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As the summer fades and gives way to the harshness of an Irish winter, it becomes time for the annual ritual of storing the outdoor furniture. Despite being built to cope with outdoor use, garden and patio furniture will soon succumb to the elements if not stored correctly during the off-season.

This is particularly true of the cushions and other fabrics that may grace a garden during the summer. Because they are usually more robustly made than indoor items, outdoor cushions can be expensive and if you want to avoid buying a new set each year, then storing them properly is essential.

Mould, mildew, and pest infestations are common among cushions that have been stored incorrectly. In many instances, this isn’t discovered until the first hint of summer sends us scurrying out to catch those precious rays of sunshine. By this point, it is usually too late, and an expensive trip to the shops is called for.

To help you avoid the yearly pilgrimage to the nearest furniture store, we have compiled a list of hints and tips to help you get the most usage from your patio cushions.

1. Prepare them properly

Storing damp and dirty patio cushions is the biggest issue when it comes to winter storage. Damp will soon turn to mildew and mould, and particles of dirt, including food from that last BBQ, can also become mouldy and act as an attractant to pests.

It is easy just to chuck the cushions away in the corner of a shed and forget all about them. But taking some time at this stage will help to ensure that they last for many summers to come. Before storing your cushions for the winter, they should be thoroughly cleaned, dried and treated with a waterproofing agent.

Below are some helpful hints to help you prepare your outdoor cushions, but before you try any of the steps, always check for labels that may list the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.

  • Remove larger pieces of debris with a soft brush
  • If the covers are removable and the instructions say it is okay to do so, put the cushion covers through a gentle washing machine cycle, or handwash
  • Air-dry the cushion covers – Never use a tumble dryer unless it specifically says so on the manufacturer’s instructions
  • If the covers are not machine washable or can’t be removed, then clean them gently with a gentle brush using a mild detergent.
  • If there are any stains or marks left after cleaning, these can be cleaned using a weak mixture of bleach or white vinegar and water. It is best to test this on a small inconspicuous area first.
  • Once the cushions are clean and completely dry, they should be treated with a waterproofing spray for fabrics. Always test a small area before treating the entire cushion.

2. Storage containers

Once the cushions are prepared for storage, it is time to pack them away for the winter. Ideally, the type of container you choose should be able to keep moisture and pests at bay, but breathability is also something that should be considered for longer-term storage.

The best type of storage container can vary depending on the circumstances. To help you choose the best option, we have listed some ideas below.

  • Airtight containers

These can be ideal in certain circumstances. They are certainly waterproof and will deter all but the most determined of pests, but there are some caveats.

In circumstances where the storage is going to be for a prolonged period, then airtight containers aren’t viable. The same also applies to areas of high humidity. There should be some element of breathability in your storage in these situations to avoid the inevitable onset of mould and mildew.

Even when used for a winter storage solution, it is best to open them up once every couple of weeks to check them and allow them to air for a couple of hours.

  • Wooden or plastic storage boxes

Wooden storage boxes are a good solution if you are looking for a more breathable solution. However, it is still sensible to give the cushions an airing from time to time and also to ensure that the box is treated with a waterproof sealant and is kept as dry as possible.

Plastic non-airtight boxes are also suitable, although the need for periodic airing is still important.

  • Fabric bags or blankets

Fabric bags made from breathable fabrics or simply wrapping the cushions in blankets is an option that is better for areas of high humidity or for longer-term storage.

When storing cushions in fabric bags, be careful not to try and cram too many into one bag. It is important to leave room for air to circulate. Otherwise, the benefit of using a breathable solution is lost.

If using blankets or sheets, then it is simply a case of loosely wrapping the cushions. This provides a barrier against dirt and grime and can also prevent rodent infestations.

A tarpaulin can also be used, but once again, this isn’t ideal in humid conditions, and frequent airing is recommended if you use this.

3. Storage location

By now, it should be apparent that there is a theme running through this guide – Humidity. Humidity is the number one problem that affects all long-term storage, not just patio cushions!

Try to store your cushions in as dry a location as possible. If stored indoors, then consider using a dehumidifier to keep the moisture at bay. If indoors isn’t possible, then try to protect them against the elements as much as possible, including cold.

Fabrics that are stored in areas prone to freezing will be susceptible to damage as the inevitable moisture in them freezes and expands.

Here are some other tips to help you store your cushions in winter:

  • Keep them off the ground – The floor or ground is always going to be the dampest place to store them. Make sure they are at least 15cm above floor level.
  • Keep out of direct sunlight – UV light will fade and perish fabrics.
  • Dry and cool – A consistent temperature and humidity in your storage area will go a long way to protecting your patio cushions.

Consider self-storage

If suitable space for storage is at a premium during the winter months, then a self-storage unit is a cost-effective and secure storage solution that may even save you money. You can use it to store all your garden furniture during the long Irish winter, not just the cushions. There are even climate-controlled units available for absolute peace of mind.

We have options of all sizes available countrywide, so why not call us today and make sure your furniture is as ready as you are when the spring blossoms!