If you are anything like us, your couples’ bench by a rockery and water feature is a favourite place to sit. However, with the winter months upon us, your lovely garden furniture is getting a decent battering from storms, frost and the odd snow flurry. If left outside during these harsh weather conditions, it will soon start to feel the toll no matter if it is plastic, metal or wood.
Your first option, if at all possible, is to store your garden furniture indoors. It might be a little impractical to move your garden bench into a shed or garage, but if you can, then this is the ultimate way to protect it. Even if you decide to put the furniture inside, you should still follow some of these maintenance tips.
Using soapy water and a soft sponge, clean off any dirt or residue that might have built up over the summer. Make sure you rinse the furniture with cold water and then leave it in the sun, if there is any, to dry thoroughly. You are going to have to choose your day for cleaning wisely – potentially using the opportunity of a bright but windy day, so the furniture dries promptly.
You can clean timber with a soft brush and a suitable wood cleaner if you want it to look renewed and revigorated. You can buy specialist wood cleaner if you wish, though we find that two-parts washing powder with one-part bleach work really well in a large bucket of warm water.
When cleaning aluminium furniture, which should be mostly weather resistant, do not use hard brushes, as you can scratch the surface. You can protect aluminium furniture over winter with a thin coat of turtle wax, which will keep it safe from most of what the weather can deliver. You can safeguard wicker and rattan with a layer of varnish, though this furniture should really be stored indoors over winter. Cleaning wicker or rattan can only be done with a gentle cleaning fluid, as you do not want to use something corrosive that will crack the top layer.
A lot of garden furniture comes with cushions, or you can buy cushions separately. If possible, remove these soft furnishings and wash them in your machine. Make sure you check the label to see if a machine wash is appropriate. If you cannot put it in the washing machine, sponge the cushions down with soapy, warm water and leave to air dry. You should always store the cushions indoors during the winter if you hope to use them in the spring. To avoid mildew, you should store the cushions in a sealed bag.
Your plastic tables and chairs are likely to take flight in the first autumnal storm – as will your parasol. Therefore, it is always best to fold these up and tie them together, to avoid them scattering your lawn – or that of your neighbours. Better still, store these in a well-sheltered area of your garden where the wind doesn’t reach.
With any outdoor furniture, but particularly wrought iron, you should purchase a plastic cover for over winter. Make sure the furniture is dry before covering it and ensure that the bottom edges of the cover are secured to the ground. The quality of the cover matters, especially with plastic furniture, as moulds can build up under suboptimal covers that leak. You need a water-resistant, breathable fabric for the best results for your garden furniture.
You also need to find a cover that fits. You can get individual covers for each item or a sheet of tarpaulin to cover all. Remember that the bigger sheet will likely act like a sail in the winter storms and will need to be tightly secured. You can buy covers with eyelets around the edge that will allow you to use a rope for packaging the furniture. If you then place the furniture in a sheltered area, on a flat surface, then you should have no trouble over the winter period.
So, to keep your garden furniture looking perfect, you are best to keep it indoors over winter. If this isn’t possible, you need a cover. No matter what you choose to do, you need to clean the furniture and make sure it is dried thoroughly to prevent mildew and mould build-up.
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.