How to Maintain Wood Furniture to Make it Last a Lifetime and More

Use the following tips to repair scratches, water rings, and more, or just to give your fine furniture the respect it deserves.

Having an elegant piece of wood furniture is something that has been prized throughout the ages but keeping that piece of furniture looking its best and giving it the long life it deserves takes a little work. And the key here is a little work. It is one of those situations where the more care you dole out to your furniture, the more harm you are doing to the piece.

Regular Cleaning for Wood Furniture

Keep those commercial wood cleaners away from your valuable pieces, especially if they contain a silicone base (which most of them do) as it creates its own finish that is nearly impossible to remove. Instead go the old-fashioned route and use a damp dust cloth for regular cleanings. When deep cleaning is needed, opt for odourless mineral spirits on oiled wood and mineral spirits or plain old-fashioned soap and water for varnished wood. Then proceed with a wax or polish to restore the lustre.

Waxing and Polishing Wood Furniture

If you are just dying to have that shiny finish that the commercial products promise, then you will have to give it a little more effort and polish or wax the finish. By using a paste wax or a polish you are filling in the imperfections in the polish, not the wood itself, and you are creating that nice uniform, smooth finish. Make sure you follow the directions on the back of the product you choose as they can vary slightly.

But again, it is a little more effort for the waxing and polishing, meaning this is not a task you should regularly undertake. Experts differ on their recommended timelines, but no one recommends applying a wax more than once a year and many stretch that time frame out two to four years.

Repairing Wood Furniture

Wood is not indestructible, and every treasured piece will probably suffer some damage in its lifetime, but fortunately, there are some tricks to minimize the damage. No matter what sort of damage you have, treat the repair area only as you do not want to do anything that could damage the entire piece; you are just repairing an already existing imperfection.

Light scratches can usually be erased with wax, but deeper scratches may need a little paste; shoe polish in the same colour or a wax stick in the same colour.

Water rings can be a nightmare, and if it is a dark stain you’ll need to contact a professional restorer. Light rings may be cured on an oil finished piece of furniture by rubbing paste wax on the surface with a grade 0000 fine steel wool. Or you may want to try rubbing mineral spirits on the ring with the same grade of steel wool only in the direction of the grain. Shellac finished pieces can be treated with mineral spirits and then a “reviver” to restore the lustre of the finish.

Candle wax can be removed by a cold or hot method, or a little of both. Initially you can chill the wax and pick it off with something like a credit card (never use a knife). If the wax remains, use a blow dryer on a lower heat to soften the wax and wipe it away. Then clean the top with mineral spirits.

With fine wood furniture it is really more about respect than effort. Follow this guideline and you will have a piece that may last several lifetimes and appreciate greatly in value.



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