Timber furniture makes some of the most appealing home decors you can find, but only if you care for it properly. Wood is a natural material that is more vulnerable to scratches, chips, and other damage than is metal or plastic.
A piece of timber furniture requires regular cleaning, dusting, refinishing, and more. Here’s an essential guide to cleaning and caring for your timber furniture.
What Kind of Finish Do You Have?
Before starting any cleaning, find out what finish your furniture has. Some cleaning products react poorly with certain finishes.
Wood can be unfinished, but more often it has a coat of solution to keep out moisture. This coat can be wax, a stain, a chemical sealant, shellac, or lacquer. If you don’t know, find out. Soap and water go a long way toward cleaning most pieces of furniture.
Cleaning Untreated Wood
Step 1: Dust the Wood
Use a smooth, clean duster or cloth that’s slightly damp. The moisture pulls up the dust rather than spreading it around to a different spot. Move the cloth in the direction of the grain to preserve the pattern over time.
Step 2: Clean with Soapy Water
After you dust, dip a cloth in mild soapy water. Wipe everywhere on the chair or table. When you clean, apply the water to the fabric and wipe down the wood. Never apply water directly to wood because it can get oversaturated.
Step 3: Dry Quickly
After you finish immediately rinse and dry with a smooth cloth. Never leave water on untreated wood because it can lead to rot.
Keep untreated wood out of the elements as much as you can. Even if you don’t get actual water on it, if you live in a humid environment it can have the same effect. Water collects from the air onto and inside solid surfaces, and with wood, this is not a good thing at all.
Cleaning Finished Furniture
When it comes to finishes, most finishes respond well to a simple solution of dishwashing detergent and warm water and being wiped down with a rag. The exception here is wax.
You don’t want to use detergent with wax; instead, use soap flakes. You can also find commercial wax cleaners that come ready-made and ready to use.
You should avoid using scented sprays on finished surfaces. The chemicals in aerosol sprays not only are bad for the environment, but they also react badly with certain types of wood finish.
Spray polish tends to leave an unsightly residue on wood that can be difficult to get off. Wiping down with soap and water is the simplest, best solution. If you do use commercial cleaners, always dry the furniture. Water spots and spray spots don’t look good on furniture.
Polishing vs. Waxing
If you polish wood, you’re simply applying a substance that makes the wood shiner. Most of the time, you’re not protecting it, just making it more slippery and less likely to catch onto things that would cause scratches or dents.
When you polish, you can leave a residue that will interfere with any future repainting or refinishing. Also, if you’re using a polish that has a lot of oil, it can smear and make fingerprints more obvious. You’ll have to clean all the more often when this happens.
Waxing, on the other hand, offers an actual hard coat. This coat, when properly applied, can last for years and only comes off after you apply a solvent. Waxing takes a little longer than polishing, but it provides more protection.
Before doing any cleaning, you should always dust the wood. To apply paste wax, rub it in small circles across the furniture until it’s completely covered. Then, use opposite motions to remove it with a clean cloth. Wax on, wax off.
After you’ve finished, and the wax has dried, go back over the furniture with a feather duster.
Moving Wood Furniture
When you have to move wood furniture like a bookshelf, carefully measure the dimensions of each doorway you’ll pass through. Trying to go through too small a doorway can cause you to scratch your furniture, and it can be difficult to erase the signs of a scratch.
Another thing you can do to prevent damage to your furniture is to place several layers of paper towels around the edges. They’ll act as a buffer between the furniture and water.
You can also use newspaper, but beware that the ink may rub off and need cleaning from the wood immediately after placing the furniture.
Fixing a Scratch
The dreaded has happened. You miscalculated when moving that antique armoire or your bedroom dressing table and now there’s a nick in the wood.
Luckily, there are ways you can deal with them. Scratches might just take the finish off the wood, or if they’re deep, they can go down into the wood itself. It’s far easier to apply finish than it is to refill a scratch, but we’ll briefly explain how to do both.
To remove light scratches, apply a diluted mixture of water and rubbing alcohol with a damp rag, then apply commercial scratch remover. You may also want to apply pigmented polish to make your furniture look like the scratch never happened.
For deeper scratches, you can use wax to fill it in. You can also use wood filler, but that requires glue, and wax takes the form of the scratch more easily.
First, use 600-grit or finer sandpaper to smooth out the edge. Then, gently run the wax stick into the scratch until it fills in the gap. Use a putty knife or something similar to scrape the excess wax away, then apply the polish of your choice. Two coats of polish should work nicely.
Keeping timber furniture clean and cared for doesn’t have to be difficult. As long as you perform regular cleaning and maintenance, keep your furniture away from water, and avoid getting it scratched, you can keep your wooden furniture looking great for years and decades to come.
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