Spring cleaning outdoors: how to spruce up your decking, patio or balcony after winter

Wooden garden furniture on a patio: it’s particularly important to give wood some TLC after the winter.
After the cold winter months, you can keep your garden furniture in good shape with the right wood maintenance. © istock

As winter draws to a close, it’s the perfect time to carry out some maintenance on your wooden garden furniture, clean the patio or give the garden fence a new lick of paint. We’ve put together a small to-do list of outdoor jobs to kick-start spring – so come summer, you can sit back in your lounger and relax.

How to maintain wood

Wood is a natural material that can be influenced by external factors and elements. So it needs a little TLC to keep it looking like new. Do you have a Bangkirai decking or wooden garden furniture that’s looking a little tired and grey after winter? Here we explain why wood maintenance is important, what things to look out for and how you can take care of your wooden furniture and decking yourself.

Why is treating wood so important?

Environmental factors such as UV rays, rain or hail can change wood over time. But if you take proper care of them, wooden furniture and decking can last many years. Garden furniture made from painted soft woods such as pine, spruce or beech should be regularly sanded and repainted – for example, using a paint spray system – to ensure they continue to look their best. More robust woods such as teak and eucalyptus require less care and attention. These contain oils which offer the wood natural protection.

Because garden furniture and decking made from tropical timber are extremely popular, they’re not always sustainably sourced, and are sometimes procured through illegal deforestation. To be able to sit on your decking with a clear conscience, it’s best to buy furniture or timber made from wood from sustainably managed forests – such as timber bearing the FSC seal. Domestic species of wood are also an eco-friendly option.

Maintaining wooden garden furniture and decking

By following a few simple steps, you can return your tired-looking wood back to its full glory after winter.

How do I clean wood properly?

You can remove any dirt with water, pH-neutral soap and a sponge. Mild, pH-neutral soap is ideal because it has a greasing effect. After cleaning, mop up/wipe off the soapy water and allow the wood to dry thoroughly. If you are unsure which cleaning product is suitable for your furniture or decking, take a look at the manufacturer’s instructions.


Remove any moss or algae from your furniture or decking with soapy water and a cleaning brush. Make sure the brush isn’t too hard, otherwise it could leave unsightly scratches on the wood. If that doesn’t do the trick, you can also use a high-pressure washer or special algae removal agent.

Prepare the wood: sanding

By treating your wooden furniture with oil or painting it, you can have it looking like new in next to no time. But you first need to prep the wood by sanding it down.

In general, bare in mind the following:

  • Use coarse sanding sheets first, followed by sheets with a finer grit.
  • Sand in the direction of the wood grain.
  • Make sure you remove all sawdust after sanding and before painting.

Oiling and painting wood

Some oil is applied to wood with a cloth; taking proper care of your wood can keep it looking like new.
It’s best to apply the oil with a cloth, in a circular motion. © istock

Once you’ve prepared the wood, you need to decide whether to oil or paint it. Oil accentuates the natural wood grain, is easily absorbed and supports the wood’s natural colour.

How do I oil wood?

Make sure the oil you choose is suitable for the type of wood. For example, there are special types of oil for teak and Bangkirai. Then follow these steps to apply the oil:

  • Put a little oil on a dry cloth and apply it evenly to the wood in a circular motion.
  • Wait 20 to 30 minutes for the oil to absorb.
  • Then take a new cloth and mop up any oil that wasn’t absorbed.
  • Leave the furniture or decking to dry for some time (at least 12 hours) before using it again.

How to paint wood

A wooden tabletop is painted with a paint brush.
Painting also protects wood against external elements. © istock

If you want to give your wood a new colour or protect it more effectively against weathering, then painting is the way forward. Painting provides a barrier for the wood and makes it more robust, although the natural look and feel of wood is lost slightly. Use a brush or paint roller to apply the paint evenly to the surface of the wood. If you want the colour to be opaque, you may need to apply a second coat once the first one is dry.


If you want to completely repaint your garden furniture, a paint spray system is the ideal solution, as it enables you to coat lots of furniture, of any size, more quickly. 

Cleaning a paved patio

Patio slabs being cleaned with a high-pressure washer and surface cleaner attachment.
The easiest way to clean a paved patio is with a high-pressure washer.

Do you have a patio instead of decking? Then you’re best off using a high-pressure washer to clean it. First remove any weeds from between the paving slabs (for example, using a special tool like a weeder), and then use a broom to sweep up any dirt. Now you’re ready to treat the patio with the high-pressure washer. The best way to clean the paving slabs is with a surface cleaner attachment. Just bare in mind that you may need to fill the gaps between the slabs with sand again afterwards because the sand could get flushed out.

You can follow the same steps if you have a balcony. Just be sure to let your downstairs neighbours know first if you’re using a high-pressure washer!

Cleaning and painting fences or metal railings

A woman painting a garden fence with a paint spray system.
Painting a garden fence is no sweat with a paint spray system.

Once your patio/decking and garden furniture are looking like new again, it’s time for the finishing touch: cleaning and repainting your fence or railings. That way, everything will look perfect once spring begins.

To clean metal railings or fences, you simply need a brush – ideally made from natural or plastic bristles – plus water and some soap to clean off the dirt. For more stubborn dirt, you can use a high-pressure washer. Once you’ve cleaned the metal, rub it dry. Use a pH-neutral cleaner to remove any grease. To remove any paint residue, use solvents or sand it down. Polishing can also help if the metal has been subject to severe weathering or rust. You should apply a rust protection agent afterwards.

Once you’ve finished spring-cleaning outdoors, you’re all ready for the warmer weather and a new project, right?!