How to put summer away

Organize and clean hats, tools, sandals and more

By Alison Highberger / For The Bulletin


We hate to mention it, but there are only 20 days of summer left.

That means it’s time to come up with a game plan to put away the accouterments of the season: outdoor furniture, shoes and hats, sporting and recreational gear, and garden tools.

When you put summer stuff away, one category at a time, all clean and organized, you’ll be ready to go next year. And won’t that feel good?

Outdoor furniture

Plastic, aluminum or wrought-iron patio furniture should be cleaned off with soapy water (one squirt of dishwashing liquid in a bucket of warm water), scrubbed with a sponge or soft brush, and then rinsed and allowed to air dry thoroughly, according to Real Simple Magazine’s website.

Wicker and teak furniture should be cleaned with a soft brush “dampened with water and a mild oil-based soap, such as Murphy Oil Soap,” and then rinsed and air dried, according to the Real Simple.

Check the big-box home stores, hardware stores or online for a variety of patio furniture covers.

Bend-based professional organizer Tammie Barber (www.tammietotherescue.com) likes the covers that are designed to protect a stack of chairs, instead of just a single one. The Patio Armor brand is available at Home Depot for $19.98. It’s made of PVC-coated polyester, and if you have stackable chairs, they’ll have you covered.

“You can also buy a bench cover and it’ll fit over two or three chairs,” Barber said. Other covers fit over a round table and chair set ($29.98), or a big rectangular table and chair set ($36.98).

If possible, store wicker inside because it expands and contracts with heat and humidity, and could crack in extreme weather, Barber said. Also, tables with stone tops should winter inside, she said, since moisture in stone can freeze and break the stone.

Brush off cushions and umbrellas, and store them in the garage or inside the house. Large plastic garbage bags will protect fabrics from dust and dirt.

Sporting and recreational gear

Maybe you’d like to set up a storage system in your garage this year. Barber has experience helping people install the Rubbermaid Fast Track Garage Storage System that includes shelving, cabinets, baskets and other accessories.

Barber also likes large pegboards in garages for storage. They’re less expensive and more flexible than track systems.

“Once the track system is in, you’re married to it. Pegboards can be moved, or hooks and holders can be changed around,” Barber said.

A 43-piece pegboard organizer kit at Home Depot, with a variety of hooks and holders, costs less than $12. Full sheets of pegboard (4-by-8-feet) cost between $14-$18 each, depending on whether they’re plain or painted.

“They have a hook for everything. A pegboard hook designed to hold tools could easily hold tennis rackets. And the hooks often cost less than $3,” Barber said.

Wire or steel shelving units are another option and cost less than $100 each at big-box stores like Costco. Barber likes to use large, sturdy plastic bins to store items.

“I love the clear ones, because you can see inside, but you still have to label them,” she said.

When you decide on a system of shelves or wall hooks and baskets, consider using what you already have at home to organize things, said Barber.

“Reuse old plastic bins by poking holes in them and hooking them to the pegboard or track. For one client, I made a bin to hold baseball gloves,” she said.

If your space permits, keep each sport or activity separate: biking gear in one area, golf items in another. Hang fishing rods, hiking poles, paddles, and bicycles from hooks in the ceiling to save precious floor space.

Golf clubs

Don’t leave golf clubs in an unheated garage over the winter. Long cold spells “can dry out the grips and cause them to harden or crack.” Keep them inside the house, recommends author Brent Kelly on http://golf.about.com.

Clean the club heads and grips with a solution of mild soapy water, wipe them off with a damp cloth and wipe down the shafts, Kelly writes. Make sure everything is dry before storing the clubs in the golf bag, and if you have a rain cover, put it on, to protect the clubs from damage.

Clothing

As you sort through summer clothes, get rid of worn-out, unused and out-of-style garments, Barber told us. If you didn’t wear them this year, it’s unlikely you’ll wear them next year, so put them in a donate bag and free up some space.

Sandals

If you can get another year out of this summer’s flip-flops, www.thriftyfun.com suggests several ways to clean them. Hand wash flip-flops, or wear them in the shower and let the shampoo get them clean. Use a magic eraser sponge to get rid of scuff marks, or put flip-flops in the top rack of the dishwasher and make sure it’s set on the “cool dry cycle.”

To clean Teva-style sandals, www.teva.com recommends warm water and mild soap and a soft bristled brush, and then allow them to air dry. If your sandals are a little odoriferous, the Teva company has another option: Mix 1 cup antibacterial mouthwash in 2 cups of water and soak the sandals for 15 minutes; then scrub, rinse and air dry.

Caps and hats

Many baseball caps can be washed in the washing machine in cold water with clothes of the same color.

Some people wash baseball caps in the top rack of the dishwasher. Never use bleach. Check to see if there’s a tag in the cap with fiber content and cleaning instructions.

The website http:// laundry.about.com has detailed information about cleaning baseball caps, including how to pretreat them to get out dirt and sweat stains. The website mentions that hat forms that protect the shape of the cap are useful. Search online for “cap washer” or “baseball cap cleaning cage.”

Baseball caps should air dry. Don’t put them in a clothes dryer.

Natural straw hats or synthetic straw hats should be wiped clean with a damp, white cloth, according to http://laundry.about.com.

“For oily stains, sprinkle the hat with cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb the oil, allow to stand for a few hours, and then brush away,” says this laundry website.

Store summer straw hats covered, “to prevent crushing and dust accumulation.”

Garden tools

Clean dirt off garden tools using a wire brush and a little WD-40, motor oil, or mineral oil, according to www.ehow.com and Martha Stewart (www.marthastewart.com). It’s a good time to sharpen shovels, hoes and picks with a file at a 20-degree angle.

Martha goes one step farther, of course.

“Clean metal tools by plunging them in a bucket of oiled sand. To make oiled sand, pour ¾ quart of motor or mineral oil into a 5-gallon bucket of sand (the sand should be damp but not moist). Push the blades of tools in the sand. This helps clean and condition the metal,” Stewart writes.

Final tips

As you put summer away, organizer Barber gave us a few more guiding principles:

Label everything, so you can find everything easily.

Buy sturdy plastic boxes for the garage. Transfer anything that’s stored in cardboard into a sturdy plastic box. Thin plastic boxes will crack.

Don’t buy any boxes, bins or organizing supplies until you’ve gone through your stuff and purged the old, broken and “done with” items.

It’s sad to say goodbye to summer on Sept. 23, but give it a good send-off: store summer’s toys and tools in an organized way, and get out there and enjoy autumn.

— Reporter: ahighberger@mac.com