Honestly, I couldn't believe how white it looked after only a couple months of use. So I made the decision Memorial Day to whip it back into shape using materials I already had:
The 'Cedar' stain we used on our living room floor, sandpaper, foam brush, and of course, gloves. Do you love my super-intuitive label for the stain? WOOD STAIN. Really? Thanks for the tip. I couldn't tell by the huge word STAIN right under the label. I barely had to sand this thing because the wood was bare already. But I did anyway, then wiped off all the dust with paper towels lightly dampened with mineral spirits.
The mineral spirits wasn't really necessary, but I had gotten a couple drips of stain on the flagstone porch and had to remove them. Then I got lazy and just used the same towel to wipe. Let's just call it 'recycling'.
The cedar stain brought this bench back to it's original look immediately. I used a little foam brush to get into all those cracks, and the rag on the larger areas. I did a couple coats of stain to be sure I got everything. Here is half the seat after one coat:
I am so happy with the stain color, it looked brand new again!
It's a durable protective clear finish, meant for outdoor wood surfaces that are subjected to water and sunlight. It is also water-based, so I didn't have to worry about covering the driveway, I could just hose it down after. I chose Satin finish because I didn't want it to be shiny. It looked nice after just one coat, but they recommend 4 on the can. What?!
It goes on a little funky. It seems like there will be bubbles, but when it dries, it's fine. It's not perfectly smooth, more like a textured matte finish with slight sheen. I was able to do all four coats with one can, so that was rad. Here she is all done and dressed:
It rained about 6 hours after I put the last coat of finish on, and it still looks great! I should have put a tarp over it, but I was lazy. Those are plant stands I'm using as 'side tables' for drinkys. They work great in the narrow space, and were free since I've had them for years. Here is a long shot that includes the amazeballs hanging basket I got for $11 at Walmart! I hate shopping there, but this steal has softened my heart a bit. The door greeter actually exclaimed "Now, that's a big one!" while I was leaving the store, which still makes me laugh.
No matter how well this Spar Urethane works, the bench refinishing may be a yearly thing. Ikea recommends oiling it (the bench is made of acacia wood) but I found even while doing that, the bench stained easily from stray flower petals and water spots. We'll see what happens with some extra protection this summer.