4 Steps to a Pristine Picnic Table

published Jun 16, 2016
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(Image credit: Samantha Bolton)

With summer nearly upon us, I realized I’ve been missing my picnic table. I had a great one that sat outside for years until my daughter decided to take it to college. Now I want it back!

The timing is good, since she’s moving to a new place — she won’t have room in her little studio anyway, right? — plus, I’m planning a family reunion, and we’ll need the extra seating. After all, who wants to eat with a plate of food on their lap? It’s too hard to balance — especially if you’re like my family and you tell stories with hands and arms flying.

The picnic table is older than my daughter and has been with her through four years of college life after sitting outside on my patio for over 20 years; needless to say, it required more than a good wipe-down. Here’s how I got it clean and pristine.

Step 1: The Power Wash

The first thing I did was to roll up my sleeves, put on my gloves, and start the inspection. After discovering a whole lot of unidentified gunk, I decided it was best not to look too hard — so out came the hose. A good spray loosened the dust, dirt, cobwebs, and general grime, and was a good initial step, but it needed more.

Step 2: Bleach, Water, and Elbow Grease

I combined a little bleach in a gallon of water and started at the stains and what remained of the gunky residue with a stiff bristled brush. I rinsed it again with a fresh bath of hose water and let it sit in the sun and soak up the rays. It looked much happier, but it still needed more.

Step 3: Specialized Cleaning (and More Elbow Grease)

I ran to the local hardware store and bought some wood-safe cleaner. It did the job on the tougher stains and seemed to restore some coloration that had been long forgotten. It was looking refreshed and ready, but I thought it could be even better.

Step 4: Sand and Stain (for Extra Credit)

Since I had the time, I went ahead and lightly sanded the top and benches, which really perked it up. A stain would bring it back to its glory, but I prefer the weathered patina that had developed. I opted to leave it as is and watch it grow old again with family and friends seated around it.