Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reviving Outdoor Furniture

I've held onto a few pieces of decent-quality white plastic patio furniture for years, because it felt wasteful to chuck them when they were still perfectly serviceable.  Every year, I'd notice that they looked dingier and more disgusting, and every year I'd say, "This year I'll replace those pieces."  I'm so glad I didn't!  They look brand new now!  Here's how.

Scrubbed, but never PRETTY.
Earlier this summer, I was amazed by a blog post at one of my favorite blogs (In My Own Style) about cleaning outdoor furniture (http://inmyownstyle.com/2012/05/cleaning-outdoor-decks-and-patios-in-style.html).  Diane showed how using Tilex or Clorox outdoor cleaning products took those white plastic chairs from gray to grand (alliteration!)  I have scrubbed outdoor furniture with all manner of products and was never satisfied with the gray left behind.  After reading Diane's post, I gave it a try (and as you can read in her comments section, I found a shortcut.)

Friday, I did it again, with equally successful results.  Now, please don't judge.  I was not intending to do a blog post about scrubbing this chair, but halfway through, I was so excited by the results that I couldn't bear NOT to share it with you, so I dropped everything, ran inside, grabbed the camera, and took a few shots, including my first ever video (which I intended to do without audio, then ever-so-tentatively, decided to say a few words, and now I wish I could do it again, so please bear with me and be kind.)  (I don't normally write in sentence fragments, nor do I normally write run-ons.  Sorry.)

Here's the trick:  Steel wool and bleach water.  The gray wipes right off.

Scrubbing...actually, it's more like wiping.  Not a lot of effort involved.
 Here's the video; it's short, I promise:

And here's an "after" shot of the chair half-way scrubbed.  Amazing, don't you agree?

The bowl on the chair is our small cleaning bucket (Here's an aside:  It's our puke bucket, too.  When I was little and had to be sick, I was offered either the toilet or a garbage can.  The garbage cans were never what one could call clean so it made being sick an even worse experience.  This blue bowl was handy one day years ago when one of us was sick; it's been the puke bucket ever since.  My kids were horrified the day they came home and Grammy had made a salad for dinner in the bowl; luckily their manners and instinct told them to not make a fuss.  Ever since, the bowl has not lived in the cupboard with the rest of the bowls but instead under the sink with its good friend scrub brush, and it hasn't made a food reappearance since!  Grammy was understandably confused about why we were a little disconcerted about the salad, but after thinking it over, commented that a puke bowl seems much nicer than a trash can.  I agree.)

Here are the materials you need for your amazing chair transformation:  household bleach (a glug into a medium sized bowl of water), about 6 pads of steel wool (I had this on hand in my furniture refinishing supplies.  If you've never used steel wool, you can buy it in the painting/staining section; it's inexpensive and comes in a large package.)  Finally, you'll want rubber gloves - because of the steel wool and the bleach.  (If you plan ahead, you can put a thick cream on your hands before beginning; the heat inside the gloves makes the lotion sink deep into your skin.  Lovely.)

Here is one of the chairs I did the day I read Diane's post about cleaning outdoor furniture.

Supplies on another plastic piece of furniture that I spray painted because I thought it would always be GRAY.

Here's the end result (with apologies for the bad photo quality.  As we say in Oklahoma, it was fixin' to rain and was overcast, and I wasn't complaining!)  The whole chair (underneath, back, legs, and all) took less than 45 minutes, and that was with stopping to do a mini-photo-shoot.  Now, for some of you, it's already the end of summer, so you'll be putting your patio furniture up for the season, but for those of us who live where summer lingers (I think "Oklahoma" is an old Indian word for "Land Where it is Ungodly Hot for Far Too Many Months Each Year") it's only now cool enough to actually go out and tackle a project like this.  (It's 96 degrees here today, for example.)  Whether you clean them soon or next spring, easy supplies and minimal effort can make your furniture live again to see another season?  Better than throwing it away, right?

And now for a cold beverage in my clean chair...ahhhhh.


  1. Crucial factors in determining what color to go for include the backdrop,http://www.gardenarteu.com the color palette of your garden, the other objects in the shared space and the feel of the space. Backdrop means considering what is behind the furniture for one to decide on the color that will suit with that of the background. outdoor furniture packages One may prefer to have a place to unwind and relax and this space may be where one wants to retreat from the chaos of the day, and have a quiet conversation therefore one should carefully choose the appropriate colors as they determine how you will feel. Black can be very classic or very modern while white tends to look a little washed out in the garden setting and comes across a beachy, aluminum garden furniture post wedding and too bright.

  2. Thanks so much for your post! I found via pinterest, and I am fixin to go try the bleach solution on my dingy patio furniture now. So far nothing has worked, fingers crossed!! :)