When decorating a patio or backyard, choose furnishings that can stand up to harsh weather. (Photo courtesy The Home Depot)
Nothing jolts you into taking a fresh look at your outdoor living area faster than your first patio party of the season. Several colleagues had come to Orlando for a conference from colder climes, so I thought I would treat them to a spring evening al fresco in Florida.
Me and my fat mouth, I think as I survey my outdoor living area and notice what I’d been conveniently ignoring: pollen-covered cushions, cobweb-draped lanterns, mold and algae on the wood trim. And when did those outdoor area rugs get so tired? I lift a throw pillow, and a lizard runs out.
My patio needed a warm-weather refresh fast!
“Mother Nature is hard on outdoor furniture,” said interior designer Patricia Gaylor, who splits her time between sunny Las Vegas and snowy New Hampshire. Sun, rain, wind, dirt and insects conspire to decompose all things outdoors. It’s our job to beat those elements back.
I start by moving the patio furniture and pressure-washing the back of the house. Next, I vacuum the cushions, hose down the furniture and wash the all-weather rattan with soap and water. I run the glass lanterns through the dishwasher and replace their melted pillar candles with fresh, white (unscented) ones. And I hop online and order fresh area rugs.
“I look at spring cleaning the outdoors as a sort of ritual,” Gaylor said. “It feels like part of the cycle of life, an outward act full of inward meaning.”
Well, that takes some of the sting out of it, I suppose.
Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design for The Home Depot, said that in Atlanta, where she lives, “as soon as all the leaves and pollen are done falling,” she itches to give her outdoor spaces “a big power clean.”
Here’s how Fishburne and Gaylor recommend we get our outdoors warm-weather ready:
Size up the situation. Take inventory. See what needs to be cleaned and refreshed or disposed of and replaced.
Start with the right materials. Make cleaning easier and replacing less frequent by choosing good quality, weather resistant materials to begin with. Look for solution-dyed acrylic fabric, such as Sunbrella or Cushion Guard, which are UV stabilized to prevent fading. You will pay more up front, but it’s worth it, Gaylor said. Less expensive options, such as polyester, don’t hold up as well, especially under intense sun. Other reliable weatherproof materials include marine-grade stainless steel (for appliances and cabinet hardware), recycled plastic polymers (for chairs and decking) and acrylic-fortified cement (for coffee tables and planters).
Get the rugs right. Look for outdoor rugs made of polypropylene, a woven plastic material that resists weather damage and that sheds water and dirt. To refresh outdoor rugs, shake, vacuum, suds down and hose off. As with other outdoor fabrics, regular cleaning will help rugs last longer.
Pressure wash. Start your cleaning process by pressure washing the outside of the house, including doors, windows, eaves, screens, patios and decking. Some professional pressure washers can wash down your exterior with solutions that have a built-in algaecide to discourage mold.
Clean the furniture. Remove furniture cushions and hose down chairs, sofas and tables. Get the underside, too. Vacuum up surface dirt from cushions, then wash them with a mild solution of soap and water. Don’t put them in the washing machine. Choose a sunny day and set them on their sides to dry. If you live in an area where you don’t use your patio year round, store cushions during cold months. Give them a thorough cleaning before putting them away, then they will be fresh and ready for spring.
Go undercover. Any furnishings that take direct sun and weather will break down faster than those that stay on a covered patio. Gaylor likes to use furniture covers year round, so furniture stays clean and ready to use. Having a waterproof hamper or basket to store seat cushions, throw pillows and throws when not in use can also help keep these items clean and dry.
Refresh planter beds. After a couple seasons of sun, wind and rain, the mulch in planter beds can start to look sad and washed out. A new layer of fresh mulch will not only make planter beds look better but will also help keep weeds under control.
Then say, “Patio party at my place.”
Join me next week to learn how to create a great outdoor living area in seven steps.
Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books, including “Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go.” Reach her at www.marnijameson.com.