When temperatures start to rise and summer is in sight, there’s an excitement in the air you can’t help but sense — it’s that spring thing. The back yard, perhaps covered in snow just a few weeks prior, begins to poke through in small green shoots. And after being indoors most of the time during the colder seasons, you can’t wait to be outside again gardening, playing with the kids, or having friends over for a barbeque on the back patio.
An Ounce of Prevention
First things first, however. Your patio furniture or picnic table has been sitting through the long, chilly days, out of sight and out of mind. Whether you live in a region where it snows, or simply gets cold and rainy for part of the year, any yard furniture is at the mercy of the elements. Even during warm months, it can be damaged by dirt, tree sap and UV deterioration from the sun.
That’s why it’s smart to use yard furniture covers when you’re not using your back yard, either for a couple days or an entire season. Durable, waterproof covers are available not only for yard and patio furniture, but for grills, air conditioning units, condensers and even lawnmowers. Constructed of vinyl, a type of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), these covers can weather whatever the environment has to dish up. Well-designed covers are easy to slip on and off, generally wipe clean easily, and are elasticized around the bottom so they stay secure.
A Little History of PVC. Furniture covers are only one product among countless others that are constructed of super-versatile PVC, which was first invented back in the early 1920s by a rubber scientist named Waldo Semon. Due to the durability and versatility of PVC — it’s easily moldable, and by addition of various chemicals, it can be made rigid or flexible — it is the top manufacturing material for dozens of industries, including construction, automotive, aerospace, communications, health care, textiles and retailing.
Vinyl, a type of PVC, is the third most used plastic in the world. About 75% of all vinyl manufactured is used in construction because of its strength; resistance to moisture, corrosion and abrasion; ease of maintenance; and low cost. According to the Vinyl Institute, life-cycle studies of PVC/vinyl show that this material actually helps protect the environment, taking into consideration low greenhouse gas emission, and conservation of resources and energy.
Vinyl Furniture/Table Covers and Tablecloths. Just as the benefits of vinyl make it the perfect material for use in outdoor furniture covers, it is also ideal for outdoor (or indoor) tablecloths. Soon during the growth of plastics manufacturing, it was found that vinyl could be coated on the back with a synthetic, non-woven backing. With its cloth-like consistency, protective and long-lasting characteristics, ease of cleaning, and ability to be imprinted with all kinds of attractive colors and patterns, vinyl is indeed a natural for tablecloths.
Vinyl Cover and Tablecloth Maintenance
While vinyl is easy to care for, there can be issues with vinyl covers or tablecloths staining, wrinkling or becoming moldy. Here are a few guidelines for caring for your vinyl tablecloth, which will help keep it clean, attractive and usable for years:
- To prevent staining, always wipe up spills from your vinyl tablecloth/cover quickly, using a soft, non-abrasive cloth or sponge.
- Outdoor dirt or food stains can be removed using a combination of dishwashing detergent and water. An antibacterial kitchen cleaner can also be used, especially if there was raw meat on the tablecloth. If the cleaning product instructions direct, wipe down afterward with a damp cloth.
- Isopropyl (or rubbing) alcohol works well to remove grease and ink from a vinyl tablecloth. Dampen a white cloth with the rubbing alcohol and rub the stain from the outside toward the center to prevent it from spreading. A stain from a food-based dye can be removed using a solution of one part hydrogen peroxide and one part water. Let the solution work on the stain for several minutes before wiping with a damp cloth. If the stain remains, try using full-strength hydrogen peroxide.
- Vinyl tablecloths should occasionally be given an overall cleaning, especially if one side is lined with a woven material. For this, you can use a tub, large sink or washing machine. Wash in cold water with mild detergent, and if desired, a non-chlorine bleach. After washing, the tablecloth can be placed in the dryer with other items, and dried at a “low” setting. Monitor the tablecloth in the dryer every 5 to 10 minutes, and remove it promptly when dry to avoid wrinkling.
- For wrinkles in your vinyl tablecloth, try ironing it on a low heat setting with material, such as a damp towel or cotton/polyester cloth, placed between the vinyl surface and the iron. Use quick strokes while ironing, being careful not to apply enough heat to melt the vinyl.
- To store your vinyl tablecloth, roll it up on a sturdy cardboard tube rather than fold it, to prevent creases.
- If mold grows on your vinyl tablecloth, spread it out in the direct sun for several hours. The UV rays of the sun actually kill any active mold. After this, wipe it clean using dishwashing detergent and water, or a kitchen cleaner. Then, rinse the tablecloth with water, and wipe it down one more time with white distilled vinegar to remove any remaining moldy odor.