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Caring for outdoor furniture

Today, most patio, garden, deck and porch furniture is relatively easy to maintain, but it helps to know how to care for the materials you own.

• Plastics and resins — These modern materials have come a long way, resisting fading, yellowing and cracking. Most are impervious to sun, wind, rain and snow. Nothing more than a wipe of a damp cloth and an all-purpose cleanser and you’re ready to sit.

• Metals — Though resistant to sun and rain, metal furniture still needs a refurbishing about every three years if in constant outdoor use, or when rust appears. A metal shop will sandblast steel, aluminum and cast iron to rid it of dirt, rust and peeling paint, so that a new color can then be baked onto the metal’s surface. The same carnauba paste wax that maintains a car’s finish does a dynamite job on painted metal furniture. Once a season, apply an even coat with a damp terry cloth towel to furnishings; let dry, then lightly buff.

• Plant fibers — Water hyacinth, rattan and wicker. While new furniture in these materials can be used outdoors, vintage pieces are fragile and should be kept out of the sun. Unfinished fibers benefit from an occasional spray of water. For easy maintenance a clear coat of varish will suffice.

• Lloyd Loom — In the early 1900s, Marshall Burns Lloyd, an American, invented a special loom that could weave twisted paper into a fabric reinforced with steel wire. The technique results in material that resembles painted and varnished wicker. Whether it is vintage or new, treat this furniture the same as that made from natural plant fibers.

• Wood — Teak is immune to warping and rotting and gently ages naturally to a silver-gray color. Redwood, another rot-resistant wood, is less expensive and more widely available. It benefits from a coating of sealant.

Susan Woody has been a home and garden writer for more than 20 years and is an advance Master Gardener.

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