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Dusty, rusty or cracked? How to give your garden furniture the ultimate deep clean

Laura de Barra offers a masterclass in reviving and repairing your forlorn furniture.

Laura de Barra regularly brings her lifestyle and home maintenance masterclasses to the Glenveagh Home Magazine on This week: cleaning and repairing your garden furniture for a summer of lounging.

IF YOUR GARDEN furniture has been sitting out all winter and is looking a little past its best, do not fear!

There are so many ways to rescue worn, damaged or rusty tables and chairs, with no replacing necessary. Here’s my guide to cleaning and repairing your garden furniture, be it plastic, wood or metal…

1. Plain plastic furniture

A warm soapy wash-down and scrub is perfect here, but be sure to use a non-scratch sponge. A brush or scourer will only leave scratch marks.

If you spot cracks in the furniture, you’ll find glue specifically designed for plastic garden furniture in your local DIY store or a large garden centre. Catching these cracks early will help you avoid any breaks. Another handy product to pick up is a specialist protective wax to keep your furniture in good nick for the summer – apply it again just before winter.

shutterstock_772706284 Shutterstock / Snova Shutterstock / Snova / Snova

2. Woven plastic furniture

Poly rattan, a woven plastic fibre, is really commonly used for garden furniture. It can hold a lot of dirt, so be sure to give your tables and chairs a thorough clean down at the start of summer.

If you see there are broken parts, or the corners are torn, replacement strips are available to buy online – or there are many tutorials that show how to use resin to fix those snapped strands. If it’s just torn corners, source a suitable glue and stick the ends back down.

3. Wooden furniture

Softwood furniture is prone to decay and dulling if it hasn’t been weatherproofed. Let’s get these girls to the salon!

You’ll need:

  • A stiff brush
  • A wood treatment product (available in DIY stores or garden centres)
  • A protective product
  • Brushes or rags for application

First, clean the whole thing down to make sure the products can sit properly. Use a stiff brush to get weeds, moss, dust and dirt off.

Next you’ll need a treatment to revive the wood. Follow all directions on the packaging. Not only does this bring the whole set back to life, it’ll make it last for years if you treat it after. A coat of weatherproofing like a varnish or oil for outdoor wood will add that last layer or protection.

Hardwood furniture usually has enough oils to stay naturally protected and vibrant but could still do with a good brushing down and a treatment for Irish winters.

3. Metal furniture

The main problem you will have here is rust. Who do we call? Why yes, the acidic queen: vinegar!

You’ll need:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Old rags
  • Small containers for rust feet

The vinegar needs 30 minutes minimum, applied undiluted to work her magic. The worse the rust, the longer this mixture needs.

Stand table and chair legs in small containers of white vinegar. For other areas, soak a cloth in undiluted white vinegar and wrap around the rusty part, again leaving for 30 mins.

You can then wipe the rust off. If you have stiff hinges on folding chairs or umbrella poles, oil these up at the start and end of summer, before cleaning down the metal using warm soapy water and a microfibre cloth.

4. Cushions

If your cushions are sun-bleached, you can spruce these up for another year by dying them. If you want to make new ones from scratch, simply unpick the original cushions to use as a template for your new fabric.

When choosing soft furnishing for outside, go for a UV and water-resistant fabric where possible. Cottons can look great at the start but can faded easily and also attract mould quickly.

And a full guide to re-painting…

If you wish to paint your furniture to give it a whole new look, here is my quick guide;

  • Make sure anything loose like rust or paint is completely removed by sanding down, scraping and treating. This give you a smooth surface and prevents chipping
  • Clean down (instructions for how each likes to be cleaned are above) to make sure you are left with the cleanest surface possible to get a long-lasting result. There needs to be nothing stopping the products bonding well with the surface. Make sure the piece is completely dry before next stages.
  • Pick a primer suitable for the paint or spray paint being applied as well as the surface. If your primer requires you to do another stage of prep like a light sand, do not skip this! Apply primer in light brushstrokes to avoid any ridging and make sure all areas are fully covered.
  • Make sure the paint or spray paint you choose is suitable for the surface and suitable to be used for outdoor items. When painting it is actually best to paint indoors. When outdoors you can get a gritty layer due to dust and dirt blowing into the wet paint.

Want more tips and hacks? Laura de Barra’s debut book, Gaff Goddess: Simple Tips And Tricks To Help You Run Your Home is on shelves now, published by Transworld Ireland. Buy it here or in all good bookshops, and follow Laura on Instagram for even more cleaning and lifestyle tips.

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