Wood furniture is popular for its beauty, strength and durability in the home. While some exotic or antique woods require special care and maintenance, most wood furniture today is easy to clean and maintain. All it takes is a little care and a few simple steps to keep your wood furniture in great shape and looking its best.
The Wood Finish Determines the Care
The finish on wood furniture determines the type of care and maintenance it needs. There are differences between the proper methods to clean soft (oiled) finishes and hard finishes like oil varnish or polyurethane. If you are buying your wood furniture new then ask the store about the finish so that you will know what kind of cleaning and care is needed. If you are not sure of the finish, you can test it to determine what it is. Pick an inconspicuous spot to do the testing so that you do not inadvertently leave unsightly marks. Start with a few small drops of linseed oil rubbed gently over the wood. If it is absorbed into the wood then the wood has an oil finish and you can stop testing. If it beads up, however, the wood has a hard finish and you should proceed with the next step.
Take a few small drops of denatured alcohol and apply them to the wood. If the finish is made of shellac, it will dissolve quickly, but if it is made of varnish, the reaction will be much slower.
Use the proper cleaners and polish
Once you have determined the finish on your wood furniture you can select the correct cleaner and polish for that type of finish. Never mix different types of polish or use a polish that is not made for the specific type of finish on your wood. In general, you only need to polish every three to four months to maintain your wood furniture in good condition. Polishing too often or applying too much polish at any one time can lead to a cloudy, filmy build up that detracts from the look and feel of the wood.
General Cleaning and Care
General cleaning and care of wood furniture is the same regardless of the finish on the wood. Avoid using wet cloths or mops, as this will stain and damage the wood. Dust your furniture regularly using a soft cloth or a vacuum cleaner with a dust brush attachment. This will keep the build up of dirt to a minimum and help prevent scratches and ground-in grime. Always use coasters, place mats or other protective materials when placing anything on top of your wood furniture. If water or other liquid is spilled on the wood, wipe it up immediately with a cloth. Never place hot objects directly onto the wood of your furniture as this can discolor the finish and leave a permanent mark in the wood. Protect your wood furniture from excessive exposure to sunlight, heat, cold or excessively damp or dry environments. Use sheer curtains on windows to shield decorating and furniture from sunlight, and use either a humidifier or de-humidifier as needed to keep the air in the room from becoming too dry or too damp.