How To Store Patio Umbrellas For Winter

Paul West/ Backyard Maintenance, Outdoor Entertaining

As the patio season comes to an end and the weather gets cooler, it’s important to properly store your patio umbrellas to ensure they last for years to come. If you don’t then you’d be surprised how much damage winter can do to the material! Improper storage can lead to mold, mildew, fractures in the poles, and degradation of the umbrella fabric. By following key steps for cleaning, drying, and storing, you can keep your patio umbrellas in top shape over the winter months.

In this guide, we’ll go over how to store patio umbrellas for winter and why doing so is uber important for their longevity. We’ll cover the risks of leaving umbrellas out in cold, damp weather. We’ll also provide a step-by-step guide to cleaning, drying, wrapping, and choosing the right storage location for your umbrella. With the right winter care, your patio umbrella will be ready to provide shade again next summer.

Key Takeaways

  • Check for rust, fraying, or loosening of parts before storage and make any needed repairs.
  • Ensure the umbrella is completely dry before wrapping to prevent mildew growth while packed away.
  • Find a storage spot that keeps the umbrella safe from damage but allows air circulation.
  • Periodically air out the wrapped umbrella during winter to prevent musty smells.
  • Carefully transport the umbrella laid flat for storage to avoid bending the pole and ribs.

Why Store Patio Umbrellas in Winter?

There are two main dangers that can arise from leaving patio umbrellas outside during the winter:

Exposure to Harsh Weather

Leaving your umbrella open on the patio during winter subjects it to all sorts of hazardous weather conditions. Heavy winds can damage the umbrella canopy and bend or snap the ribs and pole. Freezing temperatures can also weaken the fabrics. The constant opening and closing of the umbrella on windy days puts added stress on the pulley system as well.

Rain, snow, and ice also take a heavy toll on patio umbrellas over the winter. The weight of collected precipitation on the umbrella canopy can stretch and deform it. Water pooling in folds and crevices can seep through stitching and cause the fabric to rot prematurely. The winter winds and water make tears and rips more likely as well.

Mold and Mildew Growth

Even if you close the umbrella for winter, leaving it outside subjects it to excess moisture which can lead to mold and mildew growth. The damp fabric folded up into itself creates the perfect conditions for fungal and microbial growth. This not only stains the fabric but can weaken it and degrade waterproof coatings.

Mold and mildew growth can also occur on wooden or painted aluminum parts of the umbrella like the pole, ribs, and finial. This leads to rot, corrosion, and unsightly discoloration.

By properly cleaning, drying, and storing patio umbrellas over winter, you prevent exposure to these damaging conditions.

Cleaning Before Storage

tattered patio umbrella with mold

Before you store your patio umbrella for winter, it’s crucial to give it a thorough end-of-season cleaning. This removes built-up dirt, grime, bird droppings, pollen, and other debris that can stain and degrade the fabric over time.

Follow these steps for cleaning your patio umbrella before storage:

  • Close the umbrella and spray down the canopy with a hose to rinse away loose dirt and debris.
  • Mix a mild detergent like dish soap or laundry detergent in a bucket of warm water. Use a soft brush or sponge to gently scrub the canopy and wipe away any stains or sticky spots. Avoid harsh chemical cleaners.
  • Rinse the umbrella canopy thoroughly with clean water to remove all traces of detergent residue.
  • Allow the umbrella to air dry completely before closing it, ideally in direct sunlight for faster drying.
  • Use a dry soft brush to remove any dirt from the ribs and pole. Wipe down painted aluminum parts with a damp cloth.
  • Check for rips, tears or holes in the fabric and patch them before storage.

Thorough cleaning removes contaminants that can breed mold and mildew. It also rejuvenates the fabric by removing dirt buildup that makes it look dingy. Putting a little effort into cleaning now prevents bigger problems later.

Ensuring Your Umbrella is Dry

Any moisture left on your patio umbrella creates ideal conditions for mold and mildew growth during storage. Follow these tips to make sure no water remains on the fabric or parts:

  • Let the umbrella air dry completely after cleaning it before closing it up, ideally in direct sunlight.
  • Use an absorbent towel to blot dry any moist spots on the canopy. Check rib crevices and seams.
  • Allow the umbrella to sit open for 48 hours in a dry spot before storage. This gives it ample time to fully dry out.
  • Consider using a portable fan to speed up drying time. Direct it inside the canopy folds while open.
  • Check for trapped moisture by pressing tissue paper into folds and crevices. If it comes out damp, keep drying.
  • Use moisture-absorbing silica gel packs in the storage bag or space. Avoid desiccants that can degrade fabric.

Taking the time to guarantee no moisture remains on the clean umbrella prevents any risk of mold growth while packed away.

Proper Wrapping and Covering

For optimal protection from dirt, dust, and moisture, invest in a zippered vinyl or polyester umbrella cover made specifically for patio umbrellas. Look for a snug fitting size and use the drawstring to tightly cinch the cover around the umbrella crown. Covers range from basic to heavy duty.

If you don’t have an umbrella cover, you can improvise with large garbage bags. Avoid plastic bags as they don’t allow breathability. Use the following steps:

  • Close the umbrella and wrap the ends of each rib section with soft cloth or bubble wrap to prevent abrasions. Bind with twine or velcro strips.
  • Slide a large garbage bag over the umbrella starting from the top. Pull the drawstring tight and tie off.
  • For added protection, use another bag tied at the middle of the pole. Make sure the fabric is loosely folded and not bunched tightly.
  • Store the umbrella upright resting on its pole in the storage space. Never lie it horizontally.

Wrapping the umbrella in a cover or garbage bags creates a waterproof barrier against moisture and dust. Just make sure the fabric can still breathe to discourage mold growth. Change out any makeshift covers that get damaged.

Choosing the Right Storage Location

Where you store your patio umbrella over winter is just as important as how you prepare it. Here are the ideal places to keep it safe from damage:

  • In a shed or garage where it’s protected from weather but not prone to excess moisture or dampness. Avoid areas with leaks.
  • In a basement or cellar room that is heated in winter and remains dry.
  • Under vertical storage hooks screwed into a wall or ceiling rafters. Hang the umbrella by its pole.
  • In a large, breathable, waterproof storage trunk kept in a dry spot. Pack with moisture absorbers.
  • Behind other objects like shelves or bicycles if space is tight. Avoid letting it get crushed.

Some poor storage choices that put your umbrella at risk:

  • On its side crammed horizontally into a crowded, moist garage or shed.
  • Outdoors on the patio or deck exposed to the elements, even when wrapped.
  • In a damp basement or direct on a concrete floor which can lead to moisture damage.
  • In an attic or barn which get very hot and cold between seasons, creating condensation.

Taking the time to find the optimal storage spot reduces risks of mold, rust, accidental tears, and other damage.

blue umbrella with patio set hit by winter

Regular Maintenance for Longevity

To get the most years of service from your patio umbrella, perform regular maintenance and upkeep year-round:

  • Check for loose screw joints on the ribs and pole. Tighten any loose connections to prevent further wear.
  • Lubricate the pulley mechanism annually and clean away any grit buildup so it operates smoothly.
  • Fraying stitching and holes can be re-sewn to avoid bigger tears. Seal the edges with fabric glue.
  • Use touch up paint on any chips or scratches on aluminum poles and ribs to prevent rust and peeling.
  • Let sunlight dry out the umbrella canopy between uses and keep it closed when not needed to limit UV exposure which weakens fabric.
  • Deep clean the umbrella fabric at least once a season using mild, pH-neutral detergent and rinse thoroughly.

Staying on top of repairs and regularly cleaning your patio umbrella ensures it stays functional and lasts for many years before needing replacement.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Reinforce My Umbrella for Windy Conditions?

Tie polypropylene rope or coated wire cable to the outer ends of each umbrella rib. Keep it loose enough to allow opening but this added support helps hold the canopy taut in gusty winds. Just remove the reinforcement ties before closing the umbrella.

What’s the Best Way to Dry a Wet Umbrella?

Stand the wet umbrella vertically and point a fan inside the canopy while slowly turning it to blow air into all the folds until no more water drips out. Absorb any remaining damp spots with a microfiber towel. Let air dry completely before closing and storing.

How to Clean Mildew Off a Patio Umbrella?

Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Lightly mist over mildew patches and let sit 5 minutes. Scrub with a soft brush and rinse clean. For tougher mildew, make a baking soda paste and gently rub it into affected areas before rinsing. Avoid using bleach solutions on colored fabric.

Should I Store My Umbrella Open or Closed?

Always store patio umbrellas folded closed, whether wrapped or covered in a storage bag. Opening creates strain on the support ribs and stretching on the canopy fabric if left that way for months. Keeping it folded evenly distributes tension. Make sure the fabric isn’t bunched too tightly together when closed.

How Can I Repair Rips or Tears in Umbrella Fabric?

Use a canvas repair kit to stitch up small tears or holes along the edges or seams. For larger rips across panels, cut a patch from scrap umbrella fabric or heavyweight canvas using the tear shape as a guide. Sew or glue it into place, sealing the edges so it won’t unravel.

Wrapping It All Up

Storing your patio umbrella with care over the winter months ensures it will be ready to provide cool shade when patio season rolls around again next year. Following the cleaning, drying, wrapping, and storage best practices outlined above allows you to safely stow away your umbrella until warmer weather returns. With a little diligence on proper storage techniques, your umbrella will last for many summers to come.

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Paul West
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About Paul West

Longstanding and passionate about really having family fun in the backyard. I'm no expert but I've picked up a thing or two along the way!