How To Care For Wood Furniture

How To Care For Wood Furniture


I have a lot of wood furniture. Table, chairs, upholstered chair and sofa frames, bed frames, dressers – you name it, we have it in wood.



My Grandfather worked for Kittinger Furniture Company for 40 years. His first 20 years as a cabinet maker, the last 20 years in the office. He enjoyed crafting furniture. For many people a job is a job, but Grandpa enjoyed furniture making so much, he was making furniture as a hobby in addition to his work. From refinishing to crafting to repair, he did it all. When I wanted to refinish the woodwork in my last house, he taught me how. After that, when he needed a piece of furniture stripped, I made myself scarce – otherwise I’d be enjoying that task. He often commented that he wished he had taught me 20 years earlier!

Wood furniture is beautiful. If you purchase a well crafted piece, care for that piece correctly, and keep it out of sunlight, it can last many lifetimes.

Note that: keep your wood furniture out of direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can fade furniture stains. Ever put a doily on a piece of wood furniture? If you keep that piece in front of a window and the doily in the same place for a long time, a few years later your will notice color differences in your wood – under the doily will be the original stain color, the areas surrounding the doily will be faded and lighter in color (this applies to a wood floor too – if you have a rug on top of your wood floor, move the rug sometime and see the difference!)

Before I wrote this piece, I reviewed with my Grandfather the proper way to care for wood furniture. Sure I’d been cleaning and caring for wood furniture myself for over 40 years (my mother believed firmly in using children as free labor), but it is always best to confirm with an expert – and my Grandfather is undoubtedly a wood furniture expert.

How To Care For Wood Furniture


To dust your wood furniture, a soft, lint-free cloth is all you need. I use swiffers now, but my grandparents never did.

When a piece of wood furniture gets dirty or someone slops food on it, smears fingerprints on it, etc, the best way to clean a sealed piece of furniture (varnished or polyurethaned with no visible cracking or lifting) is:

1 cup of white vinegar
1 gallon hot water
1 lint free rag to wash with
2 lint free rags to dry with (baby diapers are ideal!)

Add 1 cup of white vinegar to your 1 gallon of hot water. Dip your cloth in the water, and wring it dry. That means: no visible water should drip from the cloth. The cloth is barely even wet. As a general practice, you don’t want to get furniture wet, yet sometimes it needs to be washed off to remove dirt and stains. The drier your cloth, the better.
Wash surface.
Immediately dry with your lint free rag.
Take the second lint free rag and wipe again, buffing until you see a high sheen (assuming there is a sheen on your wood furniture).

Swap out your drying rags as they become damp. You want to dry the wood furniture completely. No wet should remain. I can’t emphasize that enough. Water will destroy your wood, so you must remove the water as soon as you apply it! Saying that, I’ve been cleaning my furniture like this for over 40 years, my grandparent’s furniture was cleaned like this going back 75 years! Just make certain before you begin that the sealant on your furniture is solid and doesn’t have any cracks or chips.

My Grandmother never used Endust or Pledge on a stick of furniture in her life. My Mother used Endust on a rag to dust until swiffers came along, and my parents furniture is still beautiful 50+ years later.

Keeping your furniture clean and out of direct sunlight are just a few pieces of the How To Care For Wood Furniture puzzle. The other important piece is to make sure you wax your sealed furniture. My grandfather recommends once or twice a year. Try not to wax more often then that.

How To Care For Wood Furniture


I moved one of my living room end tables into the bright light of the dining room so you could see what it is waxing does for wood furniture!

How To Care For Wood Furniture


How To Care For Wood Furniture


How To Care For Wood Furniture


Mr. Miyagi had it exactly right when he told the kid circular motions “wax on, wax off”. You want to apply a thin layer of wax in a circular motion with a lint free cloth.

How To Care For Wood Furniture


How To Care For Wood Furniture


Allow to just dry to a haze (don’t leave the wax on a long, long time or you’ll need some real elbow grease to remove it).
Then, with a lint free rag, in a circular motion, buff the woodwork to remove the wax.
Once the wax is removed, get a clean, lint free rag and buff to a high shine.

How To Care For Wood Furniture


Just that little bit of waxing makes a tremendous difference in the wood furniture sheen. The wax also serves as a protectorant from dust and dirt.

Take care of your wood furniture investment by keeping it well cared for! You, and your descendants, will be glad you did.


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Comments

  1. I was chatting w/ an ‘expert’ some time ago and they gave me a bit of advice:
    He said that it really didn’t matter which brand of polish you use-but what did matter was that you choose one and DON’T SWITCH.
    He said that diff brands have diff formulas and switching back-and-forth is not good for the wood. So choose one and use ONLY that one. Thus far, it has worked well for me. You ever hear anything like this before?

    P.S. That bit about water is SO true. Hurricane Wilma smashed out 5 windows along one side of my home. As a result. my wood furniture did suffer some rain damage that still exists 7 years later. If you get real close you can see tiny cracks in the finish along the wood grain. UGH.

    • Nope, never heard that, Barbee. My grandfather always recommended no polish, just the waxing once or twice a year.

      Oh no! I am so sorry that Wilma did damage to your home.

      Ann

      • Question: when you buy wooden furniture, doesn’t it come with a finish on it? Do I still wax it? I’ve never been taught how to care for my furniture. Thanks in advance.

        • The wood furniture that is recommended for waxing is definitely sealed, Beth. My stuff has a polyurethane-type coating, although some of my older pieces have shellac (which is no longer manufactured). Wood furniture that is not sealed (stuff that is antiques) has a special waxing and cleaning process and I wouldn’t use the tips I described above. Further, if there is any type of cracking in your finish, do not use water on your wood furniture.

          Ann

  2. And your finished product is amazing. We use vinegar for so many things and always with a great result. This is a nice easy way of explaining wood care.

  3. Most excellent tips. I’m glad I came across this post.

  4. What type of wax did you use?

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