Care for Outdoor Furniture

The heat and humidity of Southwest Florida is both a blessing (lush landscaping all year round) and a challenge (how to keep your outdoor furniture undamaged?)

With a little care, your fabulous wood outdoor furniture can stay beautiful for years, and so here’s our Caring For Outdoor Wood Furniture Guide:

Since the combination of heat and humidity can cause some woods to warp and swell, some types of woods need to be painted or sealed to prevent humidity damage. Others, like the aromatic cedar or teak, are naturally resistant to these problems.

Teak furniture may last anywhere from 60 to 80 years, making this popular wood an excellent value.

In a sunny location, teak’s color will gradually change from brown to silvery gray. If you like that look, you need do nothing more. But if you want to keep teak’s brown patina, you may scrub the wood with a stiff, nonmetallic brush and soapy water to remove the gray and repeat the process every few months.

Otherwise just do an annual cleaning to remove any mildew, sap or pollen buildup. Combine five tablespoons of liquid dishwashing soap in a gallon of water. Rinse off the mixture with water. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry.

If you are planning to polish your outdoor teak furniture, first letting it dry completely is as important. Teak furniture does not necessarily require polishing, but if you prefer its initial golden tone to the gray tone it acquires in the sun, use a sealant when you first purchase it and apply oil to it from time to time.

For grease stains, you may use a commercial grade teak cleaner that is available either online, or from an outdoor furniture store. You could also purchase it from your manufacturer. The commercial grade cleaner could have the effect of restoring teak to its original golden color, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your preference. If you prefer the aged silvery gray look, you might have to wait for some time. To prevent grease stains from occurring in the first place, seal your teak furniture with a clear finish once it has acquired the gray patina.

Be sure to protect your investment by placing teak furniture in the sun and away from any damp, shady locations, which may ultimately lead to rotting. While teak is quite impervious to decay and rot, you can help it along even further by not letting water pool on the seat or around the legs. Wipe the water off from the seat and simply move the furniture where it will not have to sit in pooled water.

Other wood choices include mahogany, cedar, redwood and pine, but these woods should be treated with a preservative to ensure a lifetime of use. While cedar and redwood are naturally rot-resistant, but pine requires a preservative to last. Mahogany is treated the same as teak.

Cedar, which is grown in the United States, takes only 15 years to produce, making it a homegrown sustainable wood, which will last a few decades with proper care. It, too, will turn silver-gray if left in a sunny spot (it may be stained or coated with polyurethane if different colors are desired) and requires routine cleaning. Since untreated cedar may rot if kept in constant contact with the ground, place small sections of cedar fence under the feet of the furniture.

Here are some more general guidelines about taking care of your wood furniture:

  • Read and Keep the Manual--Your new furniture will come with some manufacturer’s instructions. It is best not to deviate from the care guidelines as you might not only damage the wood, but void any warranty.
  • Less is More–Start with a gentle sweep and a water-only rinse before you try harsher cleaning.
  • Be Gentle– Combine 1/4 cup mild dishwashing liquid, such as Ivory, and 1 gallon warm water. Use a sponge or a soft-bristle brush to scrub the furniture’s surface thoroughly. Rinse, and then pat dry with a lint-free cloth.
  • For Deep Cleaning–
To remove stains or mildew, mix 1gallon hot water with powdered oxygen bleach according to directions. Scrub the area with a soft-bristle brush, and rinse. To remove rust stains or bird droppings, or to restore original color, sand lightly along the grain using fine-grit sandpaper, and rinse. If the area is too large to sand, mix hot water with oxalic acid crystals (also called wood bleach or wood brightener) according to directions. Apply with a soft-bristle brush, and rinse. Don’t use chlorine bleach or other harsh chemicals that can damage wood fibers.
  • Manage Mold–Wear gloves and sand lightly to remove the mold on wood. Throw away all the materials you use afterwards to avoid spreading the spores.
  • Maintenance
–To protect from ultraviolet rays, dirt, and moisture, or to preserve restored color, seal the wood. First, clean surfaces, and sand off any existing finishes. Touch up with paint if needed. Apply a clear water-repellent preservative, which contains a mildewcide, or a penetrating semitransparent stain. (The pigment in the stain helps minimize sun damage.) Consult the manufacturer’s instructions to learn how often to reapply; in general, you’ll need to do so every 1 to 3 years.
  • Protect and Defend–Cover items when they’re not in use, or store them indoors. Remove the foot caps on chairs and tables, and keep furniture upright to allow accumulated water to drain.

Following these tips will have your outdoor wood furniture looking great and lasting for years to come.



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