It’s time to face reality—winter is here. If you haven’t prepped your outdoor patio furniture, playsets and cooking equipment yet, there’s still time. Here’s a simple checklist to keep in mind when winterizing the outdoor accessories that make your patio
or garden a fun place to be.
1. Clean It
The simplest way to keep your outdoor accessories in tip top shape is to keep them clean. This is true throughout the season as you use them, but especially true before you put them away for their winter hibernation. It’s easy to do and only takes
a few minutes. (Note: Make sure to check the manufacturer’s cleaning directions for your individual products.)
- Remove any cushions and wipe all surfaces with a damp cloth. Then spray the furniture thoroughly with a hose and let dry completely.
- Next, clean the cushions with soap and warm water, giving them a good scrub to dislodge any ground-in dirt.
- Let them dry completely, which will probably take a day or two. (Leave the cushions upright, in a warm and sunny spot, to speed up the process.)
- Once dry, store them in a cushion storage bag or wrap them in an old sheet and put in a garbage bag.
- For grills and other outdoor cooking equipment like fire pits or smokers, take out any removable parts, wash them in warm, soapy water and let them dry completely before replacing.
- Leave the drip tray/grease cup in place while you scrape the interior surfaces using the scraper tool on your grill brush and push any loose debris into it.
- Remove the tray and clean it before spraying the inside of the grill with an oven/grill cleaner and rinsing thoroughly.
- Finally, wipe down the outside—refer to the manual for specifics, but a vinegar/water solution usually works well. For stainless steel grills, use a stainless steel cleaner.
2. Care for It
Now that your equipment is clean, give it a thorough inspection for any signs of wear and tear and address any issues you find. Fixing things now will prevent them deteriorating further over the winter.
- For items that you will be leaving outside, this is the ideal time to give them a winter “coat” to protect them. For wooden furniture and playsets, consider staining and sealing them before the harsh weather sets in.
- For plastic and aluminum items, a coating of car wax will help keep them in good shape, be sure to touch up any scratches on metal with an exterior metal paint.
- If you have wicker furniture and notice any loose fibers, cover with a damp towel for an hour until they become flexible so you can re-weave them. Synthetic wicker can stay outdoors, but natural rattan needs to be kept in a dry space.
- Most grills can be used year-round, but if you’re sure you won’t be using your gas grill over the winter, consider disconnecting the propane tank and storing it somewhere safely (never inside).
- If your grill uses an electronic igniter system, remove the battery to prevent corrosion.
3. Cover It
Once your outdoor items are cleaned and cared for the final step to make them ready for the onslaught of winter is to cover them. In an ideal world, you’d bring them inside, to a storage shed or oversized garage. If you don’t have space, however,
a good cover will protect your accessories from the elements. (You may want to consider covering them even if you can bring them inside somewhere, to protect them from dust and critters.)
- Look for mildew-resistant, UV-protected and machine washable covers for your furniture. If they will be kept outside, use plastic fasteners and elastic hems to help keep the cover on securely.
- Covers aren’t just for furniture—you can get covers for your grill, fire pit, outdoor heater and umbrellas, as well.
- Invest in a good quality cover for your outdoor accessories to significantly extend the life of these items.
If you rent out your home in the winter, keep your guests in mind as you prepare your outdoor space. Cathy Trainer of Tripping.com suggests leaving out some winter gear in an easy-to-access spot. “You can leave extra rock salt and grit in the garage as a precaution, so that guests can take matters into their own hands if there's a big storm. If you anticipate having guests who are not familiar with life in the snow, consider leaving a small guide to guests. A well-placed guide can prevent guests from tracking in salt from outside into your house and ruining your floors. Make sure that shovels, scrapers and any other useful tools are laid out for easy access,” she says.
Preparing outdoor furniture, grills, fire pits and play equipment for winter will maintain their appearance and preserve your investment. Following these simple steps to clean, protect and store your furniture and accessories will mean they’ll last longer
and be ready for use and enjoyment at the first sign of warmer weather.
Jennifer Tuohy is a DIY and sustainability expert who often creates custom home projects in her Charleston, S.C., home. Jennifer writes on DIY projects and ideas for The Home Depot. For patio covers and tools to winterize your outdoor furniture, you
can visit Home Depot’s website.