We get all kinds of winter weather in Calgary: cold temperatures, warm Chinook winds, months of dry air, slush, and deep snow. While your outdoor furniture may be designed to last an incredibly long time, it’s a good idea to protect it from the winter weather.
How to Prepare Outdoor Furniture for Winter Storage
Outdoor furniture is, of course, made to be outside, and you can leave your outdoor patio furniture outside during the winter. But cold temperatures (and extreme temperature changes) and dry air can damage even the strongest materials.
The first thing you can do to prolong your furniture’s life is to clean it before storing it. How you clean it depends on the material.
Teak is a beautiful wood ideal for outdoor furniture. It contains oils that prevent it from drying or rotting and has natural wear properties, meaning it doesn’t need to be painted, stained, or finished.
While teak is long-lasting and thrives in arid climates (like Calgary’s), you can prolong its life by cleaning it before putting it into storage for the winter.
Clean your teak furniture with warm water and mild dish soap or a homemade solution of 1 cup of vinegar to 4 litres of warm water. Scrub the wood using a soft brush and let it sit for 15 minutes before rinsing. Dry it with a towel or let it air dry.
High-quality wicker furniture can last decades with minimal upkeep. That’s what makes wicker so popular! It’s important to keep your wicker pieces clean, but natural wicker can be prone to chips or breaks. Only wash it when it’s completely necessary.
Wash wicker with a mixture of 1 cup of mild dish soap and 2 cups of warm water. Wipe it with a soft cloth or sponge and rinse with clean water. Don’t use a stiff brush, steel wool pad, or harsh abrasives that could damage the finish on your wicker.
Treat any mould or mildew by adding 1 cup of vinegar to your solution.
Aluminum is naturally rust-resistant, strong, and lightweight, making it one of the most robust materials for Calgary’s inclement weather.
To prepare your aluminum furniture for winter storage, scrub it down with mild dish soap and warm water and make sure it’s fully dry before storing it.
While aluminum doesn’t need a ton of upkeep, aluminum furniture often contains holes to help drain water. Ironically, these holes can catch water, which can freeze and melt and refreeze in winter temperatures, weakening the frames.
Stainless steel, especially 316-grade stainless steel, is resistant to salt corrosion. Your stainless steel furniture is strong, durable, and long-lasting that doesn’t need a ton of upkeep.
Regularly washing your stainless steel furniture will help keep it looking its best, especially before storing it for the winter. Wipe it down with a microfibre cloth to remove buildup, wash it using warm soapy water and a soft cloth, and rinse it well with clean water.
Avoid using harsh cleaners, bleach, steel wool, or metallic scrapers, as they can damage your furniture.
Granite is a beautiful, scratch-resistant natural stone that doesn’t easily absorb water and can withstand Calgary’s harsh climate. However, it does have a tendency to stain, just like any other stone.
Clean your granite tabletops using a specialized cleaner to remove surface oils, foods, dirt, and other stains, then apply a sealant. Try to use a sealant that’s specifically made for outdoor granite.
Before cleaning your fabric items, wipe off any loose dirt. Then, using a solution of ¼ cup of dish soap and 4 litres of warm water, use a brush to gently wash your pillows, cushions, and umbrellas. Let the soap sit for 15 minutes, then rinse off with clean water.
Many removable covers are also machine washable, so check the tags to see if you can clean them this way!
Even the most durable materials, like stainless steel or aluminum, do better through the winter months when stored properly. Not everyone has the space to store bulky outdoor furniture inside, so covering your furniture may be the perfect solution for you. You have a few options when it comes to covering your furniture.
Plastic stretch wrap is a common and easy way to protect your furniture when moving or storing. However, water can seep through and, since plastic isn’t breathable, won’t evaporate, potentially creating mildew and mould.
Stretch wrap is self-sealing, but it’s important to ensure your furniture is wrapped correctly and that sharp corners won’t tear through to help prevent water seepage.
Also, keep in mind that stretch wrap isn’t reusable, so you’ll have to buy new wrap every year.
Tarps are a great reusable alternative to stretch wrap, but they face the same breathability issues as plastic. Any water that seeps through won’t be able to escape.
If you choose tarps, be sure to properly secure them using bungee cords or rope so they’re sealed and won’t blow away by our strong Calgary winds.
Probably the best option for protecting your furniture is to use covers specifically designed for outdoor patio sets. Winter patio covers are made from materials that prevent rain, snow, ice, debris, and even road salt from getting to your furniture, keeping your favourite pieces clean and pristine in harsh climates.
You can leave properly covered furniture outside throughout Calgary’s 10 months of winter—okay, that may be an exaggeration, but you know what we mean.
To prevent mould or mildew from growing inside your covers, choose a breathable fabric with mesh vents and leave about 1 to 2 inches of space between the bottom hem and the ground. You can elevate your furniture with planks of wood to make this space.
Vents, breathable fabric, and space below the hem promote better air circulation, preventing water from pooling and mould and mildew from growing,
For umbrellas, use specially designed umbrella covers, and store your cushions and pillows in storage bags.
If you have the option to store furniture in a garage, shed, or basement, please do! But even if you’re able to keep your patio set indoors, still consider covering it with a lightweight furniture cover to protect it from dust and humidity.
If You Love It, Winterize It
It may take a bit of time and effort to prepare your patio furniture for storage, but it’s absolutely worth it to maintain the life and beauty of your high-quality pieces. Properly caring for your outdoor furniture will give you peace of mind through the cold winter months so you can enjoy your furniture when the weather turns warm again!