How To Look After Your Outdoor Sun Umbrella

16 February 2023
Now that you have a premium outdoor sun umbrella, how should you care for it to ensure many summers of carefree shade? Here are some tips from Shade7, the umbrella experts.

You’ve chosen your sun umbrella and installed it pride of place in your outdoor living area. You are looking forward to many happy summers under its protective shelter. But now that you’ve got it, how do you keep it looking its best, and ensure it lasts for all those summers?

Protecting Your Canopy

  • Cover It

The first and best step is to purchase, and use, a cover bag. When you are not using your umbrella, Shade7’s best advice is to close your umbrella and use a cover bag to protect it from the elements. Elements include the sun and the rain, the wind, falling leaves and debris, bird poo, pollen, dust and dirt. When an umbrella that has been protected by a cover bag is compared with an umbrella that hasn’t been, the difference in appearance is considerable. Canvas will wear when battered by the wind and rain and blasted by the sun. Even the most colour-fast colours will look dingy and drab when left open year-round and coated in organic matter and dirt. And droppings from passing birds are not a good look on any outdoor umbrella.

Shade7’s premium solution-dyed acrylic canvas and polyester canopies are completely synthetic, and part of the warranty covers rot and fading. However, if left exposed to the elements, minute particles of dirt and other microscopic organic matter will work into the fine weave of the canopy. As organic matter builds up in the fabric, mould and lichen and other damaging organisms can grow in it. Apart from the damage this can cause, dirt will dull the colour. Using a cover bag can eliminate mould and lichen, reduce wear and tear from wind and weather, and keep colours fresh and sharp.

The pigments of orange, yellow and red canopies are more vulnerable to UV damage than other colours, even in premium solution-dyed canvas. So, for these brighter canopy colours, using a cover bag is an excellent step towards ensuring the canopies keep their intense colour for many years.

Plantation Island Monaco Commercial Sun Umbrella

A good tip on deciding to invest in a cover bag is that it is easier and more cost-effective to replace a cover bag than a canopy. The canvas of the cover bag needs to be of the same quality as the canopy: water resistant, UV resistant, and durable enough to stand up to the weather day in and day out, keeping the canopy beneath it in beautiful, sound condition for years.

  • Close It

The next important point, closely related to the previous point, is to close the umbrella when it is not in use. When an umbrella is not engineered for strength, it can be easier to remember to close it, as its vigorous movement in the wind is a constant reminder. But when umbrellas are designed and engineered for strength, their stability can lead to complacence, making it easy to forget about wear and tear on cables and canopies, degradation of the canopy appearance, and the risk of damage to the umbrella from unpredictable violent wind gusts.

Stace and Yanita from The Block NZ Horizon Outdoor Umbrella

Shade7’s Riviera cantilever umbrella, and their centre pole umbrellas, Milan, Monaco and Venice, are designed and engineered for premium performance as well as premium appearance, made to withstand New Zealand’s tough coastal conditions. Owners of these splendid umbrellas can come to think of them as ‘bulletproof’ after seeing how well they perform. However, it is important to remember that umbrellas are not buildings or permanent structures like pergolas. And Shade7’s premium more residential Stellar cantilever umbrella with its incredibly versatile side to side tilt, whilst being stronger than most cantilever umbrellas on the market today, is not engineered for wind gusts to the same degree as the Riviera.

An open umbrella is essentially a sail on a mast or pole, supported by either a freestanding base, or bolted to the ground. Consider the wind, and its relationship to sailboats. Even a gentle wind can propel a yacht across the surface by its sail. Engineered, wind-rated sun umbrellas, with heavy, solid bases, or bolted to the ground, can withstand a significant amount of wind. But unlike a boat which can ‘give’ with the wind and move freely in response, an umbrella is not designed for travel. Under strong wind gusts, the base could give, allowing the umbrella to lift off or topple, or the umbrella could give, with main support beams or arms moving beyond capacity. In these times of increasing unpredictability of weather and wind gusts, taking practical steps to protect your umbrella is important.

Riviera tilting

When someone uses a rain umbrella in a shower of rain, once the rain has stopped, the umbrella is allowed to dry and then closed. A useful tip is to consider sun umbrellas in the same way. When you are not underneath them for shade, they don’t need to always stay open. You might leave them open to help keep the sun away from suntrap rooms in the house, and to enjoy their appearance over the long summer days. But be mindful of how changeable and gusty the wind can be. If you are not around to monitor your outdoor space, close your umbrella and open it again when you are there.

  • Fold It

Once your Shade7 (or other premium umbrella) is closed and covered with a premium quality cover bag, it can be left outside in most weathers if the base is strong, or it is bolted down. However, the wind can still agitate a closed umbrella, so when the umbrella will be closed for long periods in windy locations, it can be important to make sure there is no canopy fabric caught between the folded arms and arm joints. Although extremely durable, premium canopy canvas can wear under repeated rubbing. Think of tough denim jeans. They seem indestructible and will often last for years. But if someone kneels in jeans every day, at first the knee fabric will stretch, then the warp and weft will wear to a soft, thin patch, then a hole will wear through. In a similar way, if pinched and rubbed repeatedly, especially under the considerable pressure of a closed frame, even tough acrylic canvas will wear.

Here are some simple instructions on folding closed canopies to avoid pinching. When the umbrella is closed, but hanging loose and not strapped, gather the loose panels and pull them out from between the arms. Stand in front of the umbrella and begin with the two panels closest to you, and pull the loose fabric towards you, then roll them together back towards the umbrella frame. Hold the two rolled panels with one hand, while pulling a third panel tightly over the roll to hold it in place. Then alternate folding over the remaining five panels from left to right. Gently push the folded canopy back against the mast so that it is compact, and secure the neatly folded canopy in place with the canopy strap. It is important to strap the canopy against the mast when the umbrella is closed.

Maintaining Your Umbrella

  • Clean It

Although closing outdoor umbrellas and protecting them with cover bags goes a long way towards keeping them looking fantastic, some dirt will find its way onto canopies over the years. Premium canvas and polyester respond well to being cleaned. From brushing off dried bird poo and wiping the residue with a damp sponge, to rinsing with a hose, soaking and brushing with a soft broom, or putting a canopy through a gentle washing machine cycle, there are comprehensive suggestions on cleaning your soiled umbrella canopy on Shade7’s website here.

  • DIY Service It

Over time, cantilever umbrellas can become stiff to rotate or sound squeaky when rotating. If this occurs, Shade7 recommends lifting the umbrella off the spigot (usually a 2-person job) and carefully lying the mast down. Apply grease to the inside rim of the bottom of the mast. Applying it to just the internal rim of the mast allows the grease to be spread sparingly along the spigot shaft when the mast is lifted back onto the spigot. This also eliminates any risk of the mast pushing excess grease down to the bottom of the spigot, as would happen if the grease was applied directly to the length of the spigot. Ensure hands are cleaned of all grease, and lift the umbrella back onto the spigot. The umbrella will rotate smoothly and silently.

Shade7 customers sometimes ask if there is any lubrication required for the stainless steel cables that run up the mast and along the main arm. In Shade7’s Riviera umbrella, there is no easy access to the internal cables and pulleys. However, after a few year’s use, it could be a good idea to apply a little silicone lubricant, such as CRC 808, around the internal edge of the slider car, and where the frame hub connects to the eight frame arms. Ensure any excess fluid is wiped clean, and note that it is very important to use silicone rather than regular lubricant to reduce the risk of marking your umbrella canopy.  The Shade7 technical team can service Shade7 umbrellas at their Auckland factory, and onsite at some Auckland locations.

Many kindergarten and childcare facilities around New Zealand install the Riviera cantilever umbrella to provide safe, generous shade for their small charges. The canopy extending from the mast at the side creates an outside ‘room’ with open, sheltered space for the children to play without fear of burning in the fierce sun. Many of these umbrellas are installed near sandpits. Over time, sand can build up  inside the holes that the rotating handle’s locking pin slots into, filling the holes and preventing the locking pin from slotting in. It is important for the locking pin to be able to lock in, to keep the umbrella from being pushed around by the wind.

If sand build-up occurs, or even as a preventative maintenance step, Shade7 recommends lifting the umbrella off the spigot (usually a 2-person job) to expose the locating spacer ring and holes for the locking pin. Lift the spacer ring off, and use a hose to flush out all the sand from inside the holes to clear them. Replace the ring flat-side-up, and lift the umbrella back onto the spigot. Make sure that the spacer ring pointer tip is lined up with the rotation handle at the base of the umbrella’s mast. The locking pin will now be able to slot into the spigot, preventing the wind from rotating the canopy and mast around. This is also a useful tip for properties with cantilever umbrellas installed close to the sand in coastal locations.

  • Shade7 Service It

Shade7 is always innovating and improving the performance and appearance of their umbrellas, and provide as much ongoing support for older models and versions as possible. Whilst their predecessor’s Shademaker umbrellas are obsolete, and there are limited parts available now for old Shademaker models, the technical team at Shade7 will help if they can. Contact the friendly and knowledgeable team at Shade7 with any questions you have about your Shade7 or Shademaker umbrella, and they will do their best to assist.

If you are researching ahead of buying your new premium Shade7 umbrella, you can view our umbrella range online, or visit the team at the Shade7 showroom to view the full range on display.

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