On Monterey Bay, there is lots of weather, sand, dirt, big trees, and LIFE. Our coastline is very natural, thanks to the California Coastal Commission, it is mostly commercial buildings free and available to the public. Cleaning up after visitors at our home is normal and for many cleaning up after visitors at our coast has become normal as well. Many organizations do tons of work and weigh the results. Please help others to pick up their trash and lead by example. I find it very effective to do this when there is a littering family around. “Hi, watch this” as I talk to one of the children, smile, pick up the trash they just dropped and take it to a very visible trash can or pick up cigarettes’ butts and hand them to the smoker. Passive-aggressive? Yes, I am the A-hole controlling the shit.
Because we have lots of nature and people around, furniture needs some care and attention. Real anti-microbial cleaning is more important than ever and many surfaces can be sterilized with bleach or alcohol spray. Fabrics on the other hand need some information to figure out how to keep them safe. Most cushions and furniture have tags that will give you information about the materials that the upholstery is made of. W= water-based cleaning, S= solvent-based cleaning, WS= is for both and X= professional cleaning. Start with the brush attachment on a vacuum, then the corner attachment for the tight places, light pressure so you don’t damage the material, and then continue with a cloth and cleaning solution. Both methods can be used for spot cleaning or immediate spill cleanup and use a “blotting” motion instead of scrubbing. The scrubbing with immediate spills many times grinds the spill into the upholstery. Blotting with a dry cloth or paper towel draws the liquid back up the upholstery.
Water-based is easy, with warm water and a small amount of dish soap. You should not rinse out upholstery like a washcloth, because it is very hard to get all the moister out of the padding, not too much wetness. A small amount of dish soap works great, dry with a towel and the vacuum can speed up the drying process.
Solvent-based cleaning will take more care. Look for a cleaning product that will work with the material that the upholstery is made of and follow the directions. Gloves may be required and good ventilation is always important. The vacuuming will be the same.
Over time there some discoloration may develop and Bob Villa shared a technique that I had never heard of.
- Vacuum thoroughly
- Take the appropriate cleaning product for the material you are working with and make a shampoo. Use a bucket of warm water, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and with a handheld blender “whip up” the solution into a froth until there is very little water left. SHAMPOO
- Fold a clean, dry, white absorbent towel into the foam and wring out all the moisture.
- Wipe the entire surface of the upholstery with over-lapping strokes. Make sure you only use horizontal or vertical strokes using one direction.
- Apply more foam to the towel as needed.
- Allow the foam to sit 5-10 minutes and not more than 10 minutes.
- Remove the foam with a clean towel that has been moistened and wrung out.
- Rinse and wring out the towel as needed. Let air dry with ventilation, do not use any artificial heat, and let the upholstery dry at the same rate.
Use a test area that is not very visible with all the techniques and see how the upholstery responds.
Cleaning Outdoor Furniture
Sunbrella fabric is solution-dyed, spun acrylic, and the very best. If you have high-quality furniture you may have Sunbrella fabric and it is very cleanable, even with disinfectants and a bleach solution. It is anti-microbial and fades resistant. Other materials may be olefin or polypropylene; they are also cleanable and water-resistant. All outdoor upholstery materials will get wet and attract dirt. Mold and mildew will grow on any dirt that gets moisture on it, so furniture covers and air drying help a lot.
Think about the iconic steamer lounge chairs lined up on the desk of a cruise ship in the salty air. The deck and chair were always made of wood and mostly teak wood. Teak is very durable, sustainable, and naturally anti-microbial. For residential use teak can be left untouched and let nature take its course. Think of the look of driftwood, the natural silver finish, and calming tones. Dirt still happens and some like to let the lichen grow for that old-world patina look. You can also, prevent this from happening with sealers, finishes, and cleaners. The best company I have heard of is Golden Care, they have the best “How To” instructional video and many great products.
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