Having solid wood furniture around the house is great – at least, at first. It’s after long-term use that the problems start showing up.
First, you see the stains. Then the water marks start to become more prominent. You’ll also see a few scratches here and there. Sure, you may be able to go to any Salt Lake City custom furniture store and have them touch up a few of the affected areas. But after some time, it’s going to get tiring. You’ll start wondering why you even bothered to get wooden furniture in the first place.
I understand the frustration, believe me. But why burden yourself with constant maintenance if you can prevent those little “accidents” in the first place?
As with anything else, proper care is still the best way to maintain your solid wood furniture’s classic look.
“But I clean my wooden furniture all the time!”
Well, here’s the thing. I didn’t just say CARE, I said PROPER CARE. Merely wiping down your furniture may not be the best solution. It’s also possible that the cleaning solution you’re using is too much.
Tips in Caring for Wooden Furniture
To make sure you give your furniture the perfect amount of care, here are a few tips you have to follow:
- Start simple.
Just because you saw a stain does not mean you’ll grab the nearest cleaning solution you can find. Wood is a very delicate material. When your cleaning solution claims to be the strongest weapon against stains, it might not be a cause for delight – it could actually be the thing that destroys your furniture.
Start out with a simple solution, like a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid in water. If that doesn’t work, try something a bit stronger, then work your way up.
- Do patch tests.
Sometimes, in your excitement to get rid of a stain, you forget that the way you get rid of one stain in a corner could affect the finish of the entire piece. This is how you end up with wooden furniture that’s stain-free – and possibly, finish-free as well.
Don’t go after the big stains right away, especially if it’s in a prominent area. Try your cleaning solution on a hidden area, like the back of a leg. If the finish remains the same, then you can go ahead and wipe the entire piece. At least you can make sure that the finish remains the same even after the stains are gone.
- Don’t saturate the wood.
Keeping the stained areas saturated with water is not going to change anything. If the cleaning solution you used does not match the stain you’re trying to get rid of, or the finish of the wood, then leaving the surface drenched with cleaning solution won’t help. If anything, it can actually do more damage.
Keep the sponge or cloth you’re using barely damp. And once you wipe it over a certain area, make sure you rinse it right away.
Of course, proper care for wooden furniture is not just about removing the stains that are already there. Why wait to fix any form of damage, when you can prevent it from happening in the first place?
Preventing Damage on Solid Wood Furniture
Because wood is a natural material, it needs to be cared for and nurtured to maintain its beautiful finish. There are some things that can affect its beauty, but with proper care and maintenance, you can pretty much sit back, relax and enjoy the natural vibe your wooden furniture brings into any room.
It’s all about controlling the factors that have a direct effect on the wood and its finish. Here are some of them:
Heat can do so much to wood, both good and bad. It all depends on the amount of humidity that comes with it. It’s a good thing Utah enjoys dry heat, the kind that is used to dry green lumber to make it usable for different purposes.
But if you’re planning to move to another state and bring your previous wooden furniture with you, make sure you keep close watch on how humid it gets there. Changes in humidity will cause wood to expand and contract. Even worse, this expansion and contraction happens in different grain directions, affecting not only the form of the wood, but its general appearance as well. This is one of the reasons why some joints open, and why you may notice stiles and rails bowing.
But then again, if you stay right here in Utah, you’d have nothing to worry about.
Water damage is always something to look out for not only when it comes to your wooden furniture, but to your entire property in general. It can peel off your wallpaper or make fabrics smell musty and grow molds. As for your sold wood furniture, water damage can cause cracks, and can also cause the finish to turn milky white. This effect is called blushing or blooming.
In the event of flooding or leaking, make sure you wipe the wood down right away. In case the wood was submerged and saturated with water, consider calling a specialist on solid wood furniture to see if further maintenance will be required to correct any damage.
Also, always make sure you use coasters when you place cold drinks on a wooden table.
- Careless Use and Improper Handling
Outside the forces of nature, human influence will still play a huge role in terms of preventing damage to your wooden furniture. Use it for its intended use. Stop sitting on the wooden console or putting heavy machinery on top of a dining table.
Careless use can also cause abrasive damage. Using the wrong material to wipe it down can cause scratching, so will pulling an object across its surface.
A lot of micro-organisms, insects, rodents and fungi look at wood as something they can either eat or attack. This is why you have to be extra careful not to attract them.
Make sure food does not come in direct contact with the surface of your wooden furniture. Always use mats or table cloths. In the event that any kind of food or drink is spilled, make sure you wipe it right away.
When you buy wooden furniture or have it custom-made, make sure the wood has been treated to avoid any insect infestation. If you find out that a piece of your furniture has become a target for these insects, isolate that piece of furniture right away from the rest of your furniture. These things spread fast.
Yes, even wooden furniture can be subject to UV damage. Leaving it out in the direct path of sunlight could either lighten or darken its color.
But it’s not just natural light you should worry about. Even artificial light can have harmful effects on solid wood furniture. It all depends on how intense the light is, as well as its shade. Evidently, the brighter the light is, the more damaging it can also be. Blue light, although cooler to the eyes, can also be more damaging to wood than red light.
Of course, light is a constant element. You can’t keep your wooden furniture in a dark room – what good is its beauty if it can’t be seen? As long as you make sure you have your furniture maintained by an expert, the damage can be controlled.
The older any piece of solid wood furniture is, the more damage there is to it. After all, every day, week, month and year that passes, the more it is exposed to the different factors mentioned above.
Don’t worry, there’s no need to stop time to keep your wooden furniture from aging. You ever heard of the term “aging gracefully”? Your wooden furniture can age gracefully with the right maintenance. All it takes is knowing when to run to an expert to contain any damage done.
Wooden furniture is such a joy to have in any room, that the maintenance part of it is worth it.
Finishes, Surfaces and Components to Be Cared For
Caring for wooden furniture would vary depending on the kind of finish the piece has. It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing. What works for one thing may not work for another.
Below is a list of finishes, surfaces and components that you have to care for the moment you sign up to owning any piece of wooden furniture.
- Conversion Varnish
- Poly Urethane
- Ball Bearing Glides
- Wire Storage Products
Glass Looking for a homemade streak-free solution? Here’s one for you:
- 1/4 cup white vinegar (apple cider vinegar will work as well)
- 1/4 cup isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch (this is a miracle worker for streaking!)
- 2 cups water
- 8-10 drops essential oil of choice (Optional. Lemon, orange, or other citruses are great for this purpose, but lavender or others would be nice as well)
Seeing all these, it is quite evident that a different cleaning and maintenance approach would be required depending on the part you’re focusing on.
How to Clean Your Wooden Furniture
Here are specific tips on how you can clean and maintain your wooden furniture.
Generally, wood would have to be wiped down regularly to avoid any dust and dirt from accumulating. The more you let them gather, the harder they are to clean. Make sure you use a clean cotton cloth. If it’s just dust or minor kinds of dirt, dampening the cloth before using it to wipe the surface would be enough. Of course, you have to make sure that the wood is not saturated. Remember that on the list of factors that damage wood, water counts as the most damaging. It would be sad to damage your furniture in the process of caring for it, so do this with extreme care.
If you’re trying to get rid of any waxy or oily substance on the wood’s surface, you may have to mix some mild detergent to the water you use on the cloth. Just make sure you do patch tests first to make sure it does not affect the finish.
In wiping wooden surfaces dry, you would also have to be careful even if you’re using the softest possible cloth you can find. Dust, as small as it is, can actually scratch the wood’s surface! If there are any uneven areas or crevices in the wood, you can use a painter’s brush to remove any dust or dirt accumulating in small or hidden corners.
Don’t use feather dusters. Sure, the feathers are soft. However, the stems holding those feathers together can still scratch the wood’s surface.
You may also want to check the surface of the wood for any chips or scratches on the surface. If there are any, solvent or cleaning solutions may be harmful to the wood simply because some areas may not have the protective finish they used to have anymore. This is why it is extremely important to have the finish retouched the moment you notice any damage.
Stop believing those ads about miracles performed by cleaning aids as well. Yes, they make your furniture shine and sparkle. However, the polish can harden over time, especially if you spray or apply them frequently. This means that any dust left under it can be even harder to remove. To be quite honest, this still remains as one of the top problems a lot of furniture conservators face. But what can I say? Their ads are often convincing. And for a lot of naïve furniture owners, as long as their furniture pieces shine, they’re all good.
As far as other materials are concerned, note that they would also require separate cleaning. What works on wood will not work on them. Metal, for example, may tarnish over time.
In the case of vitreous materials like mirrors, glass and other similar surfaces, use a microfiber cloth, a squeegee, or chamois. Avoid paper towels because they leave residue behind all the time.
Just mix these ingredients together and use them the next time you clean your furniture. You’ll be amazed with the results!
Nothing beats the rustic and natural feel of wooden furniture. It adds a classic and familiar feel to any room, making you feel right at home.