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4 Outdoor things you really should clean (before guests arrive)

Floors mopped, check.  Clutter out of sight, check.  Dust bunnies vacuumed, check.  But wait… have you forgotten something?  

Before that doorbell rings this summer take a quick look outside.  We tend to forget that things out there can get pretty grubby, and if you’re entertaining guests it could be time to give these a bit of spit n’ polish.

1.    Outdoor door mats
It’s one of the first things people see before they enter your house, but how often do you clean your door mats?  You’d be surprised the difference a clean, non-grungy (and freshly scented) doormat can make to your home’s first impression. 
First, take your mat to an outdoor, grassed area.  Mix up a 50/50 concoction of warm water and dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle, add a capful of Bosisto’s Eucalyptus Oil and shake well.  
Spray the top of the mat, paying attention to any particularly dirty areas.  Then, using a soft-bristled brush, scrub to loosen any stubborn dirt.
Spray with your garden hose to wash away dirt and detergent, then repeat on the other side.  Allow to dry in the sun.

2.    Outdoor Air Conditioning Units
As temperatures rise, your air conditioner kicks into overdrive.  Unfortunately, the more the it pumps cool air, the more leaves, grass, airborne seeds and dirt get sucked in from outside.  Condensing coils loaded with pollen and dust can shut off, leaving you with no AC, a very hot house and crabby, uncomfortable guests.  A dirty, AC full of cobwebs and leaves makes your backyard look really unkempt, too.

Quick clean tips:
(NOTE:  this is just a basic surface clean. If your air conditioner is leaking water, making noises or hasn’t been serviced in more than 2 years you should call in a professional.)
•    Remove any plant debris within one foot of the unit in all directions.  If plants are low hanging or overgrown, make sure the upward path of air is unrestricted for five feet.
•    Hose down the sides of the unit with a garden hose and gently direct the spray to try and get the dirt and debris out of the “fins”.  (Note: Do not use a power washer, and don’t disassemble the unit without consulting your owner’s manual or a professional.)

3.    Solar and outdoor lights & lamps
Outdoor lights can ward off burglars, light the way for party guests and add charm to your yard, but not if they’re covered with dirt. In fact the dirtier your lights are the less they’ll illuminate so this task is a practical necessity as well as an aesthetic one.
Grab a screwdriver (to unscrew any light fittings), two microfiber cloths, an old toothbrush and your dish liquid/ eucalyptus solution from the Outdoor mats tip or a product such as Bosisto’s Eucalyptus Solution, and get to work.

•    First, if you have an owner’s manual for your lights consult it before disassembling any fixtures.  Follow any manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations as well.
•    Cut off the power to your lights.  If the fixtures are plugged into a wall, unplug them first.   If there aren’t plugs, locate your fuse box (here’s a how-to) and shut off the power supply to your lights.
•    Carefully take any fixtures apart and clean them inside and outside using the dish liquid/ eucalyptus oil solution and the microfiber cloths, using the tootbrush to scrub any hard-to-reach areas.
•    Rinse, and leave to dry in the sun.
•    With a dry cloth, carefully dust the light bulb and socket.  It’s important that no water touches the bottom of the bulb or the socket.  If it does, dry completely before proceeding.  
•    Re-assemble the light.  Again, make sure all parts are completely dry before assembly.  Re-connect power.  Done!

4.    Patio furniture
Is your outdoor furniture ‘shabby chic’ or just plain shabby? Over time weather – rain, sun and wind – can do serious damage to patio furniture.  If yours is already a ramshackle pile of rust, consider an upgrade (or a few brightly-coloured throws and pillows, in a pinch).  But if your furniture is new or near new, protect and prevent dirt, rot and rust with these simple steps.

•    Keep it clean.  Even if your furniture is covered, it’s still going to accrue dirt and rot.  Pick a sunny day (ideally, once a month) and clean with mild dish soap and warm water.  Use a sponge to break up grime and your garden hose to rinse away any soap residue.  Note:  If you have wrought iron furniture, scrub any rusty areas with a wrought iron brush, available at hardware stores)

•    Protect fabric.  Invest in an outdoor fabric upholstery protector (like Scotchguard, available at Bunnings) and use it on fabric once it’s clean and dried.  Tip: spray a small section first to make sure the protector won’t discolour the furniture.

•    Use furniture sunscreen. One of outdoor furniture’s biggest enemies?  The sun.  Just like dark clothing can get colour-fade drying on the clothesline in the sun, UV rays can seriously fade and disintegrate furniture fabrics and coatings.  Ask your hardware store to recommend a product (you can get UV resistant paints and varnishes, too) to suit your furniture.

•    Plan ahead. It’s not always possible to predict, but if you know extreme weather is heading your way (such a storm or a heat wave) cover up your furniture or move it into the shed.  You can also buy protective furniture covers.