As the days get longer and the weather heats up, you'll want to take advantage of the season by entertaining outside as much as possible. Tables and chairs that have been exposed to the elements all winter will probably need a good cleaning and perhaps a few repairs. Here's advice for maintaining different types of outdoor furniture.

Good Wood. Wood furniture should be kept under waterproof covers when not in use. To keep it in good shape, start off the season with a sealant such as teak oil for hardwood. If possible don't stand wood legs directly on grass because the moisture from the ground can rot untreated wood. For ongoing maintenance, wipe down tables and chairs every two weeks or so with a cloth that's been wrung out from a solution of soapy wood cleaner.

Plastic fantastic. For resin furniture, guard against fading and brittleness from excessive heat and abrasive cleaners by washing with a mild all purpose cleaner. When white plastic ages it can yellow. If your furniture gets to this stage, you can use a mildly abrasive cleaner, which helps prevent black grime from getting embedded in the rough edges of the plastic. Soaking such a stain in a strong bleach solution 2 1/2 tablespoons bleach to one gallon of water also helps whiten it, but you may not get uniform results. If you can, position the chair so the bleach solution covers and even area. Rinse the solution off after 30 min.

Heave metal. Metal furniture generally has a protective finish, so all you need to do is wash it with a cloth dipped in soapy water. However, if the coating has started to wear away, you can paint it again with clear metal varnish. Most cast or wrought iron outdoor furniture will already have clear varnish, but it can wear over time. To repair it, sand the damaged areas carefully before reapplying paint or varnish. Then, throughout the season, wipe down with soapy cloth and dry very thoroughly.