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Make it Last: Maintaining and Painting Outdoor Furniture

This post contains easy ways to paint outdoor furniture. It includes great tips on refinishing wood, metal and resin outdoor furniture.

One of my favorite childhood memories was spending family time outside. I remember countless Saturday nights playing badminton and lounging on the outdoor furniture. Outdoor furniture can be just as important as indoor furniture, if you know how to keep it up. A big part of knowing how to take care of it, is knowing how to paint it if it ever needs to be touched up. There’s no need to throw away a good piece of furniture just because it’s been through a little weather. Let me show you how to paint and maintain outdoor furniture to last.

paint and maintain outdoor furniture

Outdoor furniture is a little different than indoor furniture in that it’s probably built out of a durable material like metal or wood. Unlike an indoor couch that will one day wear out, outdoor furniture can last a life time.

How to Paint Outdoor Furniture – Tips & Techniques

Before you start any painting furniture project ALWAYS clean or degrease your piece of furniture.

Paint will not properly adhere to a piece of dust or dirt. I know this sounds like a no brainer, but you would be surprised at how many people skip this step or merely “hose it off.”

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Cleaning and preparing outdoor furniture for paint

There are a couple tricks on how to clean different types of material. I’ll share a few that I’ve used.

Cleaning metal outdoor furniture

The best way I’ve found to clean metal and plastic surfaces are with household bleach and the water hose. If you think bleach is too abrasive for your surface, try vinegar that’s made specifically for cleaning.

Cleaning resin and natural wicker furniture

For furniture with materials like resin and natural wicker, it’s best to use a less abrasive cleaner like baking soda. Use a wet rag and wipe with baking soda to keep softer materials clean.

Cleaning wooden outdoor furniture

When cleaning wooden furniture, it’s best to use a soft brush and soapy water or a mix of bleach and water (mild bleach solution).

Cleaning outdoor fabrics

For outdoor fabrics (each fabric is a little different so look first at the care instructions), you can use a soapy solution with a dish soap and water. If you need to remove mold and mildew, it might require a little bleach.

Speaking of outdoor fabric, did you know that you can also paint outdoor cushions? I’ve also used acrylic paint on fabric and it works well too.

painting outdoor cushions

Once everything is clean, you need to decide what type of paint or stain to use. If you want to “seal” your furniture, I’ll discuss some options for that.

How to paint metal outdoor furniture

paint metal outdoor furniture

The metal chair above had seen better days. It’s been through multiple weather elements and needed a huge facelift. Where did I start?

metal outdoor chair

Before I cleaned it, I decided to sand it VERY LIGHTLY (lightly is the key). I did this to make sure the surface was smooth and to see how easily the paint was chipping. You can also use a metal wire brush to do this.

sanding metal furniture preparing for paint

Most of the time this isn’t necessary, but if the metal is chipping badly, you might need to pull as much of the excess paint or finish off the surface to prevent further chipping.

Luckily, after I sanded the surface lightly, it didn’t chip or peal anymore so I was ready to clean it and paint.

I mixed a solution of 1:1 water to bleach and sprayed the chair down. After it sat for five minutes, I wiped it with a damp rag.

What type of paint do you use to restore metal outdoor furniture?

If your furniture has rusted or is prone to rusting, I suggest spray painting it with a rusty metal primer spray paint.

This primer is KEY, otherwise you are creating more work for yourself down the road. By the way, make sure to check out my tips on using primer for furniture.

If you don’t need to use a rust inhibitor, this is another great primer.

There are primers that include paint and primer in one!

One of the easiest ways to paint metal outdoor furniture is with spray paint. Spray paint is great because it allows you to get in the grooves and crevices without having to use a paint sprayer.

spray painting metal outdoor furniture

When choosing a spray paint, make sure it says that it will work on metal.

A popular color for outdoor metal furniture is Oil Rubbed Bronze.

Best spray paint for metal outdoor furniture

Below is a list of some of my favorite outdoor spray paints that work great on metal outdoor furniture.

Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer– This is a great product for old metal furniture that has a lot of rust. It prepares the surface by converting rust into a paintable surface so there’s no need to sand to bare metal.

Rust-Oleum Hammered spray paint– This is a great oil-based formula with excellent adhesion that prevents rust and resists fading and chipping. I’ve used this product multiple times with success.

Krylon High Heat max– Looking to paint grills, BBQs, fire pits, wood-burning stoves or heating radiators? This product withstands high heat and protects against rust. It withstands temperatures up to 1200 Degrees F intermittently and up to 600 Degrees F continuously.

Rust-Oleum Metallic Spray Paint– This spray paint comes in a variety of great colors. It’s weather and corrosion resistant coating protects exterior metal with it’s oil-based formula. It provides a durable protective coating with excellent rust prevention.

Maintaining metal outdoor furniture

The best thing about spray painting metal outdoor furniture is that when you need to touch up, all you have to do is grab your spray paint and spray the area that needs a little paint. As long as you clean the surface from time to time with a little soapy water it shouldn’t take much to touch up the paint!

Easy peasy right?

Check out my metal chairs now.

spray painting metal outdoor furniture

Painting wooden outdoor furniture

Let me show you an old wooden swing that I upcycled.

porch swing

Like I said, it’s old and had quite a bit of mold growing on it.

You can guess that this wood swing needed a good clean up job first.

Clean your outdoor wood furniture

I used a mix of 1:1 water and bleach solution and sprayed it all over the wood and let it sit for about thirty minutes. A side note; the bleach will lighten the wood. If you don’t want to alter the wood color, try using a less abrasive cleaner like vinegar.

Next, I took a sponge (soft brush works too) and scrubbed it down with a little water and soap.

bleach solution to clean outdoor furniture

This is what it looked like after I scrubbed it.

porch swing cleaned

The wood doesn’t look perfect, but it’s much cleaner and most of the mold is gone.

After cleaning the mold off of the wood furniture, it’s best to sand it lightly.

Note: this step should be done first before you clean it unless it has a lot of mold like this swing did.

I used a medium grit sandpaper and gave the entire outdoor swing a good sanding. This helped get the last bit of mold off of it.

Once I wiped it down with a lint free wet rag and made sure all the dust particles were gone, it was time to paint.

Use a good primer to coat your outdoor wood furniture.

Before you choose a primer for your outdoor wood furniture, decide what type of paint you want to use.

What type of paint should you use on outdoor wood furniture?

Although this could be a blog post all by itself, I’ll share my thoughts in a nutshell.

Years ago oil based paint used to rule the painting market, but today latex paint seems to be the “go-to paint of choice.”

That being said, some people still prefer the rock hard finish of oil based paints, especially for outdoor furniture.

I believe latex paint has come a long way, so much so that I think it holds up JUST as well as oil based paint. The one downside that keeps me from buying oil based paints is something called volatile organic content (VOC).

This means that as oil based paints dry, not only are the fumes overwhelming, but they can be potentially hazardous. Not to mention the very tedious cleanup that is required.

Even though I prefer using latex or water based paints, there are a handful of great oil based spray paints that I’ve used for outdoor furniture. If you do use them, just make sure to wear a mask so you won’t inhale the fumes.

Still undecided about what type of paint to choose? I’ve shared a post about choosing the right type of paint for any surface.

Now that you know my thoughts about oil based vs. latex paints, let me share some of my favorites.

Best Primers for outdoor wood furniture

Rust-Oleum makes a great spray primer (it is oil based, FYI) that blocks stains (prevents old paint bleed through) and seals wood very well.

Rust-Oleum also make this great water based primer. This is my go-to primer if I’m painting anything inside the house (like that time I painted my kitchen cabinets), but it will also work to cover outside furniture too.

KILZ also makes a great primer for outdoor use.

If you choose to forgo the paint and stain your wood furniture, you obviously won’t need a primer. Just make sure the stain you choose is waterproof.

Best outdoor stains for wood furniture

There are a ton of wood stains, but you need to make sure that whatever you choose, it will hold up to the elements. I haven’t used a lot of wood stains for outdoor furniture, but THIS ONE from KILZ has come highly recommended. It also comes in a lot of colors.

Also make sure to check out my review of the Valspar One Coat outdoor stain and sealer in one! It really does work well and holds up in the elements beautifully.

Best paint for outdoor wood furniture

Krylon Covermax Spray paint – This spray paint product comes in a wide variety of colors and provides rust protection with a paint + primer ingredient.

Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Brush Enamel Paint- This is good latex paint that can be used on outdoor wood furniture with a lot of colors to choose from.

Rust-Oleum Zinsser PermaWhite Exterior Paint– This is a great exterior paint that protects moisture-prone areas. This high-performance, self-priming coating is tintable to popular mid/light tones.

Do you need to add a sealer or top coat for outdoor furniture?

If you buy a good exterior paint, it should be formulated with chemicals create a “weather proof” barrier, therefore not needing a top coat or sealer.

That being said, flat finish paints normally require a top coat or sealer. A good sealer that doesn’t yellow over time is a Polycrylic sealer.

I’ve used this product for many projects including a post about how to seal furniture for a high traffic surface.

Always refer to the instructions on your paint can to see what it suggests to use, if any, for a top coat or a sealer.

Let’s get back to the progress on my porch swing.

After the swing was cleaned, prepped and sanded, I decided to use a paint plus primer from Rust-Oleum.

rustoleum spray paint
painting wood outdoor furniture

Pictured above is the swing with one heavy coat of the paint plus primer.

I decided to use a good outdoor latex paint in white and a roller to apply it.

painting wood outdoor furniture

Here’s what the swing looks like now! Come see the full post on how to hang a porch swing with a porch swing makeover.

I’ve also shared how to add sisal rope to an old chain.

How to Hang a Porch Swing with a Swing Makeover

One thing to note; I did not use a top coat or sealer because most outdoor paints don’t require one. Like I said, they are formulated to withstand the elements.

Painting wicker furniture

The biggest tip I can give to help natural or resin wicker furniture last longer is to keep it clean.

Before cleaning it with anything wet, it’s a good idea to vacuum it out with a brush attachment to remove debris that might have fallen within the crevices.

I detailed how to clean wicker or resin outdoor furniture earlier in the post with baking soda. Dish soap also works really well.

How do you paint wicker furniture or resin wicker furniture

Yes! You paint resin outdoor furniture (synthetic wicker) just like you would paint plastic, because it has similar qualities.

As far as painting natural wicker, a good house paint (latex, oil based, or even outdoor water based) should be ok. The key is making sure it’s for OUTDOOR use.

Another big tip to maintaining resin or natural wicker outdoor furniture is keeping it covered and out of the hot sun and extreme elements. If it stays outside all the time, it’s a good idea to buy an outdoor furniture cover for it.

I hope my guide on how to care for outdoor furniture has been helpful! If it has I would love for you to Pin the image below to Pinterest.

painting outdoor furniture

Thanks for stopping by!


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  1. Mother of 3 says:

    I am in the process now of peeling old paint off and sanding our wooden deck chairs for another coat of paint. It is a lot of work but so worth it to see how well it looks in the end.