Outsmarting the elements
Laurie Rudd -- Casual Living, October 25, 2011
AT THIS TIME OF YEAR, SEASONAL CHANGES are all around us. While the great outdoors continues to provide comfort and community, this is traditionally the time of year when care and maintenance of outdoor furnishing comes to the forefront - but does care belong to just one season?
"We're in Florida - our outdoor season doesn't end," said Steve Lowsky, executive VP of Pride Family Brands, manufacturer of cast and wrought aluminum casual furniture. "We stress care and maintenance be practiced year-round to receive the greatest return on the investment."
No matter the size of the investment, the construction of choice or amount of effort involved, proper care equates to the durability and longevity that is at the core of every outdoor room.
Durable cast aluminum requires gentle care of periodic washing to remove air-born dirt without the use of abrasive power washing.
"The biggest thing that people fail to do is something as simple as regularly removing surface dirt from frames and fabric," said Lowsky. "It floats in the air and gets everywhere. Once a month, consumers should spray down their furniture and flip cushions as well as get a bucket with soapy water and wash down their frames. It would add so much life to outdoor furniture or anything outside."
Pressure cleaning, however, is discouraged for powdercoated metal furnishings. Often outfitted with a clear coat to seal the finish and give luster, metal frames can lose this coating with harsh cleaning. "Pressure cleaning changes the chemical composition of the finish and can create a wedge or crevice between the metal and the finish that could allow the elements in," said Lowsky.
A little-known, yet valuable care tip, as noted by Lowsky is the use of automobile wash wax for enhancing metal furnishings. "When liquid soap wax, not paste wax, is used on aluminum furniture, it returns the finish's shine that may have been compromised from harsh sun or age," said Lowsky. "It will go a long way in keeping the beauty of the furniture much like it does for a car."
Outdoor wood furniture can maintain the beauty of the wood’s original coloration through re-oiling the surface every three to six months.
Outdoor furnishings crafted of wood embrace a true connection with their natural origin. Ultimately, the beauty of wood can come forth naturally or can hold additional options through finishing techniques. "If left outside over time, natural Brazilian Cherry will turn a handsome silver gray," said Michael Mettendorf, VP of sales and marketing for New River Casual Furniture, manufacturer of wood outdoor furnishings. "If this color is preferred, no maintenance is required. The original wood color remains locked into the core of the wood, right below the ‘skin.'" Wood furniture is predominantly available unfinished, oiled or with a finished surface. For those with an oiled finish and looking to preserve the original wood color, New River suggests re-oiling every three to six months. "More frequent re-coating with oil may be needed in regions with high sunshine," said Mettendorf.
Natural expansion and contraction of wood is another occurrence wood furnishing enthusiasts must address. "Wood has constant movement, so if you use a finish or a paint, it has to move as well," said Mettendorf. "New River's Reve finish, which is eco-friendly and non-toxic, was developed for just this purpose."
Consumers are most often educated on care and maintenance through the use of product hang tags.
All-weather wicker care
The ability to survive the elements with minimal care is found in all-weather wicker, but a little TLC never hurts.
"Our products are crafted to withstand all weather conditions and will remain beautiful with minimal care and maintenance," said Godfrey Leung, VP of sales for Ratana Furniture, manufacturer of all-weather wicker furnishings. "Simply cleaning with mild soap and water regularly will mean year-round enjoyment."
Keeping it simple, however, is the rule with this construction. Tami Newton, sales manager of Palm Springs Rattan and Garden Classics, cautions, "The use of solvents, scouring agents and metal brushes should be avoided when cleaning vinyl wicker due to the possibility of breaking down the furniture's integrity and creating a sticky feel to affected areas."
Furniture covers are experiencing a growth in popularity as they offer advanced features and benefits for outdoor living products from furnishings to grills for climates north or south during summer or winter. "Two Dogs Designs' outdoor furniture covers are made of heavyweight 600-denier polyester," said Sharon Defelice, owner of Two Dogs Designs. "Our covers provide maximum protection from the elements." Numerous size, style and color options are available today with designs as attractive, in some cases, as the furniture they protect. "Our outdoor furniture covers come in colorful mix-and-match patterns and solids to coordinate with barbecue grill covers," said Defelice. "They enhance outdoor living spaces."
Performance fabrics of solutiondyed fi bers that are used in cushions and other fabric accessories can be cleaned with a mild 5-to-1 solution of water to household bleach to remove stubborn stains or mildew.
Many outdoor accessories are the product of indoor items being reconstructed with materials made to endure the elements. One such popular accessory is the outdoor rug, which incorporates fibers that are specifically created for durability and ease of care.
"Routine maintenance is key and simple cleaning can provide added life for outdoor rugs," said Mike Shabtai, owner, The Rug Market, designer and manufacturer of outdoor and indoor rugs. "With the use of solution-dyed construction fibers, some outdoor rugs are fade-and stain-resistant requiring only simple hosing off for proper care." If stains do occur, a solution of one part bleach to five parts of soapy water can be used on solution-dyed fibers without diminishing the color.
Despite the construction, the beauty of outdoor rugs can be prolonged by reducing direct sun exposure. "Our rugs are able to withstand 300 UV hours," said Shabtai. "Putting them under some partial cover will add to the longevity."
Solution-dyed fibers are also used within the fabrics created for cushions for outdoor furnishings. The same care tips are suggested to remove soil and stains. However, the use of bleach in any cleaning product is only recommended for solution-dyed fabrics. Care information associated with the fabric construction on cushions, pillows or any fabric accessories should be consulted prior to cleaning.
Furnishings for the out of doors are built to last in the elements; however, many manufacturers recommend covers to prolong the life much like the way an automobile is protected in a garage.
Simply hosing off outdoor rugs to remove soil is an easy way to keep it looking new and welcoming for years.
Spreading the care message
With the importance of care for furnishings made for the outdoors, educating retail partners is a priority for manufacturers. Each is tasked with providing information applicable for all sales regions. Several options insure optimum use and long-term consumer enjoyment. "New River relies heavily on our authorized specialty dealer network to provide accurate care information to the consumer and also provide realistic expectations," said Mettendorf.
Customer service departments, websites, hangtags as well as social media are used to impart care information. For the consumer looking to reap the ultimate in durability and enjoyment, proper care should always be in season.