Simple maintenance can make patio sets last longer

Sharing a meal or relaxing on a deck, patio or balcony can be the highlight of a summer day. And when the season changes, proper care can make your outdoor furniture last for summers to come.

Whether you have a pricey patio set or something more modest, experts recommend some simple steps for upkeep and storage.

Often, outdoor furniture “is a bit of an investment, so it makes sense to put effort into protecting and maintaining what you have in your yard,” says Matt Blashaw, a licensed contractor and host of DIY Network’s “Yard Crashers.”

Ideally, it’s best to store any type of patio furniture — metal, plastic or wood — indoors during harsh weather. If that’s not possible, Blashaw recommends weather-proof covers, or at least some simple poly/vinyl tarps secured with straps or weighted down.

Don’t forget fire pits and chimeneas. There are elasticized covers made for them, too, and it’s important to keep water from rusting their metal burners and grates.

As for acrylic cushions and fabrics — even ones made for outdoor use — store them inside. If you just don’t have the space, Blashaw recommends putting them in air-tight bags.

Careful cleaning

Before you store patio furniture, make sure it’s free of dirt and debris.

Lowe’s Home Improvement spokeswoman Colleen Maiura tells customers to check the manufacturer’s directions before using cleaning products. For most materials, you’ll just need soap and water, she says. Consider using a pressure washer on a low setting (1,200 to 1,350 pounds per square inch) to make the job go even more quickly.

For acrylic cushions, spot clean with mild soap and water. Make sure the cushions are completely dry before storing.

While many outdoor cushions are mildew-resistant, you can use a solution of 1 cup bleach, 2 cups detergent and 1 gallon of water to clean. Spray it on, allow it to soak for 30 minutes, then scrub with a sponge or rag.

Fabric pieces such as hammocks and cloth chairs can be machine-washed on gentle. Stretch them back over the frame for the right fit, and to make sure the fabric is dry before storing indoors.

Must-do maintenance

For wood, you may need to oil or varnish it, depending on the type. For wicker, you may have to wax if it’s not water-resistant. Some metal frames require paint touch-ups, but most are made to be rust-resistant or rust-free. If your set is not, consider using paste wax or naval jelly for protection.

Wear out the warranty

One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make with outdoor furniture is throwing it out instead of making simple repairs with parts covered under warranty.

“Keep the receipt, and if the furniture does not hold up to the regular ‘wear and tear’ promise within the warranty period, contact the manufacturer and get yourself a brand new set,” he says.