8 top tips to spruce up your garden furniture for springtime

Time to transform tired seating, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

Chances are, you can’t wait to get a head start on your garden, with longer, brighter evenings and warmer weather on the cards.

One thing that might prove tricky is outdoor furniture. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a garden shed to store stuff, cobwebs, mildew, dust, dirt and leaves might have soiled soft furnishings – and anything in the open air will have taken a beating.

Sound familiar? Here’s how to give your furniture a facelift…

1. Set the scene

First, have a general tidy up. “Just as you would inside your home when tackling a little spring clean, clear the clutter,” says Wayfair’s resident style advisor Nadia McCowan Hill (wayfair.co.uk).

“A quick brush of the patio or sweep of the decking to remove fallen leaves and general dust and debris will help revitalise the area. Pressure washers come into their own this time of year, for fast action cleaning with impressive results.”

Whether it’s hosing down the walls or mowing the lawn, take this opportunity to think about how your furniture will be framed.

2. Tackle your furniture

“Before starting any restoration work, it’s a good idea to give it a thorough clean – this can make a world of difference to furniture that’s gathered dirt during the winter,” says Holly Sambells, Christow’s home and garden guru (christowhome.co.uk). “Use warm, soapy water with sponges and brushes to give your furniture a deep clean.”

Cleaning garden furniture

Ben Thornborough, co-founder of Thorndown Paints (thorndown.co.uk), agrees: “If your furniture is old, make sure the surface is thoroughly cleaned. Wash off any dirt with soapy water or use a pressure washer. Washing with a light bleach and water solution will also help to kill off algae.”

For rattan furniture, you can always try dipping an old toothbrush into the soapy water to scrub away any dirt, and allow to dry in the sunshine.

3. Prepare tables and chairs

“Preparation is key when it comes to the perfect finish, so before you consider painting your old, tired furniture, sand off any rough patches or loose old coatings that will show or affect the finish,” suggests Thornborough.

“Wooden furniture may need preserving with a wood preserver. If your furniture is made with treated softwood, remove any surface residue from the pressure treatment process.”

4. Take your time with painting

Tree Lichen Wood Paint, Thorndown
Garden wooden bench painted in Tree Lichen Wood Paint, £18, 750ml, Thorndown (Thorndown/PA)

“Don’t rush to start your paint job. Make sure your wood is dry, otherwise coatings won’t fix properly to the timber, affecting the paint’s performance and longevity,” advises Thornborough.

“To ensure the perfect finish, apply a knotting agent or stain-blocking primer to prevent possible tannin staining of the paint coating. However, if you’re a fan of all things natural, don’t worry about it and let nature take its course.

“If there’s any rust on fixings, treat the metal surfaces or use paint with flash rust inhibitor, to stop rust from forming on non-galvanised metal or metal screws and nails (other than stainless steel).”

Whortleberry Wood Paint, Thorndown
Garden chairs painted in Thorndown Whortleberry Wood Paint, £18, 750ml, Thorndown (Thorndown/PA)

And before you start painting, Thornborough adds: “Check the weather to make sure rain isn’t forecast for at least 24 hours. This will allow plenty of time for the paint to dry and fix/bond properly.”

5. Get rid of rusty stains

Harsh weather conditions can can take their toll on heavy pieces. “The wind, rain and humidity of colder seasons will have likely caused metal to corrode, building a layer of rust on the surface,” notes Jon Sharpe, chief creative officer at LuxDeco (luxdeco.com).

“Luckily, there are simple home remedies that can remove rust and return your furniture to its former glory. Simply use white vinegar and pour it evenly on the affected areas. Leave it to sit for a while, then wipe away once the product has worked its magic.”

6. Metal effects

Annie Sloan Chalkpaint in English Yellow
Garden furniture painted in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, £23.95, 1 litre, Anne Sloan (Annie Sloan/PA)

For a pop of colour, Annie Sloan (anniesloan.com) Chalk Paint is a go-to for all exterior paint jobs, including metal dining chairs and tables. For extra durability, sand the area and treat with a rust inhibitor before painting. Annie Sloan English Yellow (£23.95, 1 litre) is especially cheerful styled with jugs of daffodils spilling over.

7. Wash cushion covers

Even though they’ve been weather-proofed, soft outdoor furnishings will still need some TLC. As Sharpe points out, some will have simply picked up a stale smell from being packed away so long.

“Wash on a low heat and use a gentle setting to ensure they keep their size and shape, and don’t tumble dry,” he says. “Use the upcoming sunny weather to let the covers dry outdoors before putting them back on.”

8. The final flourishes

Navy Banana Parasol, Christow
Christow outdoor furniture, with replacement canopy options starting from £14.99 (2.7 metres), Christow (Christow/PA)

“With the recent storms, many parasols might have been damaged,” says Sambells. Rather than buying new, she suggests buying a fresh canopy to put on an existing frame – a more sustainable option, and a win-win if there’s nothing wrong with the frame.

Hanging chair, Wayfair
Wayfair Hanging Chair with Stand, from a selection, Wayfair (Wayfair/PA)

Likewise, a sofa set, bench or hanging chair can be transformed with a cushion update. “A cost-effective way to make an impact, rather than replacing the whole set,” says McCowan Hill. “A different colour or pattern will give existing furniture a whole new look.

“Make a focal point of seating areas with a splash of colour, or choose bright contemporary whites to reflect the sunshine. A few smaller stylish decorative touches, like outdoor lanterns and a change in plant pots, can make a big difference to the overall finished look.”

Celina Digby Outdoor Garden Tablecloth in English Garden and matching cushions, Celina Digby
Celina Digby water resistant tablecloth (from £49.99) and matching cushions (from £29.99), Celina Digby (Celina Digby/PA)

For more inspiration, check out websites such as Celina Digby (celinadigby.co.uk) – it has a great garden range of water resistant garden cushions (starting from £29.99) and matching tablecloths (from £49.99).