The punishing sun and sand can leave even the best of outdoor furniture in sorry shape, but with a bit of care and cleaning, you can extend its life.
To start with, dust down everything outdoors on a weekly basis. Mark Sault, the managing director at Parasol Garden Furniture, recommends wiping furniture with a damp cloth to remove stains, and then, every six months, to lightly sand and oil the natural wood pieces to get "rid of the top dirty layer and restore the as-new brightness".
If your wood is painted, a yearly varnish in a clear coat will help maintain the original colour. For synthetic rattan, merely wash it weekly to remove accumulated dust and sand. Any mould spots that appear can be countered with a one part bleach to three parts water solution. Ashley Dymond, the retail operations manager for Ace Hardware, suggests power washing your outdoor furniture twice a year, in the spring and autumn. The lowest setting possible will be sufficient.
If you haven't purchased your outdoor furnishings yet, Sault recommends teak as the wood of choice. Other top contenders are cedar and redwood. These harder woods are initially more expensive but, with basic care, can stand up to more than a dozen years of sun and sand, far beyond the life expectancy of lower-cost alternatives. Similarly, Sault isn't a fan of synthetic rattan, noting that the cheaper brands (particularly those produced in China) feature excessively brittle canes that are more likely to crack and split in the UAE climate than natural cane versions.
"As with most things, quality will be a little more expensive but should repay you by lasting longer and remaining more aesthetically pleasing for longer too." Fabric-covered cushions should also be cleaned regularly. Just remove the padding and toss the covers into the washing machine. Dymond cautions, however, that not all cushions are designed to be washed. "For non-removable covers, dry clean or only lightly wash with a damp cloth and mild soap (not chemical strength) so as to reduce the risk of colour run and water or soap stains."
When the colours eventually fade or the stains stop coming out, simply replace cushions, as they will never last as long as long as furniture they come with, even with regular care. When purchasing new cushions, be sure they are intended for outdoor use, or the colours will fade and the materials will break down quickly. Acrylic is a good stain-resistant choice, but can attract mould, so keep these cushions in a spot with good air-flow.
To get the most out of your furniture, keep it shaded. "Outdoor furniture will stand up to normal weather conditions, however, with extremely harsh environmental conditions; it is recommended that outdoor furniture should not be in direct sunlight for excessive periods as this affects the condition of the fabric/materials and will accelerate the fading," Dymond says. An umbrella or shade cover can help protect you and your furniture from the sun. "In the UAE, unlike a lot of other countries, the sun is our greatest enemy. It can cause cracking, fading and bleaching. Anything that can ease this damage is a great idea," says Sault.
Note that if you do keep your umbrella open to preserve the furniture, it will take a beating. Be sure to oil the metal joints every few months and clean the fabric with mild detergent and water.