How to Restore Sun Faded Plastic Outdoor Furniture

Any plastic furniture you leave outdoors for extended periods starts to look faded eventually. Over time, chalky patches may start appearing on its surface. This can be disconcerting, especially if the furniture looked great at first. While you may readily consider replacement as the solution, it isn’t the best. What you need is to know how to restore sun faded plastic outdoor furniture. 

You can make your plastic outdoor furniture look new again using baking soda and car wax or using a heat gun. Alternatively, you can restore the plastic seats with a plastic rejuvenator, WD-40, spray paint, or Vaseline. 

Conditions that lead to fading in plastic outdoor furniture

When plastic chairs are exposed to the sun outdoors, they will start to appear faded or chalky. That greying is due to oxidation. 

Leaving plastic chairs outdoors means they are exposed to elements like air and sunlight for long periods. This exposure triggers the release of chemicals that react with atmospheric oxygen and the sun’s ultraviolet rays, leading to photo-oxidation 

The oxidation noticeable on outdoor resin chairs is akin to plastic’s version of rust. Plastic contains chemicals that react with the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and oxygen in the air. 

The reaction of plastic with weather elements is responsible for its gradual degradation. Modern plastics may take long to show fading signs because they contain additives that help stabilize them. They are, however, not immune to the elements and often fade and become chalky over time.

Stabilizers only slow down oxidation but do not prevent it. To avoid costly replacements of sun-damaged seats, you’ll want to know how to restore your sun faded plastic outdoor furniture. 

How to restore sun faded plastic outdoor furniture

Your plastic outdoor furniture may look great when you buy it, but it will fade over time regardless. 

Fortunately, there are several methods for restoring it to how it looked when you first bought it. Here are some of the techniques to consider. 

Prepping the surface for restoration 

Depending on the condition the chair is in, you may have to brush the dirt off the surface or give it a more thorough wash. 

  • Brushing it off

You can expect your furniture to have a film of dust or loose dirt on its surface if it has stayed unused outside for some time. It may also be covered with cobwebs, dirt, and dust if it has been in the garage for months. 

Use a soft brush or dry rag to wipe off the dirt. Ensure you remove all the loose debris on the upper surface as well as the underside. 

  • Wash it down 

Once the loose dirt is gone, spray down the chairs using a garden hose to knock off any dirt and filth trapped in those textured areas of the plastic.  

While the furniture is still wet, dunk a sponge or cloth in a bowl of soapy water and use it to scrub the chairs down. Avoid using any scourers. These may scratch the plastic surface, making it appear even worse. 

Once you have removed all the noticeable dirt and filth, rinse away the soapy water with your garden hose or a bucket of freshwater.

  • Kill any molds

If the seat has sustained any molds on its textured surface, you’ll need to kill them at this point. The chances are that you already have what you need for this task in your kitchen: a vinegar and water solution. 

You’ll need about a cup of white vinegar for each gallon of water to prepare your cleaning solution. Mix well and put it in a spray bottle, then spray the chair with it. Ensure the cleaning mixture covers every inch of the faded furniture.

Allow it to sit for approximately 15 to 20 minutes before wiping it out with a cloth or sponge soaked in white vinegar. After removing all the mold patches, rinse it down thoroughly with the garden hose and let it dry. 

Method 1: Baking soda and wax

You will notice that your faded furniture still looks unsightly even after cleaning it up and removing dirt and mold. That is where the baking soda and automotive paste wax come in. 

Step 1 – Baking soda scrub and wash

The unsightly look is caused by dirt that sometimes gets baked into the plastic. Discoloration from the reaction of plastic and particles in the air can also be responsible.

To remove the discoloration, wet the chair again and scrub it with a nylon scrub pad. The pad should remove the graying discoloration on the plastic surface. 

Next, sprinkle a little baking soda onto a damp rag or sponge and scrub the surface of the faded plastic with it. It is advisable to use a bowl of warm water to damp the rag or sponge. 

You could consider using an old toothbrush for the scrubbing – it helps reach into those textured areas and grooves where discoloration tends to hide. 

Baking soda, in this case, is a handy alternative to harsh chemical cleaners that may bleach or damage the plastic resin. You can rinse and add more baking soda as necessary to cover the entire chair.

For stubborn stains, try a power wash. In cases where the discoloration is too embedded in the plastic resin for a mild abrasive to remove, a power washer will get the job done. 

Start the power washer off on a gentle setting to avoid damaging the chair. Then progressively increase the power. Try several different settings, monitoring how the settings work with each subsequent adjustment until you find the best one for cleaning the chair.

The best setting is one that dislodges dirt without carving grooves into the plastic. Cleaning with the power washer may leave the plastic surface feeling a bit rough. You may want to sand the chair if this happens. Be sure to use a fine-grit sanding block for the task.

Step 2 – Waxing it down to restore the shine 

Once the furniture has dried up completely, it is ready for waxing. Use a soft rag to apply a light coat of automotive paste wax on its surface. Ensure you follow the instructions on the packaging for the best results. 

Wait for the wax to dry up for the amount of time recommended on the instructions, then buff away the excess wax with a clean, soft cloth. Usually, it will take about five minutes or more for the wax to dry as required. 

Caveat: do not wax the furniture if you intend to paint it instead. The layer of wax will create a barrier that prevents the paint from adhering to the chair.

Method 2: Spray paint

If you would rather give your chair a fresh coat of paint, then this is the ideal method. It allows you to restore your furniture to the same color it was when new or a different shade of your choosing.

Painting your chair could be the last resort when everything else fails to give you the desired results. Or it could be just a preferred choice. Whatever the reason for painting your furniture, here is the basic procedure you’ll follow to get the job done. 

  1. Clean your furniture using the procedures and materials we discussed above. It is recommended that you use a degreasing cleaner.
  2. Allow the furniture to dry completely, then place it upside down on an old sheet, drop cloth, or newspaper. 
  3. Apply even coats of spray at the bottom of the furniture, holding the cylinder approximately eight inches from the surface you’re painting. 

Different paints will require varying numbers of coats, so ensure you check the label for the recommended number of coats to cover the surface well. 

The label should also indicate the amount of time you need to take between coats. 

  1. Wait for about an hour for the bottom to dry up before turning over the furniture to paint the top side. 

Note that it is better to do your painting indoors if you have sufficient space – such as in the basement or garage. Otherwise, you could do it in a sheltered area free from strong winds and direct sunlight.  

Method 3: Heat Gun

Using a heat gun requires a bit of finesse. If you haven’t used a heat gun for such a procedure before, you may want to first practice on some plastic that you’re no longer using. The idea is to be comfortable handling the gun before attempting to use it on your valuable furniture.  

Once you have familiarized yourself with using the heat gun, follow the procedure below to restore your furniture.  

  1. Get your heat gun and put it in the lowest heat setting. Ideally, you want to choose a heat level that will not damage your plastic.
  2. Wave it back and forth over the plastic, starting with a small section – preferably the underside of the faded furniture. The goal here is to evenly heat the selected area while ensuring not to stay on the same spot too long. 

What you are doing is to heat that plastic just below the point where it begins to melt and smoke. You should notice a gradual improvement in the texture and appearance of that area of the plastic. 

  1. Once you are satisfied with the look, progressively move to another section and do the same (heating and observing). 
  2. Repeat this process until you have completed the entire furniture. This simple method makes old, sun-faded plastic look brand new. 

It is better to go slow when you are using a heat gun. You could melt a hole through the plastic if you attempt to rush things. Ensure you take your time on each section to achieve a remarkable outcome. 

Also, watch out to see if you are taking too much time on a section. In that case, you may want to turn up the heat a little bit, one unit at a time. 

You could use up and down, linear motions, or small circular motions. The kind of motions notwithstanding, the most important thing when using the heat gun is to keep it moving at all times. 

The constant motion ensures that you do not point the nozzle at one spot too long as to melt it and cause it to bubble and burn.

One more thing to keep in mind: the chair has to be completely dry before you begin heating it with the gun. As with the other methods discussed, prep the chair for restoration by first cleaning it and allowing it to air dry. 

Method 4: Plastic rejuvenator

The process of using any plastic rejuvenator to restore your outdoor chair is pretty simple:   

  1. Clean your furniture as we have indicated above.
  2. Once the chair has fully dried, use a microfiber cloth to wipe the rejuvenator on it, ensuring you cover every inch of its surface.
  3. Let the furniture dry well before applying another coat. Different brands will recommend different numbers of layers. Always read the recommendation and follow their application instructions to get the best results. 

Method 5: WD-40

To renew your furniture using WD-40, start by cleaning the furniture thoroughly and allowing it to dry. Then spray WD-40 onto the faded plastic and rub it in with a microfiber cloth.

Once done, use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe away any extra WD-40 off the surface of the plastic.

How do you restore white plastic furniture outdoors?

White plastics tend to yellow over time when left outdoors. This happens due to its chemical reaction with weather elements such as ultraviolet sun rays and oxygen. The exposure of white plastic to oils and water also tends to accelerate this process. 

To get rid of this discoloration, use chlorine bleach to scrub off the discolored layer.  

Step1. Create a cleaning solution by mixing 1 part bleach with 1 part water.

Step 2: Dunk a rag in the cleaning solution and apply it to the stained spot. Ideally, you are supposed to soak the stain for an hour. Since you cannot submerge the furniture in the cleaning solution, you must keep soaking the rag in the cleaning solution from time to time to keep it damp throughout the one hour.  

Step 3: Remove the rag and rinse the chair thoroughly.

Note: instead of bleach, you can also use vinegar or baking soda to achieve the same results. The procedure is essentially the same in all three cases. 

Can yellowed plastic chairs be whitened?

Yes. To whiten the yellowed plastic, fill a large bowl or bucket with one part bleach and one part water. Then wear gloves and soak paper towels with the bleach solution and cover the yellowed plastic with the wet paper towels. Let them sit there for an hour. Then thoroughly rinse the chair with a garden hose. 

Other maintenance tips for plastic outdoor furniture

One way to minimize fading through oxidation is to make sure you bring your plastic furniture inside the house whenever you are not using it outside. This will shelter them from direct sunlight, responsible for the discoloration. 

Dos and don’ts when restoring outdoor plastic furniture

The Dos 

  1. Do use a soft microfiber cloth whenever you apply a restoring agent such as wax on plastic furniture.
  2. Do use a mild cleanser such as automatic dishwasher detergent and baking soda on plastic furniture.
  3. Do use a brush with soft bristles or toothbrushes when scrubbing plastic furniture. 

The Don’ts 

  1. Do not use abrasive cleaners on outdoor plastic furniture 
  2. Do not use bleach on plastic chairs unless you are renewing a yellowed white chair

Conclusion 

Tossing away or replacing your faded plastic outdoor furniture is never the option – not if you still like it. 

Using one of the methods we have just described, you should be able to make your furniture look as good as new again.

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