When it comes to outdoor metal furniture, cast aluminum is a very popular choice. Not only is it practical, but it also has one of the most appealing looks. However, just like every other piece of outdoor furniture, cast aluminum also gets bashed by the elements. As a result, it tends to look worn out and faded over time.
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably wondering how to restore faded cast aluminum patio furniture. There are several ways to do this, but I will show the easiest methods using readily available home products. This mainly involves either repainting the furniture or applying wax.
Restoring your faded metal furniture will not only save your wallet but also ensure your outdoor living space doesn’t end up looking dull or out of shape. Don’t worry; I will show you everything you need to know. All you need is to invest a little effort and time to make it work.
Why cast aluminum patio furniture fades
So, why does cast aluminum patio furniture fade? The answer is found in one word – oxidation.
Although cast aluminum chairs don’t rust like iron and steel, they can be affected by oxidation. This occurs as they are exposed to the elements, specifically sunlight and water.
You can view oxidation as a type of corrosion that ruins the look of your cast aluminum patio furniture. It is similar to rusting, but instead of destroying the metal material, it destroys the finish. So it’s not really the cast aluminum material that is affected but the beautiful shiny finish.
Of course, it will take years before the furniture becomes weathered and the shine starts fading.
However, it is important to understand that oxidation is a natural process and is bound to occur sooner or later. But it can be delayed through proper furniture maintenance.
How to restore faded cast aluminum patio furniture
A piece of faded cast aluminum furniture can displace the overall appearance of your patio space. The methods discussed below are not only the easiest ways to refurbish your furniture but also the cheapest ways to get it back to life. Let’s proceed with the first one.
Method 1: Painting
Due to its effectiveness, painting is commonly used to restore faded metal furniture. So we will start with it.
Start by preparing the work area. Cover the place with a tarp or drop cloth to avoid spraying the floor or other items around with paint.
If you want to be extra careful like me, then you can take the work to a more open area where there is no other patio furniture around, somewhere on the grass. Even if you spray the grass by mistake, you can always mow it away.
In addition, your workspace should be well ventilated. That is why I recommend an open place outdoor instead of your basement or attic.
The weather should be convenient; ideally, very low humidity and around 50 to 90 degrees temperature. Spring times are the best times since you can spend the whole day outside.
Next, take care of any flaking paint on the furniture. This can be easily done with a wire brush.
Gently run the wire brush over the chair or table to remove the flaking paint and rust particles.
For tight corners and spots, you may want to use something smaller. I would recommend a metal radiator brush (the circular cleaning brush). Don’t worry if you don’t have this; you can still use your wire brush though it will take more time and effort to do a clean job.
Once you’ve removed the peeled paint chips, you can sand down the furniture to remove any leftover rust. I recommend using 120-grit sandpaper in order to get a more even surface.
For a larger project or furniture, you should consider using an orbital sander to make the work easier and faster.
ALTERNATIVELY: If you don’t want to sand down the furniture, you can use a rust treatment solution. In this case, you should be careful not to spill it on the ground or fabric (that’s why you should have your tarp or drop cloth in place). These solutions can create an awful stain on fabrics. Apply the solution on the metal surface and scrub. Make sure you have your gloves on. Generally, I recommend sanding the furniture as this gives you a more even surface ready for painting. And perhaps, cast aluminum hardy gets rusty.
Now, we are ready to clean the furniture. If the furniture isn’t too dirty, then cleaning with soapy water will do.
Simply mix dishwashing soap (you only need a few squirts) or liquid wash and warm water. Then dip a scrub brush into the bucket of soapy water and use it to clean the furniture.
Once done, hose down the furniture with clean water and dry with a clean cloth or towel.
For a dirtier piece, you can use a dedicated cast aluminum furniture cleaner or mineral spirit. Apply the solution following the manufacturer’s instruction, then wipe it down with a cloth (it should be free of lint). For the mineral oil, apply with a soft clean cloth and rub slowly. Again, your work area should be well-ventilated and not directly under the sun. Also, wear gloves and a respirator to protect your hands and nose respectively.
Once done, sit back and wait for the furniture to completely dry out.
After drying, you can apply primer. Many people like to skip this step, but it’s very important if you wish to achieve a more uniform finish.
Spray the furniture with thin coats of primer (epoxy primer is a good example) following the manufacturer’s instructions. Then wait for it to dry completely. This should take about 20 minutes or more, depending on the product. But generally, applying very thin coats of primer makes drying faster.
After the primer dries, wait for an hour or two before painting the furniture.
Now is the moment we’ve been waiting for; time to paint the patio furniture. Again, make sure the primer is completely dry before proceeding with this step.
Put on your gloves (if you haven’t) and apply the spray paint. Make sure to shake well before spraying. For the best results, spray back and forth in a steady motion holding the spray can at about 10 to 15 inches from the furniture.
After the first coat, wait for a few minutes, then apply a second one. You can apply as many coats as you want, but I don’t normally go beyond two or three, depending on the level of fade.
There are many spray paints that work well with cast aluminum furniture. A good example is Rust-Oleum.
Method 2: Waxing
If you find painting a bit daunting, then consider waxing. While waxing is more of a quick fix, the result can be amazing if properly done.
For this method, you will need dry cotton clothes, a towel, sponge, cleaner (optional), rubber gloves (for applying the cleaner), water, and car wax.
Remove any cushions or pillows on the patio furniture. Then brush to remove peeled paint chips and debris. You can use a stiff wire brush for this.
Next, wash everything down. A simple rag and soapy will no (that’s what I use most times).
If you want, you can use a marine aluminum cleaner for more thorough cleaning. You will need a soft sponge to apply the cleaner to the furniture. Scrub gently.
Whether you’re using soapy water or a cleaner, when you’re done, rinse completely with warm water. If you’re using a cleaner, make sure no trace of the chemical is left on the furniture when you’re done rinsing.
Now dry the whole piece with a clean towel.
After drying, you’re now ready to wax. Waxing is mainly recommended for cast aluminum furniture with a glossy, non-textured finish.
To get started, apply a thin layer of car wax on the furniture using a clean cloth. It should dry up in a minute or two. Gently wipe off the wax with another piece of cloth. Again, both clothes should be clean.
Once done, your furniture should look smooth, lustrous, and dark once again.
NOTE: Don’t allow the wax to sit for too long, or it would be much harder to remove. I normally recommend 1-2 minutes.
Method 3: Vinegar Solution
A vinegar solution can also be used to restore shine to your cast aluminum furniture. You can try this method if you don’t have automotive wax at home.
To make the solution, simply mix one part white vinegar to one part water. Then apply it over the furniture using a piece of a soft cloth.
While this method might not produce the best shine, it will remove the dull appearance.
Other care methods for cast aluminum patio furniture
Restoring your cast aluminum furniture is good, but taking care of it is even better! Regular maintenance will ensure you get many years of use from your furniture.
Here are some other care methods you should keep to get the most from your cast aluminum patio furniture.
Use Patio Covers
Although cast aluminum furniture is designed to withstand the elements, it is better to cover them when not in use or during harsh weather changes. This can go a long way in extending the useful life of the furniture. You can also use patio covers if you don’t have enough space in your garage to store furniture at the end of the outdoor season.
Choose a high-quality cover that is breathable so you don’t end up creating a breeding place for mold and mildew. Choosing the right colors can also improve the look of your garden or lawn.
Before getting a cover for your cast aluminum patio furniture, try to take the dimensions first, so you can get something that fits.
Practice Regular Cleaning
While it’s true, your cast aluminum furniture is low maintenance, that doesn’t mean it should be neglected. Regular cleaning is also important to preserve its look. I recommend cleaning with dish wash and a soft, moist cloth every 2-3 weeks.
Clean the entire furniture and wipe it dry with a clean, dry towel. Don’t allow the cleaning solution to dry on the furniture. Dry it as described above, or simply wash it off with water and allow it to dry.
For shine, you can use a car wax or vinegar solution (mix 1 part vinegar to 1 part water). Vinegar solution is commonly used to prevent rust in metal furniture.
Avoid cleaning products that contain alkalis or abrasive agents as they often leave behind discoloration or scratches. The same applies to using abrasive scrubbers. If you must use a cleaner, make sure it’s something that’s non-abrasive.
Cleaners are great when it comes to removing scuff marks, which may not be easy to do with just water and liquid wash.
Clean Spills As Soon As You Notice Them
Clean liquid spills as soon as possible. These include drinks, bird droppings, and sunscreens. Leaving these to sit can permanently stain your furniture and encourage oxidation.
To remove these spills, soak a towel in warm water and wipe off. This can also be done to remove dust particles.
Remove Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew make the patio furniture look disgusting. Not to mention the fact that they smell bad. They are common with cushioned patio furniture, and sometimes they also render the pillows and cushions useless.
To prevent mold growth, keep your furniture dry and free from excess moisture. That said, you should be ready to get rid of it once you notice it. For this, you will need bleach solution (one gallon of water plus 3/4th cup of bleach).
Before bleaching the affected area, first, apply it to a small area to see how it goes. Once you’re satisfied, you can move on to spray the bleach solution on the affected parts.
When done, wash off the bleach with cold water. This will also take care of the bad smell.
NOTE: Keep your face, hand, and body protected while using bleach.
As earlier indicated, mold and mildew growth are commonly caused by excess water. So do everything to prevent any water accumulation inside the cast aluminum temperature. Remove foot caps or adjuster glides if present.
Repair Scratches and Chips
Once in a while, examine your patio furniture for paint chips and scratches, and if you notice anything, repair it immediately.
Some scratches or chips can be repaired by simply applying touch-up paint (the colors should match). Sometimes, you may need to find out how to repair the scratch from the product manufacturer or retail outlet.
Scratches should be taken seriously as they can leave the bare furniture metal (in this case, cast aluminum) exposed.
Wax Furniture Regularly
You don’t have to wait for your cast aluminum patio furniture to become dull or faded before waxing it.
Waxing or oiling can be done as preventive maintenance for furnishings with a glossy finish. It will go a long way to reduce dirt buildup and restore shine.
Again, automotive wax works fine. Please, only use for non-textured surfaces. For cast aluminum furnishings with textured surfaces or finishes, mineral oil works fine.
You can also use baby oil to prevent oxidation. It can be used to supplement waxing.
Don’t Postpone Repairs
Making timely repairs is very important to prevent further damage.
If you notice any loose screw or bolt, quickly fasten it to prevent any accident.
For some cracks, you can use glue specifically designed for cast aluminum furniture. Replace worn-out parts as well as cracked parts that are beyond repairs.
Use Tarps if Covers are Not Available
Patio covers can be a little expensive, so I would understand if you were reluctant about purchasing one. Luckily tarps are cheaper and also work well at protecting patio furniture from the elements.
Just like covers, tarps can trap moisture, so make sure you choose something that is breathable. I highly recommend using vinyl tarps, although plastic ones can also be used.
Also, make sure you secure the tarps well with ropes, so they don’t get blown away by rain or boisterous wind.
That said, patio covers are still better than tarps when it comes to protecting outdoor furniture, but I will always choose one than using nothing.
There you have it – how to restore faded cast aluminum patio furniture.
New outdoor furniture can be quite expensive, especially when it’s made from a high-grade material like cast aluminum. Why not restore your existing furniture and save more money.
The methods above can also be used to fix any second-hand cast aluminum patio furniture that looks a bit faded. You don’t always need to go for the new stuff.
I hope you found this article useful and can now refresh your dull patio furniture. Make sure you apply the other maintenance methods mentioned. It will really go a long way in prolonging the lifespan of your investment.
Let me know if you have any more questions, and I will be glad to respond. Till then, stay safe and remain blessed!