Summer countdown – one week away. Is your patio ready?

Yikes! Doesn’t it seem that frigid temperatures greeted us in the morning just yesterday? Believe it or not, summer is knocking on the door. If you love entertaining outdoors during these glorious warm months, it’s time to turn your attention to your patio furniture, especially if you didn’t take steps to protect it during winter.

Good for you if you did actually store your furniture out of the elements. Whether you did or didn’t, though, let’s take a look at what to do with the stuff as you pull it out to seat your guests this summer.

Do sweat the small stuff

Once your patio furniture is again facing the light of day, get rid of the cobwebs that took up residence over the fall and winter. Anything that appears unsafe or broken should meet the trashcan. Then, check the bolts and screws and tighten any that need it.

A buildup of dirt and debris dulls the finish and shortens the life of patio furniture. Use a damp cloth to wipe off “the gunk.” If the accumulation requires more work, use a few drops of dish soap in a bucket of water, and a scrub brush. Depending on how long it’s been between cleanings, you may need to blast the furniture with a power washer. If so, we feel your pain.

Otherwise, use the appropriate products, depending on what the furniture is made of. For instance, a few drops of dishwashing detergent in a quart of warm water is fine for aluminum and even some wicker.

For moving parts and hinges, a couple of squirts of a lubricant, such as WD-40 or an all-purpose oil will quiet them.

Cleaning patio furniture sucks

It sure does. . .regardless of the season. But, when your mother-in-law rises from her chair to step up to the barbecue, and she lacks dirt stains on her hiney, you will thank yourself for paying attention to those nasty patio furniture cushions.

Remove the cushion covers and launder them. The cushions should be attended to with a vacuum, according to Bob Vila of This Old House fame. After you suck out the debris, scrub them clean with a solution of 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid in a gallon of warm water.

Got mildew? Vila suggests adding one-quarter cup of borax (an all-natural mineral powdered product) to the solution and allow the cushions to soak for 15 minutes. You can even use the borax for mildew stains on the covers, depending on the material (check the labels). Purchase borax at hardware stores, some grocery stores (Walmart, Safeway and others), health food stores, farm supply stores and online at and

Then, train the hose on the cushions to rinse off the solution and allow them to air-dry. Don’t rush to put the covers on until the cushions are completely dry, warns Vila, or you’ll end up creating more mildew.

Tackle the rust on your patio furniture

Humidity is great for our skin but takes a toll on our metal patio furniture. The Family Handyman has several suggestions for how to rid the furniture of the red/brown stuff:

Creepy chemicals

Ah, rust remover products. With ingredients such as hydrochloric or phosphoric acid, how can we go wrong?

Well, when the instructions caution you to wear goggles, a respirator mask and gloves, you know this stuff isn’t to be taken lightly.

If  you’re ok with chemicals, head to the paint department of your favorite home improvement store and buy rust remover, such as Rust-Oleum® Rust Reformer, Krud Kutter or one of the “4 Best Liquid Rust Removers” recommended by Popular Mechanics.

And, do follow every word of the instructions on the label.

By the way, our friend, says that there are “newer nontoxic and acid-free soaking solutions, such as Evapo-Rust” (which he got at an auto parts store).

Sand, scour or grind

Sure, this method will remove the paint as well, but at least you didn’t need to use chemicals, right? This method requires that you “use a power tool like a grinder, sander, oscillating tool or drill, and that you “keep the tool moving so you don’t gouge the metal,” according to the Family Handyman.

Rust converter

Ah, the terms homeowners learn; “rust converter” has to be among the most arcane. Rust converter can be either an aerosol spray or a liquid that you brush on, like paint.

“It kills the rust, prevents its spread and dries into a ready-to-paint primer,” according to the Handyman. Prep the surfaces by rubbing with a wire brush and then spray or brush on the product. When it dries, you can either paint the surface or, as the handy guy recommends, apply another primer and then paint.

Cleaning patio furniture is a lot of work, but well worth it when your summer soirees are the talk of the town . . . or at least the neighborhood.