courtyard garden with wood cladding and metal bistro table set

How to clean and restore garden furniture to save buying new

Pull your tired-looking garden furniture off the patio or out of the shed and get it shipshape for summer
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  • Your garden furniture and accessories might be looking a bit shabby, but don’t give up on it just yet. It can take just one afternoon to transform it from lacklustre to lovely. It’s a satisfying and simple job to do. Plus it means you don’t need to splash out on anything new for your garden, potentially saving yourself hundreds of pounds.

    The best garden furniture this season, as rated by us

    Whether in sunshine or rainy downpours it’s important to are and clean your garden furniture to preserve the lifespan.

    How to clean and restore wooden garden furniture

    Our guide for caring for and cleaning your garden furniture looks at all the different types, from teak wooden dining sets to woven sofas, and explains how to clean them without causing damage. We’ve also got some great tips on how to restore garden furniture, whether it’s a rusty wrought iron table or weathered teak chairs.

    Cleaning and preserving wooden garden furniture


    Image credit: Future PLC/ Lizzie Orme

    This can be left in the garden all year round, although it will weather to a silvery grey finish. To clean it after a long winter, first remove all the excess dirt, dust and cobwebs that have built up with a stiff bristle brush.

    If your hardwood furniture is a few years old and has silvered with age, you can restore it to its original colour by using a specialist product like like Cuprinol’s Garden Furniture Restorer. Paint it on and the wood will start to lighten in colour. Work it into the wood with an abrasive pad, leave it to work its magic for 15 minutes, then wash off.


    Image credit: Cuprinol

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    If you haven’t applied a restorer, your next job is to clean your furniture with soapy water. Rinse and dry it thoroughly, and lightly sand the surfaces to remove any weathered areas.

    Now it’s time to protect your wood. This should be done every season. Teak oil will shield your hardwood furniture from the elements and keep it looking new. Using a rag, apply the oil, rubbing it in gently and following the grain. You can add more than one coat of oil, but make sure the first one dries completely before you apply the next.

    How to clean wrought-iron garden furniture


    Image credit: Future PLC/ Dominic Blackmore

    Wrought-iron tables and chairs can live outside all year round, but are prone to rust. ‘You can do several things to help maintain the vibrancy of paint on surfaces so that corrosion is slowed’ explains Paul McFadyen at metals4U. ‘Using a metal lacquer is always advisable when you have a new product, so you have maximum protection against outdoor weather conditions from the beginning and will help the metal furniture colour sustain for longer.’

    You can keep them in tiptop condition by refreshing the paintwork with a specialist paint. ‘Inevitably paint can begin to peel, especially when the moisture from rain is regularly hitting furniture. Therefore, we would recommend peeling down the paint from the affected area and starting again.’

    Before painting, rub off any rust with wire wool, but go gently. Brush off any loose dirt that will otherwise pit the surface of the paint once it has dried. Scrub everything down with soapy water, then sand and touch up rust spots using enamel paint.

    ‘Once the surface is exposed you can treat it with an etching liquid, which can be used on all types of metal furniture from stainless steel, copper and aluminium. After this has dried you can paint over the area and reapply the metal lacquer so that it is sealed once again.’

    How to remove rust from metal outdoor furniture

    Garden patio with wooden table and metal chairs

    Image credit: Future PLC

    Many metal garden items are made from steel and can easily start to build rust as they are kept outdoors for long periods in all weather conditions. ‘Rust tends to thrive from hot and dry environments but can equally build up in a mix of rainy and humid conditions too,’ explains Paul McFadyen at metals4U. ‘Rust is generally a tough type of corrosion to clean from metal surfaces, and therefore must be treated with the right care as to not damage your furniture.’

    Paul shares his top tips on how to clean rust off metal garden items, ‘Active corrosion spray can be a very useful product to have in your cupboards, especially during the summertime when there is more humidity and heat outdoors. This style of spray can also be bought in colours such as white and will offer high coverage and provide excellent adhesion, even to rust.’

    ‘The best way to remove rust if you have already spotted it on your furniture is simple. Simply pour white vinegar evenly over the surface of the furniture and give it some time to settle. An hour should be enough. Once you have done this just wipe away with a cloth wearing gloves and repeat again if necessary.’

    Cleaning all-weather weaves and rattan garden furniture

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Alun Callender

    These can be left outdoors, but remove the cushions and cover as autumn sets in. Dust with a dry brush, then clean your furniture with a non-foaming detergent, as any residue can cause mildew to build up. Rinse each piece thoroughly using either a hose or a pressure washer on its lowest setting. Either will be powerful enough to blast any pesky residual detergent or dirt out from the weave.

    When it comes to cleaning rattan furniture it’s important to be gentle and avoid any harsh cleaners or chemicals. ‘Fill a bowl with warm soapy water using some washing up liquid and wipe down your furniture gently with a soft cloth’ advises Ryan Schwarze, head of Luxury Rattan. ‘Be sure to wipe away any soapy residue on your furniture before leaving it to dry outside.’

    Ryan goes on to reveal an insider top tip: ‘If you have an old piece of rattan furniture that is looking worse for wear, I would recommend using a soft cloth and rubbing some olive oil onto the product. This will reduce cracking and add shine to your rattan, making it look as good as new.’

    How to clean plastic garden furniture


    Image credit: Future PLC/ Tom Meadows

    Plastic garden furniture is weather-proof but can discolour, so it’s best to store it in an outbuilding or shed over winter. If your shed has windows, make sure the furniture is covered with dust sheets so that the daylight can’t bleach the colour.

    When you’re ready to use your furniture, wash it down with hot, soapy water with a minimal splash of bleach in it to get rid of any dirt or stubborn stains. Use a sponge rather than anything abrasive, so as not to scratch or mark the surface, and rinse thoroughly before the furniture dries. Finally, add a protective layer of clear car wax.

    How to clean aluminium garden furniture


    Image credit: Future PLC/ Nick Pope

    Aluminium furniture can stay outdoors, but it may oxidise over time. If you don’t have anywhere to store it inside, consider investing in outdoor furniture covers or a small storage shed. Many outdoor garden furniture retailers sell a wide range of PVC-backed polyester covers – which will keep your furniture protected from the elements, and even have UV-filters built in to prevent sun bleaching.

    Remove scuff marks with a non-abrasive cleaner, wash with soapy water, and rinse off with a hose. Protect the surface with a little clear car wax.

    Cleaning outdoor fabric seats, cushions and parasols

    Garden loungers with fabric cushions and fabric sun shelter

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Simon Scarboro

    Keep your outdoor fabrics looking their best by cleaning with a specialist upholstery shampoo. Choose a sunny day, so they have a chance to dry out properly and won’t develop mildew. If the fabric is just dusty or you’re short of time, use a vacuum to spruce it up in an instant. Better still if the covers are removable pop them on a gentle cycle every so often to keep them fresh.

    For a more natural cleaning hack Ryan advises, ‘When it comes to keeping cushions clean, use warm water with a mild detergent of choice to spot clean non-removable cushion covers. A soft scrubber is preferred to work the stain away before cleaning with a damp cloth. Excess moisture can be absorbed with towels to ensure that as much moisture is absorbed before leaving to dry.’

    Right, time to grab that scrubbing brush and get to work for when the sun’s in town. And remember, the sooner you get the job done, the sooner you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy time in the garden.

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