We hate to see summer end around here, just on general principle. It means...kids going back to school, it means cooler weather, and it means "clean up and put away the patio furniture".
Yes, "clean up"! If you spent a small fortune on your outdoor living space, you definitely want to maintain it and take good care of it! Plus, if you have your lawn chemically-treated regularly, all that spray stuff settles eventually--and if your furniture is anywhere in the general vicinity, it's going to settle on it, too. While those chemicals are "safe" to be around, over time, they can also dull your furniture frames and discolor the cushions or slings. So a good "furniture wash" is really important, at least once or twice a year. That might sound daunting, but the nice thing about patio furniture is that it tends not to be a problem if you get it all wet. So that fall cleanup will probably not be as tough as you think (unless you have a lot of furniture). Still, it helps to have some tips and tricks under your belt before you get started, so today's topic is "Cleaning-Up Patio Furniture--The Basics".
Keep in mind, first and foremost, that you can't do this cleanup "quick and easy" with a power washer. While materials like wrought-iron would seem to be easier to clean that way, you don't want to do that unless you don't mind losing a lot of paint off the frames! Similarly with most cushion and sling fabrics--a power washer can tear holes or runs into the fabric. Some wickers can be cleaned with power washers, (particularly if you're actually trying to get the paint off an older set), but you have to be really careful not to get the wicker too soaked through with water. It'll look like it's starting to fray afterward, and when it dries, it may feel like you're sitting on a porcupine.
Your big car-wash sponge is actually perfect for this chore, but in a pinch, an older hairbrush or another brush with soft bristles works great, too. You really only need that, a bucket and/or a hose, and some gentle dish soap or laundry soap. A word about soaps--if you've got the scented kind of dish or laundry soap, and it smells like flowers or otherwise perfume-y? Use something different, or every bee on your property will start hovering around and interfering with your work! The "free of additives" soaps are your best bet there. There are patio furniture cleaners, but those tend to be good only for your plastics (plus they're usually more expensive).
Before you start wetting-down and scrubbing, take a look at the seats and at the underneath side of your cushions first (particularly if you forgot to flip them at least once this year). If you see pollen or dirt or pine needles, and you have an outdoor vac, use that to suck up the "big stuff" before you break out the soap and water.
Most cushion and sling fabric dries quickly, of course. So you don't want to soap up a large area or multiple pieces at a time, as the soap can dry on the furniture, making it dull. Do them one or two pieces at a time--wash, rinse, repeat. If you've got some really stubborn stains, soap them up and let them soak, then rinse, wash again, and then a final rinse. For mold or mildew removal, it depends on the type of furniture--outdoor bleach can be used (Clorox makes one), but you want to be careful of your cushion fabrics! For plastics (and particularly on the underneath sides of some patio umbrellas), though, this is the ticket! Mix some of it into your water and watch the green crud disappear!
If you have metal (ex: aluminum) in your chairs or chaises, did you know you could use car wax to clean those parts up? You would use it just like you would on your car--apply it, let it sit for a few minutes, and then wipe it down. It really does a nice job of shining it up, plus the next time the furniture gets wet, the water will bead right off!
Once everything is all nice and clean and dry, you want to put the furniture away if possible. If you don't have an inside space for it, there are a number of options for outside storage. Deck boxes are very handy for this purpose--you can store your cushions and umbrellas in those. You can also get some really good outdoor furniture covers (and we have these in an array of sizes, styles and prices here).
All in all, a little TLC for your outdoor patio furniture at the end of each season will make next spring's patio setup--when you pull it all out again--easy-peasy! Plus, taking good care to clean up your furniture regularly will enhance it and keep it looking beautiful for years to come. Happy scrubbing! :)
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Each season, Chair Care Patio makes approximately 30,000 replacement slings for its customers both wholesale and retail. That's a LOT of outdoor fabric! We thought you might find it interesting to see all the serious coordination inherent in keeping the process moving along--from initial order placement to delivery, there's never a dull moment around here.
Because we were the first on the Internet to offer custom-made replacement slings (over 20 years ago!), we have been able to refine the order and production processes to accommodate our volume. And at the same time, we've been able to document the basics so that you can take the final product and actually use it with a minimum of fuss. None of this has happened without goofs, headaches or bumps in the road, but we've definitely learned what works and what doesn't! With that in mind, grab your favorite beverage and a notebook--we're going to take a tour of the process from start to finish!
First things first, though--the First Step starts with you! We blogged last week about "how to measure for replacement slings", and we also have a handy-dandy guide right on our website on how to do that (so rather than repeat in this entry, when you're ready, simply click on the highlighted text link here, which will take you to this part of our website and then click on the first entry, "How To Measure Patio Chair Slings". Or, click this link for our blog version).
We can't stress enough about how important this is--for you to be happy with the end result, understand that it is:
We can't stress enough about how important this is--for you to be happy with the end result, understand that it is:
ALL ABOUT THE MEASUREMENTS!
One other point on measuring, and then we'll move on with our tour--when taking your measurements, do not--DO NOT--measure the old sling! The old sling is torn, stretched and baggy. Measuring the old sling will result in a new patio chair sling that will not fit (and unfortunately, we cannot cancel or refund an order because the measurements were done incorrectly!) Really, we can't stress that enough--make sure the sling rails are tightened up to the frame and perform measurements on the frame. Even if the sling is ripped and shredded (hanging in tatters, off the rails), it's okay--we need you to measure center of the rail to center of the rail on the frame. We make our slings to fit the frame, not to copy the old sling. The "width" numbers are the most critical. Measure from the center of the sling rail from front to back.
Sometimes, finding the center of the rail can be confusing. The picture below shows what the sling rail looks like with the fabric removed:
NOTE: Oftentimes you'll see additional fabric inside the rails and you can't measure it. Don't worry about that additional fabric: we do make allowances for it!
Once you have your measurements...yes, that's right, it is
TIME TO SHOP!
You've come to the right place, too--Chair Care Patio offers the largest selection of replacement sling fabric online today. We offer only top quality replacement sling fabrics from manufacturers such as Phifer, Twitchell, Batyline and Sunbrella. Phifer and Twitchell are by far the largest manufacturers of replacement sling fabric in the USA.
After taking your measurements from the frame, you would place your order on our website. Ordering is so easy, once you have your measurements and fabric selection ready. Follow the online steps and proceed to checkout. Once complete, you’ll receive an email receipt confirming your order.
Now, you get to sit back and relax, and wait for your order to arrive. We take it from here...
FABRIC! WE HAZ IT!
We organize all these rolls of fabric in our shop by fabric and each season we cut and sew tens of thousands of yards of it (in the summertime, these rolls haunt our dreams, too, but we digress :-)) To keep the shop floor organized and our employees safe, the fabrics are placed on rolling racks that can easily move around the production floor. The big strong guys that work in our shop help the ladies get the sling fabric rolls onto the racks. The fabric racks are also numbered so we can easily locate the correct fabric for production.
Each morning, orders received the day before are printed and reviewed. Our online system produces a production order for our sewing shop. The production order includes all the important information about your order including sling style, fabric and measurements.
EACH SLING IS CUSTOM MADE JUST FOR YOU!
Each production order for replacement slings has a bar code associated with the order. All replacement slings are processed in the order they are received. Each replacement sling we make is custom cut and sewn. No two orders are the same. Therefore every sling is measured, marked and cut by hand. No automation for this process, just some accurate cutting and very sharp scissors, utility knives and a ruler. Our talented sewing staff takes care of this--some are simply "cutters", cutting the slings according to order measurements, while others do the actual, final sewing.
BAR CODE TRACKING FOR EVERY ORDER
The cutters working on your replacement sling order look for the fabric name, quantity and dimensions to cut the fabric. Because we have bar code tracking for each order, the person cutting the slings scans the production order to begin the process. When the cutting portion of the job is complete, she scans again to close the cutting cycle. The production paper work stays with the job until it’s time to ship. This way, we don't get your order mixed up with someone else's.
The cut slings then go to the staging area and wait for their turn at the sewing machines. As you can see from the picture the cutting folks do a good job staying ahead of our amazing seamstresses!
DOUBLE NEEDLE HEMS MAKE OUR SLINGS EXTRA STRONG!
The next step is the actual sewing process. Our sewing crew has been utilizing our current processes for almost 10 years now--and between them, they have hundreds of years of sewing experience under their belts. Because of it, every one of them has the know-how to run an industrial double-needle sewing machine at lightning speed!
Each sling is sewn with a special thread called SolarFix®. SolarFix is guaranteed to last, in writing, by the manufacturer! This PTFE thread is extremely strong, has excellent UV stability and will not deteriorate in the sun. In addition, it won't lose any significant strength due to UV or chemical exposure, unlike conventional polyester, nylon or cotton. Other replacement sling dealers only offer this as an optional add-on, because it's pretty pricey--from Day One, Chair Care Patio has used this as the ONLY option and we don't charge extra for it. And that has paid off--in the last 10 years, we have not had a single sling returned due to failed or deteriorated thread. This extra cost on our part is well-worth it--an insurance policy for us (less returns = less wasted $$) and especially for you (no return = no hassle = you're a happy customer!)
DOUBLE SEAMS ON ALL 4 SIDES
Your replacement slings are sewn, using a double-needle stitch on all four sides. The hem sizes are predetermined and are the same for every sling we make. We use these nifty folding gadgets on our double-needle machines to keep the hems the exact size every time. No guess work on the part of the sewer. Just a matter of running the replacement sling fabric through the machine and...voila! She is done!
Each sewer measures width and length and compares it to the final size measurements provided on the production order, as another "verification" step in our process....
OFF TO THE SHIPPING DEPARTMENT
Once the slings are measured, sewn and verified, the order is once again scanned to confirm it's been through production. Completed slings are placed in shopping carts and moved through the warehouse to the shipping area.
Shopping carts? Yes! Fear not, though, we didn't go around "acquiring" carts off the local grocer parking lots--you can now find local businesses selling used carts and so we've purchased a number of them. They're a great way to carry bundles of finished slings from one end of the warehouse to the other and (with safety in mind, of course) can occasionally provide us with lighter moments during Silly Season (it's not at all unusual to see a seamstress pushing a cart full of slings AND another seamstress, over to our Shipping department! Hey, that's a long walk!)
Almost done! Next, it is
TIME TO PACK AND SHIP
Once the completed sling orders reach the shipping department, they are placed in boxes along with the appropriate lengths of spline or sling rod and any additional parts you may have ordered along with your slings. We also include our printed instructions on how to install patio furniture replacement slings.
WHAT DOES BROWN DO FOR US?
They LOVE us, for one thing. We ship via UPS Ground, and each week our crew averages about 3000 slings per week. That's a lotta boxes! It's a good thing this guy isn't exactly small...
Because we use UPS, you can....that's right,
TRACK THE STATUS OF YOUR ORDER!
Once the package is logged into the UPS system, you will receive an email, letting you know your sling order has shipped. The email provides you with the UPS tracking number so you know about when you can expect your shipment. If for some reason you lose the email from UPS, that's okay--you can always check the status of your sling order through the Chair Care Patio website. Click on the VIEW STATUS button in the upper right hand corner; enter your email, order number and zip code. Our online status system will show you if the order has shipped, or is in process. During peak season, replacement slings may take up to 15 working days to manufacture due to the high volume of orders. Please be patient. Plan ahead and order early in the season before the mad spring/summer rush.
Mind you, we're not perfect and won't ever claim to be--sometimes, we make mistakes in cutting or sewing. If we made your replacement slings incorrectly, we're happy to correct them. But we're pretty good at this stuff: with the processes we have refined, we definitely have minimized such error to the point where we can say it's not common.
WE WANT HAPPY CUSTOMERS--AND THAT'S YOU!
By now, we're hoping this mini-tour hasn't put you to sleep! We don't just live, breathe, eat and sleep outdoor patio furniture repair. We actually love what we do and we love our customers! We hope that this information will give you a better understanding of how we make slings, and also why we ask you to measure in a specific way. Altogether, we have over 20 years of experience making and installing slings. It’s not guess work, but just good measuring on your part (and a little math on ours) will determine the proper size of your slings. We do this every day--you can trust us! The slings we make should fit. Just take your time measuring, watch our videos on how to measure and read the installation instructions thoroughly before you order. AND, and, and...don’t forget that you can order FREE sling fabric samples before you order the slings themselves. That way, you can make sure it matches your decor (or even that you like it) before you take the time (and spend the money) putting together measurements and ordering from us--particularly since computer monitor resolution can sometimes be deceiving.
And don't worry--if you still have questions or concerns regarding your replacement sling order, you can call us. If you're calling about sling installation, we only ask that you do one thing:
PLEASE INSTALL BEFORE YOU CALL!
Please remember your sling must be stretched and you must disassemble the patio chair or chaise lounge in order to do the installation. It really, really helps everyone involved if you try to INSTALL before you CALL--it will make it easier for us to help. It's really challenging to help via phone, but we know what we're doing, we promise you! The fabrics we use for replacement slings will stretch more than you realize. May we suggest ordering the spreader tool when you place your order? This will help you spread the sling rails and bolt the rails to the frame--it's an amazing gadget, handier than you could ever imagine. Every little bit helps!