Cleaning porch furniture in preparation for fair weather can be a reasonably quick and easy process, but it’s important to choose the right technique for the material it’s made of.
The newest outdoor furniture is made of synthetic resins in a multitude of colors and styles. Not only are they easiest to clean, they are the most durable and weatherproof. Even the cushion fabrics are specially designed to drain moisture, dry quickly, and resist damage from UV rays. If you need furniture that can take full sun, rain and wind, these are good buys.
- To clean, first brush off accumulated dust and dirt with a whisk brush, or vacuum with a brush attachment. Then mix a solution of light detergent and water and apply with a textured microfiber cloth, which will penetrate nooks and crannies and lift dirt, rather than just spread it around like a sponge does. For hard-to-reach areas, try a vegetable brush, a toothbrush, or a denture brush.
- If mold or mildew is a problem and stains are stubborn, mix a cup of bleach or Oxyclean in a gallon of warm water and repeat cleaning process, but rinse well with a garden hose. Bleach residue will break down even the most resilient fibers, so make sure all of the cleaning solution is rinsed away.
- Let furniture dry in full sun for 24-48 hours. A good breeze will speed the process. If rain threatens, cover furniture or put it under shelter until it is fully dry.
- Some cushion covers can be removed and washed on gentle cycle in the washing machine, but machine drying is not recommended. Put the covers back on the cushions while they are still damp and allow them to dry in place in a sunny spot. This will help retain their shape and prevent shrinkage.
- True wicker furniture (not made of modern resins) is another matter altogether, and should not be used in outdoor settings unless it is kept under cover, such as a porch or sunroom. “Wicker” is actually a term that refers to the weave, not the materials from which the furniture is made. Wicker can be made of rattan, wood, or even tightly rolled paper, which was a form popular in the first half of the 1900’s. All wicker can be painted or stained for increased durability, but it should not be exposed to water for long periods of time or it will lose its shape and eventually deteriorate.
- To clean wicker, brush or vacuum trapped dirt and dust first. Then apply a mild detergent solution with a damp, not dripping, microfiber cloth, using a toothbrush if necessary on stubborn spots. Rinse with a cloth that has been dipped in fresh water and wrung well. Repeat until soapy residue is gone. Do not rinse with a hose, as this will apply too much moisture and pressure and could affect the weave as well as the condition of the material. Let dry in full sun on a breezy day for several hours.
- To repaint wicker, first brush gently with a wire brush to remove flecks of loose paint. Vacuum away residue, using a brush attachment. Then use a sprayer to apply at least two coats of new paint. Don’t even attempt painting wicker with a brush unless you are a glutton for punishment; you will find it impossible to avoid dripping through the weave of the wicker, which will spoil the appearance and value of your furniture.
- Cast iron furniture is less common now, though it enjoyed great popularity for centuries. To restore it, brush with a wire brush, using WD-40 to remove rust. Wash it down thoroughly, rinse and let dry completely in the sun. Paint with a sprayer using even, light passes. Two or three light coats are better than one heavy coat, and will generate best results. To extend the life of the finish, cover or store indoors during harsh weather.