11 Ideas to Prepare for Outdoor Entertaining
Massachusetts real estate articles brought to you by lifelong Hingham resident and Realtor Alice Pierce
It is the glorious month of May, although one might disagree based on the observation of our recent weather patterns. The days of cold rain will, of course, change and May will begin to look like, well, May! We are in a seasonal limbo where the anticipation of consistently warmer weather coexists with our temperamental, unpredictable New England spring temperatures.
May is a good month to take care of things around your Hingham home so that you can enjoy all of the things the South Shore of Boston has to offer in the summertime. And when it is cool out, sometimes outdoor work doesn’t seem as daunting.
1) Prepare Outdoor Entertainment Spaces
It is hard to imagine outdoor living when it is cold and rainy. Remember last summer when you relaxed underneath green trees and had your morning coffee listening to the birds? Those days will be here in the blink of an eye. Patios and desks can be cleared of leaves, branches and swept before giving a short rinse of water to get rid of the winter cobwebs.
2) Outdoor Furniture
Many people leave their furniture outside year-round and this saves time and energy having to lug bulky items around in the spring, but creates the need for extra cleaning. Regardless of your furniture being inside, covered, uncovered or outside, cleaning it is a necessary step in the spring. Give all furniture a quick spray with water to loosen any spider nests and cobwebs.
3) Wood & Wicker Furniture
For wood and wicker furniture mix some Murphy’s Oil Soap with warm water. If you need more cleaning power, mix 1/4 cup ammonia, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 1 quart warm water. Use a scratchy pots and pan sponge for tough areas. When cleaning older wicker, dilute your cleaning solution if the wicker is fragile. Be sure to hose down wicker every few weeks to prevent dirt buildup in crevices. Ideally you can let your wood and wicker furniture dry in the direct sun as this tends to bleach out mildew stains. Be sure to turn your wicker pieces so that all sides are fully exposed and dry. For those of you who like to cover your furniture when not in use, avoid covering it after the initial washing to avoid mildew.
4) Metal Furniture
Depending on what type pf metal your furniture is made of, sometimes oxidation can be problem, especially with aluminum. Use a polishing paste for metal, or a 1:1 solution of white vinegar and water to remove the imperfections caused by oxidation before you clean. And don’t use ammonia or trisodium phosphate (TSP) because these alkaline cleaners actually cause oxidation. If you keep aluminum furniture washed, it will look great for years. For rusting spots, sand the rusted area and then wipe with mineral spirits. If your furniture is painted, be sure to use rust-resistant primers before painting with a rust-resistant paint. For that heavy, wrought iron variety, one can bring it in for a sandblasting and powder coat to restore it to its original luster. Once you complete your cleaning, car wax does a nice job of protecting metal.
5) Glass Furniture
Glass is more challenging since table surfaces are, by nature, exposed to all the elements. Although it is tempting to jump in and start with the Windex right away, make your job easier by first removing debris with a nonabrasive material. Beware the scrub brush since it will scratch your glass. Dish detergent and home cleaning solutions are the most effective cleaners when it comes to removing things that are stuck. For really stubborn spots, let the liquid of your cleaning solution soak into the area for a while. To do this on a flat surface, just super soak a sponge and put it over the debris. Once the debris is gone, use white vinegar and several microfiber cloths to clean. Do the underside first because there is usually dirt stuck up where the glass meets the table frame. To make life easier, cover a glass table when it’s not in use.
6) Plastic & Hard Resin Furniture
Plastic furniture is still the most common type of outdoor living material. With care, it can literally last forever. Rinse with water before cleaning. For a basic solution, use 1/4 cup of baking soda with 1/2 gallon of warm water. For tougher jobs, try a few tablespoons of Cascade automatic dishwasher detergent with one gallon of warm water. It has a mild bleaching agent that is safe for plastics. Always stay away from chlorine and regular bleach because these products degrade plastic materials over time. If you have colored furniture, to play it safe, stick with 1/4 cup vinegar mixed with a quart of warm water. White plastic is the most problematic but try dampening a rag in distilled vinegar and then sprinkle some baking soda on the rag. This will create a mild abrasive that will work off stains without scratching surfaces. Once you are done cleaning, let all surfaces of the furniture face the sun to dry. Some people use WD-40 to restore some shine by spraying onto a rag and then wiping down with a dry cloth. Car wax is also a good restoration product.
7) Outdoor Mats
Many doormats and area mats are made with synthetics like recycled rubber, polypropylene or thermoplastics making them easy enough to clean with a hose and a small amount of dish detergent. Even the mats with fibers can still be cleaned well. You might as well bring your indoor mats out, if you have any. This includes those form the mud room, garage and basement. Shake out loose debris and vacuum for dust before anything else. Rinsing with water actually removes less dust than shaking and vacuuming. Then sprinkle all of your mats with some baking soda and use a scrub brush or broom to distribute it. Using a small amount of dish detergent on a bucket of warm water, pour the solution evenly over the mat. When you rinse with a hose, the detergent will get frothy. Rinse with water until the bubbles stop. Don’t forget to clean the back side of the mat as well. Hang the mat to dry and halfway through the day, hang the mats from their opposite ends.
8) Outdoor Rugs
Some outdoor rugs are so similar to mats that you can use the above mentioned process to clean them. The size of the rugs are often prohibitive, but draping the rug halfway over a low fence or deck railing is a more manageable scenario. Granted, the cleaning process will take longer when you do it in halves, but it is certainly less awkward. Both sides of any outdoor rug must be cleaned and avoid rolling up your rug after cleaning since this will advance the propagation of mildew and subsequent staining. Also be mindful of always using a very mild cleaning solution since the plastics used are generally susceptible to disintegration when exposed to bleach.
9) Outdoor Cushions
One material used to cover outdoor cushions is performance fabric which will resist sun, stains, moisture, and mildew. Another type of fabric is solution-dyed and woven with pigment-infused fibers. This type is less prone to fading and can also be cleaned with more aggressive solutions than the printed variety. Most people don’t know what kind of textile is used on their outdoor cushions. To find out. look at both sides of your fabric. If the inside is identical to the outside, it’s probably solution-dyed. Otherwise it is printed. You are in luck if the covers are removable. Simply machine wash with bleach free laundry soap and air dry. For hand washing, swish the fabric in a bucket of lukewarm water and up to 1/4 cup of liquid soap. And if you have mold or mildew, scrub the areas gently with a soft-bristle brush. Rinse, and again, air-dry. Try to keep debris off during the summer, and don’t let spills sit. Use a wet cloth with some mild soap to remove things like sun protection since this can cause your fabric to discolor. If the water repellent properties have worn off over time, apply several coats of fabric protector and let dry completely in between coats. Ideally you can cover your cushions when not in use and store inside for the winter months.
10) Patio Umbrellas
Umbrellas need a small amount of care but can last a lifetime. Wash the covering occasionally using a soft-bristled brush, mild soap if needed, and cold water.. Usually a spray of water will rinse off the dust and dirt. If the frame joints are sticking, lubricate with a bit of WD-40. If you have a wooden-frame umbrella, use paste wax to restore its shine.
There is no sense washing the windows around your outdoor entertainment area without cleaning the windows that surround it. Before you start all the spraying and cleaning, hook your hose up to an outdoor Windex window cleaning product and spray down your windows. Then inspect the bottom of each window from the outside and wipe off the accumulated grunge from the fall and winter. This is where insects often build little nests so it will also protect you inside. If you didn’t remove your screens in the fall or winter, do that now while you have the hose out. Screens get incredibly dirty and do an incredibly good job of disguising dirt. Prop them up at an angle and rinse with water, and then clean with the Windex. Flip the screens over to the other side before the final rinse. This will drive the Windex through and your screens will be as good as new.
Preparing for all the time you will be spending outside now, will make your summer last longer!
Thank you so much for reading. As always, I would like to hear from you about ideas for future articles and any comments on the real estate articles already published. Feel free to contact me through my real estate website, via email or call my cell phone at 781-724-7622. I am happy to speak with you about selling your home or buying a house in Hingham, MA, Cohasset, MA, Hull, MA, Norwell, MA and any other South Shore towns.