My garden bench is 8 years old but still looks as good as new. Maintenance should be done every year. It takes very little effort – less than 1/2 hour, start to finish – but it really makes a difference and will make your investment last longer.
First, I would suggest you invest on a cover (they are usually green) to protect your bench from weather damage, making your annual maintenance much easier.
My green cover is quite old and not as efficient as it used to be but it still helps a little, although the most affected areas are the front of the arms and the front of the seat (touching the fold of your knees when you are sitting). I also get the odd water stains in the middle of the seat. This year, all I used was a fine finishing grade of sandpaper. Next year, I will start with a slightly coarser grade to concentrate more on the arms as the finishing result is slightly too dark for my liking compared with the rest of the bench. But, it is not worth doing it all over again. I will just be more careful next year.
First, I used a soft bristle brush (the size of a dustpan brush) to remove the odd dirt and spider cocoons. If your bench is dirty, you might want to give it a good scrub with some detergent and let it dry thoroughly before going to the next stage. Now, time to use the sandpaper.
To ensure regular and even strokes, wrap your piece of sandpaper around a small piece of wood.
Once you have removed the water marks and your wood feels nice and smooth, remove any dust with white spirit before applying your oil. I have used oil ever since we purchased our garden bench. I prefer oil to varnish because the wood feels much nicer to the touch. Use lint-free piece of fabric, taken from an old shirt, T-shirt or even (clean!) underwear.
Turn the bench over and start applying your oil on all the undersides, including under the feet. Use newspapers to protect your floor from any oil stains but mostly to protect your newly oiled wood from any dirt or grit on the ground.
Make sure you apply oil to all areas. There is nothing more annoying than realising that you missed a bit after everything has been put away.
Your garden will look so much more beautiful now with this brand-new-looking piece of furniture in it!
It does not matter if your sanding work is not perfect. You can always improve the following year. When I first oiled my bench, I did not realise that the wood was not very smooth. In fact, it was quite rough to the feel. But now, it is as smooth as a baby’s bottom!
P.S. A little update! (date 17 May 2016). I have just oiled my bench again this year and now, I don’t even bother using White Spirit anymore. All I do, is use a clean soft brush and brush the wood dust off the surface. It works just as well!