How to care for wood furniture
Pledge to put the polish down: How to care for wood furniture.
Good morning my lovely people of Butler County. Sometimes we need a little refresher course on how to care for our wonderful homes and the treasures we own! So today we shall visit about caring for wood furniture.
For starters, be sure to inquire about proper care whenever you purchase something new. This does a couple of things for you: (1) It helps prevent you from doing something that might void the warranty and (2) it tells you the proper way to care for furniture from that particular manufacturer. If it’s too late for that, as is often the case, follow these tips for dusting, polishing and touching up your wood furniture.
I tend to dislike dusting because, when I do it correctly, it’s very time consuming. And by correctly I mean picking up everything I own to dust under it. My mom was a real fussbudget about dusting under—not around—all the lovelies, and so am I. (Although I admit to speed dusting with a good-old’ Swiffer before guests arrive.) In addition to moving all your items, keep in mind that dust is abrasive. You need to remove it without grinding it across the surface. There are many different thoughts on how to do this.
Do you use a feather duster, which does a dandy job, but can send the dust particles flying through the air to land on something else? I find feather dusters wonderful for delicate silk shades and ornate frames; it is the gentlest way to clean items like these.
For surfaces, I like a slightly damp soft clean cloth—in fact, this is where old T-shirts lead a second life in my home. It will do an excellent job of removing dust. Microfiber cloths are yet another delicate way to dust your fine furniture.
Another method, which I learned from my mother-in-law, is using a chamois like you use on your a car. Reserve one or two for your fine furniture and piano finish. Chamois leather is perfect for dusting as its very porous, absorbent, nonabrasive and incredibly gentle. Wet and wring it out until there isn’t a drop of moisture left to leave the cloth. This is all I used while lived in Colorado’s extremely dry climate for more than two decades, and it remains my favorite.
A word of warning right from the start: Don’t use multipurpose spray cleaners on any of your furniture unless it has a laminate top! If a product can clean a mirror, I would be reluctant to use it on fine wood! Another reason cleaning products can be tricky is that some contain a high level of oil, which tends to show fingerprints and attract dust. Let's look at what might be in commercial cleaners and the possible benefits and pitfalls.
Furniture polish contains silicone because it makes the polish easy to apply and buff off. Back in my Ethan Allen days, I learned that silicon may not be the best ingredient for your furniture because it causes real issues if you need to refinish an item. Removing the silicone residue and its lingering film is impossible, which can cause a new finish to bubble. In addition, the long-term use of silicone on your furniture causes the finish to break down. OK, ladies and gentlemen, put down your morning drink, take a deep breath and listen to me! Pledge has silicones in it! I know, I know, your mom used it. Heck, even grandma might have used it. But you shouldn’t. Over time, it will alter the finish on your furniture. If you have used a silicone product and do indeed need a repair, be honest with the refinisher and fess up to it. Some very skilled refinishers will actually add silicone to the repair to equalize the area. Most professionals will tell you not to use the product. In fact, during my research, I found one person who believes Pledge should be banned. Now that is harsh!
Using oil soaps can cause issues as well. Plus, it stands to reason that if you care for your furniture in a loving way, it won’t get so grimy that it needs soap. But perhaps you find something at the back of the basement that could use a good cleaning. I do have a recipe for cleaning this type of grimy furniture: Mix equal parts of olive oil, denatured alcohol, gum turpentine, and strained lemon juice. Apply the mixture with a soft cloth and buff with a clean cloth. Be sure, however, to test it on an area that is not conspicuous!
What about those everyday bangs and booboos that affect your furniture? Let’s say you bang the vacuum into the leg of a chair or drop something on a tabletop. The nick is not severe enough to require a professional repair, so here is a simple fix. Purchase three colors of shoe polish—black, brown and cordovan (red wine colored—then blend a combination of the polishes to match the wood finish. Apply the polish to the area with a soft cloth and buff. Furniture repair markers available at Bed Bath & Beyond work well for this purpose, but I think the shoe polish gives you a better repair.
Suppose you acquire a vintage piece of furniture that smells old and musty. You can do several things to eliminate that stench. First, sit the piece outside in the sun and fresh air. This works similar to actually dehumidifying the piece. The rays from the sun will literally dry out the wood and remove the musty smell. Another option is to put coffee grounds, charcoal, baking soda or kitty litter in an open container inside the item’s drawers or the cabinet. Make daily visits to the piece and take a good sniff, replacing the product of choice as needed. You can also try wiping the drawers and interiors with a rag or nylon bristle brush, being mindful not to let the piece get too wet. Try a solution of vinegar and water or 2 gallons of water with 1/2 cup of Pine-Sol. One last option I was told about years ago: Wipe down the drawer and cabinet interiors with a cheap straight vodka!
When it comes to furniture care, your common-sense strategy is to prevent scratches and dings in the first place.
• Coasters are a must. I find that needlepoint coasters are just the cat’s meow. Even when condensation accumulates on the glass, you can lift the glass without bringing the coaster along. Don’t you just hate that! Warning: They are pricey, but well worth the ability to prevent damage from falling coasters! I found amazing ones at Smathers & Branson (www.smathersandbranson.com).
• Placemats on dining furniture are another simple and smart investment. My favorites, such as Pimpernel, are often found at Tuesday Morning. They are just lovely, wonderful scenes—like a piece of art for the table—and you can always find ones for the current holiday. Wipe off for easy cleaning; no need to wash or iron. Again, these are a bit on the pricey side, but I am telling you they are addictive. Use them in the center of a table to protect the wood form a hot dish.
• Use trivets on the dining table to guard against the white scorch marks that hot dishes can cause.
• Custom table pads are ideal for handling a holiday dinner and the damage that can happen to fine wood. I like Sentry Table Pads (www. sentrytablepads.com).
• Finally, all the pretties we use to decorate our homes need to have adhesive protective dots to eliminate scratches. These are available everywhere: Ace, Dillion’s, Walmart. I suggest you stockpile them, so when you bring a new treasure home, you can put them on right away before you forget.
I do want to say one thing about scratches and the occasional damage that can happen to your furniture: Don’t stress about it. I’ve had clients who put glass on every tabletop to protect it, much like a hotel. But guess what folks, life happens! Things get dinged, and furniture without some human history is not being used or loved! I will end with one of my favorite stories. I have only one darling granddaughter…Sophia! I had received a black baby grand piano for Christmas that played one year…oh what a delight. We all stood around it singing and my husband (Bob) put Sophia on the closed top to dance and giggle and generally entertain us all. The next morning I discovered many fine lined scratches all over the top of my new piano. Nope Bob left her shoes on so would not slip! They were lovingly known as "Sophia Scratches"!
Use and love your furniture and embrace the occasional boo boo!
Have a lovely and beautiful week my friends!