With Memorial Day, and the unofficial start to summer fast approaching, it is time to slap on the sunscreen, unfurl the umbrella and shout it from the rooftops: It is patio season.  So now that you will, undoubtedly be spending more time lounging on your patio, deck, or community’s outdoor spaces, you’ll want to be sure to spend a little bit of time setting the scene and getting all of the players ready.  It is time to give your patio furniture a little TLC.  To do this properly, you’ll need to consider the materials that you are working with.  

Metal

If you have metal chairs, benches or tables that you are trying to keep looking and feeling shiny and brand new, there are a few steps that you can take.  First and foremost, as with any outdoor furniture, keeping it covered when not in use is the best way to keep it looking new and extend its life.  However, you’ll want to be considerate when choosing covers for your metal furniture.  Throwing an inexpensive plastic tarp over your metal furniture (be honest, you’re likely guilty of this crime), can trap in water and humidity that can damage the surface of treated metal.  Make an investment in waterproof material, like vinyl, for your covers and you can drastically extend the life of your patio pals.  

When it comes to cleaning, metal furniture is pretty simple.  Adding a quarter cup of mild soap to a gallon of water and then scrubbing with a sponge will do the trick.  If any rust should appear, despite all of your diligent covering and cleaning, take some steel wool to the area and consider retreating or painting to keep any future problems from popping up.  

Wood

When it comes to cleaning your wood furniture, there may not be an easy “one-size-fits-all” solution.  In order to make the best choice, you’ll need to know what type of wood, exactly, you’re working with.  Some wood will do best with mild soap and water, while harder woods (think woods like teak) can benefit from a solution of laundry soap and water.  

One universal rule for wood furniture, that most would hold as true, is that (even though it might be tempting) the eager outdoor aficionado should avoid the use of the power washer.  True, breaking out the high powered tools will allow you to skip the elbow grease when shrubbing, but it can easily damage the wood and drastically decrease its lifespan.  Sorry, but no cutting corners allowed.  

Plastic

Of all the materials to grow up to become patio furniture, plastic is, by far, the least expensive. This makes it incredibly popular for the budget-conscious homeowner or Association.  While plastic furniture may not have the staying power of some other materials, you can certainly extend its life and good looks by taking some extra care.  

First off, storing plastic furniture inside, out of the elements when not in use is the best way to keep it in prime condition.  Given that plastic and resin furniture is typically lighter than other furniture made of other materials, this task is usually more manageable.  

When it comes to cleaning, this material is perhaps the easiest to tackle.  A quick wipedown with an all purpose cleaner will do the trick.  Or, if you are in a time crunch, you can probably give it a once over with the garden hose, so long as you are careful.  

Cushions and pillows

We cannot forget about the supporting cast when considering your overall patio experience.  Fabric pillows and cushions can make any outdoor space much more comfortable, but will also require a bit of attention and upkeep to perform at the highest level.  Most can be cleaned with soap and water, while some can even be detached and thrown into your home washing machine.  Either way, the vast majority will have cleaning and care instructions on attached tags, so be sure to read closely and follow directions.  

In some cases, you can add a fabric protector that will help keep your fabrics safe from water and sun damage.  However, like all of the materials that we have discussed so far, nothing can help as much as simply storing your cushions and pillows in a safe, dry place when you are not actively sitting on them.  This is an excellent argument for installing a shed to house all of your precios patio pieces, but that’s a topic for another time.