Most old metal garden furniture is made either from cast or wrought iron. Cast-iron furniture, made by pouring molten iron into a mould, is brittle and fractures easily. Wrought-iron pieces, made by heating the iron and working it while it’s still hot with a hammer, is more malleable, less prone to fracture and generally more robust.


Both types of furniture are vulnerable to corrosion if bare metal is left exposed to air and moisture. It’s also common to see accumulated layers of faking paint concealing intricate decorative details, spoiling the visual impact. If you'd like to create this ageing effect artificially, have a read of our guide to how to create patina on your household furniture and ornaments.

How to clean and protect antique outdoor furniture

To keep metal furniture looking its best, you should strip old paint, sand away any rust, prime and apply a layer of new protective paint. If the piece dates from the early 19th century – especially if it is made by a known manufacturer such as Coalbrookdale – it’s advisable to seek professional help before attempting renovations.

You Will Need:

  1. Rubber gloves
  2. Goggles
  3. Detergent
  4. Sponge
  5. Water
  6. Steel brush
  7. Lint-free towel
  8. Wire wool
  9. Sandpaper
  10. Metal anti-corrosive primer
  11. Metal paint

If the paint is in reasonable condition, start by giving the furniture a thorough wash with a sponge and warm soapy water. Use a fungicidal detergent if there is any evidence of algae.
Remove all loose fakes of paint with a steel brush or scraper and a sanding block, as necessary. Wash thoroughly again, then dry carefully with a lint-free towel, taking care that all crevices are completely dry before painting exposed spots with primer and the final paint top coat.
If the paint is in poor condition, use wire wool, a wire brush or paint stripper to remove it entirely, wearing protective clothing and goggles to do so. Cast and wrought-iron corrode quickly if left exposed to air, especially in moist conditions, so make sure the surface dries as quickly as possible (use a hair dryer if necessary) before applying a layer of anti-corrosive primer, and a paint suitable for metal. (You can buy direct-to-metal, anti-corrosive paints in a limited colour range.) Sand gently between each layer of paint and leave to dry thoroughly before applying the next coat.


If you're bringing your garden furniture indoors, check out our guide to how to incorporate garden antiques into your interior design.
Find out how to spot a fake antique here.