Fine wood furniture is a great investment. With the proper care, it can deliver generations of use and beauty to your family. This applies to both antique pieces and freshly-bought furniture that you hope to preserve for the future. Basic pieces of functional wood furniture, like a modest kitchen table, might require nothing more in the way of care than a wipe-down with an all-purpose wood-safe cleaner. Finer pieces require more careful handling. Any piece of wooden furniture finished with lacquer or wax (including all antiques) is susceptible to damage caused by chemicals or moisture.
We’ve put together this article to share effective tips on cleaning and maintaining your wood furniture.
The Value Of Polishing
While a nicely-applied layer of polish is not an impenetrable shield for your furniture, it does an important job by making furniture look and feel more appealing. Polishing produces a shiny, low-friction surface that shows off your furniture at its best and feels smoother under your hand. Fresh polish does protect against minor scrapes and scratches; it also slows down the accumulation of dust. According to experts, proper polishing will also protect the wood against unwanted stains. Polish makes it harder for liquids of every sort to seep into the wood’s pores where they can cause discoloration or (in the case of plain water) rot.
How Often Do I Need To Polish?
The amount of time it takes for polish to wear off varies from home to home and piece to piece. How often you use and clean a particular piece is very important. Cleaning wood surfaces (especially scrubbing them thoroughly) will remove the surface sheen and oblige you to re-polish it.
The polished surface of your furniture will also lose its luster even if you’re not cleaning it frequently. Your best tools for assessing the state of your furniture are your eyes and hands. When the surface begins looking dull and it feels rough to the touch, you’ll know it’s time to polish.
Why Coasters Matter
Coasters are invaluable in the fight to defend your fine wood furniture from unwanted damage. Coasters keep your furniture free of liquid spills, but their protection goes further than you might think. Some drinks, particularly alcoholic ones, can do a lot of chemical damage to your furniture. Hot drinks can also be a lot more harmful than you might suspect. Take the time to purchase some attractive coasters and get in the habit of using them.
Brushing Your Furniture
The brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner can do a great job of cleaning your wood furniture quickly and efficiently. This is an excellent way to get rid of dust fast, although you should be aware that using a brush extension too often on your furniture may shorten the length of time you can go between polishings.
For removing surface dust and minor smudges, the best tool is a dry cloth with a soft, lint-free texture. This is perfect for cleaning your furniture’s finish without introducing any unwanted moisture.
Waxing – On And Off
Paste wax is a traditional and highly effective way to protect your wood furniture from excess moisture. Applying a layer of wax may be absolutely essential depending on the climate in and around your home. Wax gives your furniture an added layer of protection and makes it look shinier longer.
Waxing can be overdone, though. If wax is applied too thickly or too frequently, your furniture may take on an oily appearance from the built-up excess. Many antiques are over-waxed when they’re sold, so you should be prepared to remove wax if it becomes necessary.
The right solvents for this job are either mineral spirits or synthetic turpentine. Do not use natural turpentine to remove wax – it may react with the wax and create a gummy residue that is even harder to remove.
Potent solvents are usually flammable, so they should never be used near open flames or in poorly-ventilated spaces. Always remember to review the manufacturer’s directions carefully and completely before you use any cleaning product on your furniture.
Washing Wood Furniture
Antiques and other pieces of fine wood furniture should ideally have an outer finish tough enough to withstand wet cleaning. Proper varnish, lacquer, or other coatings will allow you to clean up your furniture using lukewarm water and mild detergent.
You should always test your furniture’s ability to stand up to wet washing on an inconspicuous area before going ahead. Wet down your test patch and then inspect it carefully to see how it dries. If the drying water leaves streaks or brings up a hazy white residue, your piece should not be washed with water.
Use a new sponge or a soft cloth to wash your furniture. Start with a detergent solution, then use a clean water rinse, and then dry the wood. This process should be done slowly. Work your way over the surface incrementally, finishing off small areas one after the other rather than attempting to clean the whole piece all at once.
After you’re finished washing, let your furniture dry thoroughly. Apply polish or wax to restore the strong, attractive finish you want.
* Whenever possible, protect fine wood and antique furniture from sunlight. Wood can permanently lose its sheen if over-exposed to natural light.
* Oil soap is also an excellent product for cleaning wood furniture, but you need to test a given piece’s reaction to the soap before using it broadly. As above, apply the oil soap to a small, inconspicuous area and check the results carefully before proceeding.
* Follow the same check procedure before using specialty waxes (e.g. beeswax or acid-free microcrystalline wax) on your furniture. There are many finish products sold today that are specially formulated for delicate wood surfaces. You do not want to take any chances with your fine wood furniture; always test your products first!
These are just a few of the smart things you can do to protect and preserve wood furniture. The information we’ve shared here should be universally applicable for every sort of fine wood furniture and wooden antiques; don’t hesitate to seek out more specific guidance tailored to the sorts of pieces you have in your home.
Patience is as important as hard work when it comes to caring for fine wood furniture. Take things slowly, especially when you are cleaning a piece for the very first time. Taking an incautious step can end up doing permanent damage to your beloved antiques. Confirm that all of the materials and techniques you use are safe for the piece you’re using them on, and your furniture will stay useful and beautiful for decades to come.
Dashing Maids offers a full-suite of professional house cleaning services in Denver and the surrounding metro region.
Contact us today for a FREE quote!