How To Clean and Store Your Outdoor Bar for Winter

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Outdoor bars are fun but not maintenance-free. Here's what you need to do before winter so your outdoor bar is ready to go next spring.

Maybe you’ve had an outdoor bar on your back patio for years, or you built one as a pandemic-inspired project. Either way, if you’re lucky enough to have one, it’s important to take care of it year-round. Depending on where you live, this might mean cleaning it up and closing it down for the winter.

For sure, the end of outdoor bar season is a bummer. But if you don’t take the time to “winterize” your bar now, you’ll have much more work to do next spring when you’re ready to resume sipping wine or cocktails under the stars.

“I’ve had clients who haven’t done anything (to winterize), and a few years later (they) have to do some real commercial cleaning to take care of things that didn’t need to happen in the first place,” says Paul Knapp, owner of Chicago-based Landscape Architectural, which designs outdoor living spaces.

Debris and spills left to fester can really do a number on your tables, chairs, countertops, appliances, et al. over a cold, hard winter. But what exactly does it take to clean and store an outdoor bar?

Fortunately, it isn’t complicated. Here are some guidelines to get you started.

How To Clean an Outdoor Bar

You probably clean at least some components of your outdoor bar after each use. Even so, it’s important to give it one final and thorough cleaning before buttoning it up.

  1. Begin by bringing indoors anything portable from the bar — drink fixings and snacks, barware and accessories. Wash what you can and/or put it in safe place for next year.
  2. Move on to pillows, umbrellas, chairs, freestanding tables and outdoor rugs. They need a good dusting, wipe down or once-over with your shop vacuum before you store them for the season.
  3. If a permanent structure covers your outdoor bar, check the corners for dust, spider webs, leaves, etc., and vacuum or sweep them down. Do this before you clean the countertop and sink.
  4. Clean the inside and outside of your mini-refrigerator. Messes left over the winter will be odorous in a few months, Knapp says. Also clean your wine cooler and other appliances.
  5. Wipe down shelves, doors and the insides of drawers and cabinets.
  6. Scrub the sink and sink fixtures.
  7. Seal stone countertops.

Done? Not yet. You also need to shut off the water supply to the bar and blow the waterline out with an air compressor. Knapp says this will keep pipes from freezing. If you run electrical power to your outdoor kitchen or bar, turn that off as well.

Outdoor Bar Cleaning Products

Before you start cleaning, make sure you have the right products and supplies for the job. You’ll need rags, a bucket, brushes and a broom and/or shop vacuum. We recommend these cleaning products:

Bayes Stainless Steel Cleaner: This is good for cleaning the exterior of stainless-steel appliances.

Bar Keepers Friend Granite and Stone Cleaner/Polish: For outdoor granite or marble countertops.

Granite Gold Sealer: Cleaning the outdoor countertops is just a start, though — you also need to seal them. This is an easy-to-use spray-on sealer Knapp recommends.

SimpleGreen OxySolveTotal Outdoor Cleaner: This will work on many components of your outdoor bar. Always patch test first, though.

How to Store an Outdoor Bar for the Winter

If your outdoor bar is portable, take it indoors to your garage, your shed or your basement. Built-in bars that can’t be moved are a little trickier. Protecting the bar from harsh winter weather is a must, especially if you live where temperatures routinely drop below freezing.

“To preserve and extend the life (of your bar), you need to keep it covered,” Knapp says. To prevent mildew, be sure everything is dry before you cover it up.

Outdoor Bar Storage Products

Many custom-made bars come with covers, Knapp says. If not, you can order a custom cover. You can also order prefab covers in standard sizes for your bar, chairs and tables. If you lack room inside to store things like cushions or plastic drinkware, consider a large outdoor, lockable deck box.

How about the appliances? Is your bar’s fridge going to be OK with just a cover over it? Besides unplugging it, Knapp suggests placing a box of baking soda inside and leaving the door cracked to keep it from getting smelly.

As for outdoor televisions, they’re safe to leave outside as long as they’re mounted and covered. If you have a “regular” TV in your outdoor bar area, move it indoors.

Dawn Weinberger
Dawn Weinberger is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon who has contributed to numerous publications and websites over the past 20 years, including RD.com, Glamour, Women's Health, Entrepreneur, and many others. Dawn has a BA in journalism from Western Washington University and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She writes about everything from health and medicine to fashion, shopping, and business.