Polishing up the patio

April 20, 2008|By Alan J. Heavens | Alan J. Heavens,McClatchy-Tribune

You didn't bring the outdoor furniture inside for the winter, or even cover it. Now, your chairs and patio table, even the umbrella, look ugly. No need to panic. Just give them a good cleaning.

Working with wicker: --To clean woven furniture, you'll need to get into and around those intricate weaves. And that requires a variety of brushes - a new toothbrush (stiffer bristles); a small paintbrush with bristles cut down by half, to make them stiffer; and a bristle brush with medium bristles. Pick out bits of dirt and debris with wooden skewers used to make shish kebab.

After you've gotten the gunk and grime out of the weaves, vacuum a wicker piece thoroughly. Then wash using minimum amounts of a solution of two tablespoons of ammonia to two gallons of water. Clean in sections, then dry the wicker quickly to prevent warping.

Attend to the aluminum: --For regular aluminum chairs, grab a plastic scrub brush and dishwashing detergent at full strength and then scrub. Rinse thoroughly, then let dry. For coated-aluminum pieces, experts also recommend full-strength dishwashing detergent, using a sponge instead. Rinse, dry with a soft cloth and then rub on car wax to polish, avoiding the fabric.

Ponder the plastic: --Is your old plastic furniture worth keeping another year? If the chairs cost $2 each 10 years ago, you can find nicer ones for about the same price today. But if you opt to keep them, wash the pieces with three tablespoons of powdered laundry detergent (or oxygenated bleach such as OxyClean) mixed in a gallon of warm water.

Cleanse the cushions: --Check the label for the manufacturer's suggestions. If cushions or seat webbing are washable, use warm, soapy water or a foam cleaner. Apply with a sponge, rinse and dry quickly.

Repair the rust: --On wrought-iron furniture, lightly use a wire brush to remove the rust but not the paint. Naval jelly, available at hardware stores, also can dissolve rust. Rust stains can be removed with fine steel wool dipped in kerosene. Wear protective gloves and safety glasses and apply in the open, away from fire.

Mind the mildew: --Got a mildewed patio umbrella? Open it and lay it on its side, then clean each section using a soft bristle brush and oxygenated bleach in warm water - be sure to check the manufacturer's care suggestions (chlorine bleach will fade acrylics).

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