How to Care For Wood Furniture

By Ellen Gefen

After doing your research, selecting a style, and saving up the money, you’ve finally purchased the dining room set of your dreams. So after all of that financial —and emotional—investment, you’ll want to ensure that your furniture stays fabulous for a long time. If you’re clueless as to how to care for wood furniture, you’ll need to understand how to keep it clean, what to use on it — and most importantly, what the enemies of wood furniture are. These nine tips can help you extend the life of your furniture for years to come.

Don’t Dry Dust

Here’s the biggest secret to safe dusting: Always use a polish-moistened cloth. Polish cushions the cloth, eliminating the scratching that can (and does) occur with dry dusting. Even though it’s tiny, dust will scratch the surface if not removed properly. Remember to change dusting cloths frequently since a dirty cloth may also scratch.

Keep It Soft

In order to keep your wood furniture somewhat scratch-free, you should use materials that won’t be abrasive to its surface. So use a soft, clean cloth when dusting or polishing your furniture. Try to avoid coarse or scratchy materials, or even fabrics (like wool, for example), that might wreak havoc on your wood furniture.

Skip the Soap

If you thought that you could clean your wood furniture by slathering some soap and water on, think again. Water can penetrate the finish and raise the grain on the wood, causing irreparable damage. So even if you want to see the suds while you’re cleaning, look for high quality wood polish and cleaners to get the job done.

Stay Out of The Sun

Many common problems in furniture care are caused by the elements — and sunlight is one of the biggest culprits. The sun can damage wood finishes, so arrange your furniture out of direct sunlight. A good idea is to determine the potential placement of your wood furniture, and then observe the sun’s patterns during the day. You might discover that a certain location gets direct sunlight, say, mid-afternoon, which can ruin your furniture. If you’re stuck on a certain space, you can use sun-screening drapes during intense sunlight hours.

Clean Up Quickly

Liquid spills will damage furniture if not removed promptly. That’s why you should always try to use coasters under beverage glasses. Use saucers under cups and flowerpots. If a spill occurs, immediately blot it gently without rubbing the surface. Doing so could actually make the spill worse — and damage the wood.

Stay Away from Heat

While some materials can withstand heat, wood is not one of them. Heat creates a chemical change in the furniture finish that can result in a white spot. That mark can be very hard or even impossible to remove on its own and can permanently damage the wood furniture. Get into the habit of using protective pads under hot dishes, utensils or cooking appliances.

Keep the Temperature Consistent

Wood is a material that can expand and contract depending on the climate it’s in. For example, high humidity causes wood to swell, while low humidity can cause it lose moisture and shrink. Extreme changes can cause warping, cracking, and even splitting. So, try to keep the humidity in your home as constant as possible to keep your furniture looking its best year-round.

Pick The Perfect Polish

A quality polish enhances the natural beauty of wood by complementing the luster and enriching the grain. It protects the finish because it serves as a temporary barrier to spilled liquids. The cleaning ingredients in polish effectively remove smudges, dust and soil when properly applied.

Consistently Clean

It’s important to have some kind of consistency when it comes to your cleaners. Be sure to use the same type of polish consistently. Your furniture will appear cloudy or streaky if oil-based and wax-based polishes are used interchangeably. Spray your furniture surface evenly, but not too generously. For wood trim, spray polish on the cloth first, then dust. Wipe in a circular motion with a soft, clean cloth to clean and loosen the old polish. Buff until completely dry for a beautiful shine and a smudge-resistant finish.

Fine furniture is an important purchase. Proper care will help maintain your furniture’s finish, protect your investment and ensure that it looks great year after year.