Being exposed somewhat to the elements, garden furniture does tend to need a little TLC from time to time. Exactly how often and how much will depend on the sort of furniture you have – read on and all will be revealed.
Hopefully this post will act as a gentle reminder – Autumn is a great time (unless we get an Indian Summer that is) to spruce up the furniture and, if desired and feasible, put it away or cover it for the winter.
Hardwood furniture, such as that made from teak, is extremely durable, and you should be able to leave it outside throughout the winter – so long as you don’t mind the ‘weathered’ look.
High quality, ‘Grade A’ teak furniture should not need to be ‘teak oiled’, as the wood should retain its natural oils. In fact, oiling good quality teak may actually have a detrimental effect – because the oil is usually solvent based, it will normally destroy the natural oils in the wood and render it dry and brittle – unless teak oil continues to be applied regularly. If you do start oiling, you need to carry on! Over time, teak furniture will naturally weather – if you’d rather keep the ‘new’ look, rather than oiling, consider applying a teak sealant.
The advice changes if your furniture is not made from high quality teak – in this case, teak oiling is a good idea, and using sealant is not.
If you leave your furniture outside over the winter, you may need to clear it of dirt and moss come spring time. You can purchase solutions specifically for this job, or take a look at point 4 on this website for instructions on making your own, bleach-based solution (this page also contains more in-depth advice & faqs on teak furniture).
Softwood furniture is usually cheaper than the hardwood equivalent, but comes with the drawback that more maintenance is required.
Wash surfaces regularly with a wood-cleaner, and treat with a wood stain or paint (containing a wood preserver). When applying, pay particular attention to areas susceptible to the weather – horizontal surfaces, those that collect water and those in contact with the ground.
Storing furniture (e.g. chairs) tilted can help prevent weathering.
Metal/Cast Iron Furniture
Wipe metal furniture over with a damp cloth. A good going over with a bit of old fashioned beeswax each spring can give coated metal furniture a bit of extra protection.
Any rust patches will need to be rubbed down/loose material removed, before applying rust preventing paint. Take extra care over the feet – often a few scrapes is all it needs before the rust begins to set in. Many metal furniture sets come with plastic protective covers for the feet; these frequently get broken over time, but are inexpensive to replace – just remember to order more before it’s too late!
You may also consider painting metal/cast iron furniture every few years to maintain a weather-proof barrier and prevent rust.
Rattan furniture should ideally be always kept in the dry – it likes humidity but doesn’t like getting wet! If it does get soaked in the rain, try and ensure you dry it off as soon as possible after, so the moisture doesn’t sink into the natural material.
Clean the surface with a soft cloth, using the bubbles skimmed off the top of some washing up liquid mixed with water. Use a toothbrush or soft bristle brush to get into any fiddly joints and grooves. After a more thorough cleaning, dry as soon as possible afterwards using a hairdryer or by leaving the furniture in the sunshine.
If cracks or splits appear in the wood, applying boiled linseed oil should help to put moisture back into the material. You may wish to apply a coat of lacquer to seal the wood for the next year.
Wash plastic furniture with a damp cloth and soapy water. Also do be aware that plastic will usually become brittle if left outside over winter, or indeed if exposed to strong sunshine for long periods of time.
If you don’t have the space to put your furniture in the garage or in a garden shed, you may want to consider buying a good quality, breathable cover to protect softwood or plastic furniture over the winter.