As summer gets into full swing—and especially with many indoor venues not fully open following the pandemic shutdown—it’s time to look at the best ways to be sure your outdoor areas are providing a clean, healthy environment. With this in mind, below are tips on cleaning procedures for outside areas and equipment to help make sure your time in the sun remains fun.
Some Things Stay the Same
In terms of COVID-19, the wearing of masks, social distancing and limiting the number of people for gatherings remains, if not mandatory, highly suggested for all public areas. However, when it comes to cleaning, the CDC advises sticking to routine procedures—not disinfecting—outdoor areas and objects, stating, “the spread of COVID-19 from these surfaces is very low and disinfection is not effective.” This includes everything from playgrounds and parks to patios and furniture. Exceptions to this are tables and high-touch surfaces in outdoor food service areas, which should be sanitized with a food-service approved product.
A second guideline unfazed by the pandemic shutdown is to choose the greenest formula possible. This is best for the environment, and visitors will appreciate being exposed to fewer potentially harmful chemicals.
Third, a pressure washer (sometimes called a power washer) remains one of the handiest pieces of equipment you can have to reclaim the outdoors from the elements. It can be used to remove dirt, grime, spider webs and peeling paint on everything from granite patios and wooden decks to exterior siding and plastic and metal furniture. Power washers are not, however, recommended for older brick surfaces that could be damaged by the strong current.
To be sure outdoor furniture is ready to give visitors a warm, clean welcome:
- Wipe plastic, wood and metal furniture with a dry cloth (microfiber works best) and vacuum to remove any loose dirt and debris.
- Wash with a detergent or all-purpose cleaner. Specialty formulations can be used for more unique surfaces, such as upholstery.
- Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry.
Pesky Party Crashers
When visitors look up to enjoy a starry night or the shimmering city lights, the last thing they want to see is spider webs—or their creators—dangling from walls, archways, lights or other outside fixtures. To make sure your earthy venue isn’t creepy with crawlies:
- Use a broom to brush off, then vacuum all vertical and horizontal surfaces.
- Wipe down lighting and other fixtures with a microfiber cloth. Now is also a good time to check bulbs are working and provide adequate lighting for safety.
- Wash areas that are still dirty with detergent or a general purpose cleaner, rinsing thoroughly.
- Open and clean table umbrellas to prevent those seeking shade from being surprised by trapped insects.
Once all visible pests and their remnants have been sent packing, use the greenest pesticide available to keep them from returning; when people are present, strategically place citronella candles or similar bug-deterring products in the area.
Sticking to the “start at the top and work down” cleaning mantra, the last thing to be cleaned should be flooring. Here, it is important to know the surface you are cleaning to enable you to choose the best solution; a stone floor obviously requires a different formula than a wooden deck, for example.
As with furniture, the first step is to look for cracks, rotten or splintering wood, uneven bricks that may cause tripping and other types of damage and make any necessary repairs. Then:
- Sweep and/or vacuum to remove any loose debris.
- Scrub with a floor or deck brush and detergent, general purpose cleaner or a specialty formula, such as a deck cleaner or stone or concrete restorer, following the manufacturer’s directions.
- Most outdoor flooring should be recoated with the surface-appropriate preservative approximately every three to five years. Be sure the surface is fully dry and debris-free before applying any coating. Remember to watch the weather; on average, most protectants require two dry days after application to fully seal.
- Consider using an anti-slip product and/or matting in high-traffic areas, especially those that can become slick in the rain, to prevent slips and falls.
Once your outside area is cleaned to your satisfaction, a few strategies for making sure it stays that way all summer long include:
- Schedule weekly cleaning and maintenance.
- Place trash receptacles (including recycling bins) in key areas. If food is served, choose trash cans with lids to reduce the attraction of small animals.
- If smoking is allowed, place ashtrays in designated smoking areas.
- Bring furniture cushions inside at the first threat of rain to prevent mold and mildew.
- Dry the area as much as possible following a rain to reduce its appeal to mosquitoes.
- Keep grass, gardens or other natural areas well maintained to make them less attractive to ants, flies and other pests.
Following these tips will make the time you and visitors spend in your great outdoor areas healthier, safer—and far more enjoyable.