Prepare Your Outdoor Furniture For Spring

It's almost patio season! But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take a closer look at the tables and chairs we left outside all season. Winter's harsh elements are not kind to patio furniture. Some materials hold up better than others, but rotting leaves, hard rain, hail, snow and freezing weather are all difficult for even the toughest materials to manage.
View the slideshow above for more tips on how to prepare your wood furniture and cushions for the spring.
If your space allows, it's always best to store patio furniture inside over the winter. If this isn't an option, try moving it to a less exposed area and covering it with patio furniture covers or a tarp.
If you didn't protect your outdoor furniture during the frigid months, you've likely ventured outside recently and found your tables and chairs dirty, damaged, slimy, rusty, and/or moldy. It might look like a lost cause, but it isn't. You can still have that furniture clean in time for guests to arrive.
Teak furniture is widely considered a superior product. Teak isn't vulnerable to the issues that plague other wood. Resistant to moisture, wind, pests and humidity, teak furniture in its untreated form can last up to 75 years outdoors. It's also one of the most expensive types of outdoor furniture. Left unprotected, teak will turn a silver-gray color. The only reason to protect the wood is to preserve the honey-brown color, so it's entirely a matter of taste. If you want to protect it, apply a teak oil or teak protector.  For general cleaning, a mild dish soap and water is sufficient. If it's particularly bad, add a splash of bleach and scrub the soiled spots.
Iron is a beautiful material, particularly in outdoor furniture. Unfortunately, it rusts easily. Many manufacturers accommodate for this by applying rust-resistant paint to iron furniture. You can reapply it as needed or add a protective coat if your furniture didn't come come with a painted finish. Before applying any paint, make sure the surface of your furniture is clean and rust-free.
Sand away any corrosion; this will take patience and a strong arm, but it's important that every last bit of rust is gone. If you need some reinforcements, try some of the tips used for removing rust from tools. Once the piece is rust-free, clean the wrought iron furniture with a mild dish soap. Rinse the dish soap off and dry the furniture well before painting it.
Aluminum is a sturdy, reasonably priced material. Most outdoor aluminum furniture is painted to seal the metal and prevent corrosion. Paint touch-ups as soon as you notice worn patches and a new paint job every few years will keep the aluminum in top shape. In between paint jobs, wash the aluminum with soap and water. Rinse the soap off with clean water and dry it thoroughly.
To clean unpainted aluminum furniture, use a metal polishing paste. If you're worried about the tiny abrasives in metal polish, don't resort to baking soda as a substitute. The chemical make-up of baking soda and washing soda will damage untreated aluminum.

Instead, for a natural solution, try two parts boiling water and one part vinegar. This should take care of most discoloration and scale deposits cause by hard water. If the corrosion build-up is too much for the vinegar solution, you will need to scrub it. Avoid a steel brush as it leaves behind bits of metal that eventually rust. Use sandpaper instead.
Wicker is an inexpensive outdoor furniture option and is available in painted or natural varieties. Wicker furniture is intended for use in a covered area that's protected from the elements. Clean your wicker furniture by vacuuming it with a soft brush and wiping it down with a damp cloth or wood oil. Doing this once a month will avoid bigger issues.
If the wicker is damaged and the strands are falling apart, it can be repaired with glue. Here's how:
1. Lay a damp cloth over the damaged area
2. Cut a new strand of wicker a couple of inches longer than you need
3. Soak the new strand in warm water. This will loosen it and make it easier to work with.
4. Apply glue to the damaged area
5. Weave the new strand through the existing wicker, keeping the pattern and making sure it comes in contact with the glue.
6. Allow the glue to dry completely before painting it to match the rest of the piece if necessary.
Resin or plastic patio furniture is an inexpensive, durable choice that's available in any color to match your outdoor decor. Because of its durability, plastic furniture is often left out in the harshest weather rendering it extremely dirty.
Cleaning resin furniture is simple. First, brush off loose dirt and dust, then mix one cup of vinegar with one gallon of warm water and two tablespoons of dish detergent. Using a sponge, wash the plastic furniture. For additional cleaning power, add a splash of bleach, but don't do this too often as it weakens the plastic over time. If you have a particularly tough stain, magic erasers work well too, but I prefer a baking soda paste as a natural alternative.
Once your furniture is patio-ready, you can keep it looking good through the summer by washing it regularly with soap and water. Avoid ground water because it can contain sulfurs and iron oxide which can stain the furniture.
Now that your outdoor furniture is ready for the warmer weather, call your friends and fire up the grill. But first you should clean that too.
View the slideshow above for ways to get your wood patio furniture and cushions in tip-top condition! 
Photo Credit: Corbis

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