10 Tips on How To Protect Outdoor Furniture

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Learn how to protect your outdoor furniture so you can enjoy it for multiple seasons. We talked to the experts to get their best tips.

Homeowners are spending more time at home and transforming their outdoor spaces with outdoor furniture. Consumers in the U.S. spent more than $15 billion on outdoor furniture in 2020, a figure that’s projected to grow through 2027, according to an industry trends report.

Learn how to protect your outdoor furniture so you can enjoy it year after year.

How To Protect Outdoor Furniture

We talked to experts to get their tips and ideas for protecting your outdoor furniture against the elements and maintain it in even the harshest climates.

Anchor outdoor furniture

If you live in an area that’s prone to high winds, carefully secure your outdoor furniture. If possible, stack and tie down chairs when they’re not in use, keep umbrellas closed or bring them inside, and make sure cushions are tied to the furniture. Once everything is anchored, cover with tarps or individual custom covers if you won’t be using them for awhile.

Protect cushion fabric with a spray-on sun and water shield

Some outdoor furniture cushions, pillows and umbrellas are made with sun and water repellent fabric. If yours aren’t, get Scotchguard Sun and Water Shield and add that protection yourself. This spray dries without odor, repels water and prevents yellowing and fading.

Jackie Hirschhaut, executive director of the International Casual Furnishings Association, says if you leave your outdoor furniture frames out year-round, always bring the cushions indoors during the off season.

Use covers

Covers protect your outdoor furniture from the damaging UV rays, as well as precipitation in all forms.

When choosing outdoor furniture covers, Hirschhaut says they should fit comfortably over each piece. Take measurements so the cover isn’t too tight or loose. And avoid a cover that seals the furniture underneath. “It’s important for air to be able to get in underneath to prevent mold or mildew,” Hirschhaut says.

Paul Knapp, a landscape designer in Davenport, Iowa, recommends specialty sites like Coverstore or Outer for quality outdoor furniture covers in custom sizes.

Seal wooden outdoor furniture with polyurethane

It’s important to seal wooden outdoor furniture with a coat of polyurethane. “Polyurethane will help protect your wood from the sun, and it will also bring out the wood’s natural beauty,” Knapp says. “It’s important to use polyurethane that has UV blockers such as Varathane Ultimate Spar Urethane or Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane.”

Keep it in the shade

All outdoor furniture benefits from sun protection. “Consider putting it under an umbrella or a more permanent shaded structure,” says Larry Greene, president of Case Design/Remodeling, in Indianapolis. “This will expand the life of the set and lower the risk of any sun, wind or rain damage.”

Apply paste wax to metal and aluminum outdoor furniture

The best way to protect metal and aluminum outdoor furniture is with a coating of paste wax, says Alex Varela, general manager of Dallas Maids. “Just like you use sunscreen to protect your skin, think of wax as sunscreen for your outdoor furniture,” he says.

If your metal or aluminum furniture is corroding or rusting, remove that first, apply primer and paint, then add paste wax on top. For metals prone to rust such as wrought iron, Varela recommends applying a rust neutralizer like Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer.

Apply a protectant to plastic furniture

Over time, the sun can severely fade plastic outdoor furniture. “Applying a coat of outdoor furniture protector, such as Star-Brite Outdoor Furniture Protectant, can keep the sun’s rays from fading your furniture,” Knapp says. The spray acts like sunscreen and helps prevent fading and cracking.

Off-season outdoor furniture storage

Unless you live in a mild climate and use your outdoor furniture year-round, don’t store it outside during winter, Varela says. “Exposing your furniture to constant water changes [continually getting wet and drying] is not a good idea,” Varela says.

Joe Raboine, outdoor living expert and director of residential hardscapes for Belgard, recommends cleaning your furniture before storing it away.

“Moisture and dirt left on outdoor items can cause mold or mildew to grow in the winter months,” he says. “Mold can grow and spread quickly, leaving your furniture in bad shape by the time you are ready to use it again. Pieces made from wicker, wrought iron, mesh or plastic can be cleaned with a simple dish soap and water solution.”

According to Gayla Sessa of Missouri Table & Chair, a pressure washer is a great tool for cleaning sturdy, rugged outdoor furniture. However, use caution the first time you try it. Too much pressure can damage your furniture.

Andrea Cooley
I'm a working mom of 3 who loves making our house a home, inside and out. Freelance writer and copy editor for Meredith Premium Publishing and former editor for Country Home and Lowe's Creative Ideas. I love living in a 100-year-old home that is full of character.