year. All it requires is a wash down with warm, soapy water and a quick rinse off with a garden hose. This is best done towards the end of summer when it can dry out quickly and easily.
Maintaining Metal Garden Furniture
Metal furniture is popular among smaller gardens since it is compact, light and easy to store. It also lends a unique style to an outdoor space and is the most likely material to last a lifetime if cared for well. Most metal furniture is coated with paint or varnish to help prevent rust, making it a pretty low maintenance option. However, rust may occur over time as the paint or varnish fades. You can avoid this by removing loose materials from the piece and topping up the surface with a rust-resistant coating. Ideally, you should do this every two or three years.
You should clean metal garden furniture with a soft cloth or sponge and a mild water and soap solution. Avoid using abrasive scrubbers as they can scratch the surface, leading to a higher chance of rust. If you notice any tired fixings or joints, now is the best time to apply some WD40 to stop them from getting weaker.
Maintaining Plastic Garden Furniture
Plastic garden furniture may be reasonably cheap, but it is also sturdy, long-lasting, and lighter than other materials. Since it is solid and easy to clean, plastic garden furniture will withstand regular use and doesn’t need as urgent care as wood or rattan. Plastic furniture can be left outdoors, but this will likely weaken the material over time, so try and keep it sheltered if possible.
To clean plastic garden furniture, a quick wipe down with soapy water should be all that’s needed. For more stubborn stains, a vigorous rub with white distilled vinegar should remove them quite easily.
Storing Outdoor Furniture
Nowadays, many garden furniture materials are weatherproof. However, if you have the means to do so, it’s best to store your garden furniture away during the colder months. Doing so will lengthen the life of your outdoor furniture and keep it looking its best for longer.
|Garden Furniture Material||How To Store It|
|Wood||You should take precautions early with wooden furniture to stop it rotting and breaking down. In late summer or autumn, wash your wooden furniture then dry it properly. Add some good quality garden furniture oil then, when that is dry, store it in a shed or garage beneath a heavy tarpaulin.|
|Plastic||Extreme weather can jeopardize plastics, however plastic garden furniture is relatively low maintenance. Simply wipe down with a soft cloth and warm, soapy water and let it dry. Then, store in a shed or outside under a fitted cover, with the legs elevated if possible.|
|Rattan||Rattan is a delicate material, and even getting it wet can cause some serious issues. Because of this, it should always be kept indoors when not in use, even during summer. When storing for winter, varnish rattan furniture with a light coat of clear varnish or lacquer to protect it, then store it safely in a garage or shed. If possible, you should keep your rattan furniture separated.|
|Synthetic Rattan||Unlike real rattan, its synthetic counterpart is specially designed to cope with the winter months. Because of this, synthetic rattan furniture can be kept outside if covered with a good quality furniture cover. Otherwise, it’s best kept in a shed or garage.|
|Metal||Metal garden furniture will rust easily during harsh weather conditions, so try to treat and store it before the weather turns. Clean it well with a soft cloth and warm, soapy water and remove any rust spots with a rust dissolver. Rinse once more, let it dry, then store indoors or beneath a loose tarpaulin.|
Garden Furniture Care
Garden furniture care may not be the most glamorous job, but it is an important one. Take good care of your outdoor furniture – clean it well, treat it regularly and store it properly, and you’ll have an investment that may even outlive you!
Do you have any garden furniture care tips of your own? Let us know in the comments below!
Angela Waxler is an ex florist, a professional gardener and has been working in the industry for well over 25 years. Angela has worked with brands all over the world during her career.