You’ve just purchased a beautiful new piece of wood furniture, and you want to ensure it lasts as long as possible. Wood furniture is not only stunning in design; it is generally some of the most durable and long-lasting furniture items available. In fact, most heirloom furniture is constructed of solid wood.
When wood furniture is new, it may seem like it doesn’t need as much care and maintenance, but if you begin caring for it properly from the very beginning, you can ensure the furniture will last longer and retain its luster.
Cleaning wood furniture is an easy task, but one that is often not done correctly. Simply using an aerosol polish and cleaning rag isn’t the best way to care for your hardwood furniture, and there are certain types of chemicals you should never use on wood.
Modloft designers create some of our most popular pieces from different types of wood, and as such, we’re experts on caring for wood furniture pieces. We’ll cover the basics of wood furniture care, how to clean it, necessary maintenance, and types of materials that can be harmful to your wood furniture.
Basic Wood Furniture Care
From the moment you bring a piece of wood furniture into your home, it becomes exposed to you and the products you use in your home. From the dust in the air to the aerosol hair care items you use, particles of dirt, dust, and product collect on the surface of your furniture.
If those particles aren’t properly removed, they can gradually erode the finish on your furniture, weakening its durability and causing it to change in color in appearance. The particles of dust can scrape, scratch, and cause abrasions on your furniture if you sit an item atop a piece of furniture that is covered in a layer of dust.
Additionally, your furniture may be placed in a room where it is exposed to direct sunlight. If this is the case, untreated wood furniture (and even some treated types) can begin to fade or change color. If the temperature in the direct light gets too warm, it can even cause some treated wood to blister or peel.
The basics of wood furniture care are straightforward, don’t take a lot of extra time, and can be done without specialized polishes or cleaners.
- Protect Against Food Hazards. To ensure the surface of your wood furniture doesn’t become damaged by hot or cold, always use coasters, tablecloths, or mats when eating on your wood furniture. Hot and cold rings from cups and glasses can be difficult to remove, so preventing them from happening is the best option.
- Protect Against Environmental Hazards. Ensure your wood furniture isn’t exposed to direct sunlight, extreme heat (i.e., sitting directly next to a fireplace), or moisture. If your wood furniture is in a bathroom or directly near one, always use the extractor fan to make sure the humidity doesn’t hurt your furniture.
- Protect Against Scratches. Dusting is an easy way to ensure the buildup of particles on your furniture doesn’t damage the surface. Regular dusting can keep your furniture from getting scratches and stray marks.
- Clean when needed. Dusting and cleaning your wood furniture are two different things. We will cover cleaning later, but this is a part of basic wood furniture care.
- Perform Maintenance. If your wood furniture gets scratched or has damage that needs repair, take care of it by using a scratch remover or refinishing the entire piece, if necessary.
Cleaning Wood Furniture
Cleaning your wood furniture is separate and different from dusting, although dusting your furniture is one of the first steps in cleaning it. When cleaning your wood furniture, avoid all-purpose cleansers, which can contain chemicals that are too harsh for your wood, and could damage the finish of your furniture.
Here’s how to properly clean your wood furniture in five easy steps.
- Dust. Prior to cleaning, take a microfiber rag and remove the dust from the surface of the furniture. Don’t use polish or cleaner at this time; you’re simply removing the dust so you can clean the surface of the wood.
- Prepare your cleaning solution. You can use a wood-specific cleaning solution or make your own by mixing a small amount of mild dish detergent or castile soap with lukewarm water. You’ll find you only need a few drops of detergent with the water to get a good, deep clean.
- Using a clean cloth or rag, dampen it in the solution and gently rub down your furniture. Avoid scrubbing and make sure your rag is microfiber or another soft textile so that you don’t inadvertently scratch the surface of your furniture.
Pro tip: Make sure your rag is only slightly damp—do not moisten it completely or use an excessive amount of water on your wood furniture, as this can strip the finish!
- Using another clean rag, towel off the furniture, making sure you get any droplets of standing water. It’s imperative you make sure the furniture is dry; leaving water on the furniture could cause damage to it.
- Polish. Using a furniture polish or oil and another clean cloth, polish the furniture, making sure you buff the polish or oil into the furniture completely. Some polishes can contain ingredients that provide shine to your furniture but also leave behind a residue, so buffing the polish or oil into the furniture is essential in preventing a buildup of residue.
What Not to Do
Wood furniture doesn’t require much upkeep, but there are definitely mistakes you can make when attempting to care for it, which can damage it either immediately or in the long run.
- Don’t use harsh chemical products. Unless you plan to use a wood-specific cleanser that specifically says it is safe for use on the type of wood furniture you own, simply use a mild detergent and water.
- Don’t use sponges, brushes, or scrubs. Unless you want to refinish your furniture, avoid using anything that could scratch or cause an abrasion on your furniture. Cleaning sponges that contain melamine can pull the finish from your wood furniture.
- Don’t overdo it on the furniture polish. As previously stated, furniture polish can contain petroleum-based ingredients that help your furniture shine, but if you polish daily or don’t buff the polish in, you’ll end up with a thick coating of furniture polish residue that can be difficult to remove.
- Don’t use plain water or soak your furniture. Wood is porous, so only use enough water to activate the detergent or cleaning solution you are using.
Sometimes you have a messy issue on your wood furniture that soap and water won’t remove. Here’s how to handle a few common, specific issues with wood furniture.
- Stains. Whether it was a tomato-based sauce or red wine that was the culprit, you now have a large stain on your wood table. To remove it, try a mixture of equal parts toothpaste and baking soda. Gently massage the mixture onto your wood and allow it to sit for a few minutes before removing it.
If that doesn’t do the trick, you can also dab full-fat mayonnaise (yes, mayo!) on the area and gently blot the stain from the surface of the wood.
- Mold. Furniture that has just come from storage or has been handed down to you may have mold stains. Most mold stains are easily removed by using a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to gently lift off the mold particles. Once the particles have been removed, you can use a mild soap and water mixture to remove the stain.
- Odor. If your furniture has an unpleasant smell, you can treat it by sprinkling it with baking soda and allowing it to sit overnight. Vacuum or dust off the baking soda in the morning.
If a piece of wood furniture is particularly smelly, try leaving it outdoors in the shade (i.e., in an open garage) for a few hours to air out.
- Hardware. At some point, the hardware on your wood furniture can tarnish, but attempting to use brass or metal cleaner on your hardware while it is still attached to the furniture is a bad idea. Remove the hardware prior to cleaning and replace it once it is cleaned and all cleaner has been removed.
If you can’t remove the hardware, use painter’s tape around the edges of the hardware to prevent the cleaner you use from getting on the wood.
Caring for your wood furniture will help it last longer and remain beautiful for years to come. Modloft recommends you pay specific attention to the care instructions that come from the designer or manufacturer when cleaning your wood furniture.
In general, dusting your furniture and cleaning it regularly will keep it safe and in great shape.
How to Clean Wood Furniture to Make It Look New Again | BHG
What Is Castile Soap? Plus, the Natural Benefits of Cleaning with It | Martha Stewart
How to Clean Wood Furniture | HGTV