Storing Your Patio Furniture for the Winter

Regardless of how sturdy, even an ironwork patio set or all-weather outdoor furniture will last longer if it is put away after the summer is over. Storing seasonal items is also good for your siding in particular and the backyard in general. Items left out can easily become projectiles in our lively Lower Mainland windstorms. If organizing the backyard is part of your fall home maintenance checklist, here are some tips for storing patio furniture safely through the winter months.

Inspect the Furniture

Before putting outdoor furniture away, inspect it first to see if it just needs to be cleaned or if it requires both cleaning and repairing.

Examine patio tables, chairs, and umbrellas for any broken or missing parts, including hardware.

Take this opportunity to assess older pieces of outdoor furniture to determine if they should be repaired or recycled/replaced. A good rule of thumb is the extent of the damage and how much time and/or money is needed to restore the furniture to a state of usefulness. When the damage is extensive, it is probably more economical to replace the item.

Clean Outdoor Furniture

Remove any cushions; clean and/or repair them before storing. Fabric cushions with removable covers can be washed or dry cleaned – read labels or the manufacturer’s instructions for the correct cleaning method.

For non-removable fabric and canvas cushions clean thoroughly with a sanitizing solution of disinfectant or non-toxic (oxygen) bleach and warm water.

To save yourself some scrubbing, wipe away grime, pollen, and dirt from patio furniture with a dry cloth. Dealing with any loose material first will give you a more accurate idea on how to remove the stains and marks left behind.

Wash fabric/vinyl/canvas umbrellas with a mild liquid detergent and a soft brush. Allow them to dry before collapsing the umbrella and putting away.

Cleaning Suggestions for Different Materials

Wherever possible, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for care and storage. If there is no product manual or if it was lost, here are some cleaning suggestions for the most popular materials – metal, wood, vinyl, and wicker/rattan – from which outdoor furniture is constructed.

Metal furniture: Wash with a solution of mild dish soap and warm water, using a sponge or a soft-bristle brush. Rinse with a garden hose. Examine for rust spots; remove flakes with steel wool. Treat rust with a rust-neutralizing primer before painting. Protect metal furniture by applying a silicone sealant spray.

Wood furniture: Remove grit and grime from wood furniture with a soft brush. Then wash with a brush or a soft abrasive sponge and a pail of mild soap, bleach, and water. Since wood is food for other organisms, don’t skip the bleach – it will help kill mold and mildew. Rinse thoroughly with clear water or a garden hose. For wicker or rattan furniture, you might need to use a toothbrush to remove dirt from the tight weave. Keep wood furniture, including wicker, protected by wiping it down with furniture wax.

Vinyl furniture:  Vinyl, plastic and resin furniture is the easiest type of outdoor furniture to clean and maintain. Often it can be sprayed with an all-purpose cleaner and wiped down with a soft sponge or cloth. When vinyl furniture needs washing, use a mild detergent and a soft-bristle brush – avoid industrial strength cleaning solutions and brushes that can scratch the surface. Use car wax to provide vinyl furniture with all-weather protection.

Storing Your Patio Furniture

To fully protect your wood, wicker and metal patio furniture, store it during the winter months in a basement, garage or utility shed.

Store collapsible folding tables and chairs vertically from hooks or lean them against a wall. If chairs are stackable, pile them one on top of the other and then cover the stack with a tarp.

Because vinyl patio furniture is prone to becoming brittle or cracking, it should be kept in a place where the temperature will not drop below freezing (0°C).

Once cleaned, put the cushions back into their covers. If they are going to be stored in a shed or garage, pack them away in non-plastic storage bins or stack them on a shelf and cover them with a cloth tarp.

Close and bind your patio correctly. To prevent the ribs of the umbrella from being scratched place the pole within the panels instead of the centre. If possible hang the patio umbrella from a hook; if not, store vertically on a shelf.

If it is not possible to keep patio furniture inside a shed or garage, cover with water-tight tarps. Remove any fabric cushions and store them in an air-tight outdoor storage bin if they can’t be brought inside.