Real wood is a bit of a rarity in homes where cheap furniture is little more than laminated particleboard. All this changes when a homeowner invests in the first piece of real wood furniture: there is just nothing like a real cherry wood shelf. It is solid, feels lukewarm to the touch and seems to speak of evenings at home. Once you add a dining room table, some chairs, a coffee table and a dresser, the apartment really feels like a home. Is caring for wood very different than for other bits and pieces of furniture? Indeed, there are four must-know wood care tips everyone should know (and follow)!
Wood demands R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Even though the wooden wardrobe from Great Grandma Abigail’s house has been around since Lincoln took an ax to a cherry tree, the material is surprisingly susceptible to damage. While a glossy wood surface calls out for decorative picture frames, placing scratchy items straight onto the wood will likely result in small surface scratches. The same holds true for vases and even writing with a ballpoint pen! Treat wood with respect and recognize that its surface demands protection. An attractive doily under a collection of picture frames, discrete felt discs glued to the underside of a vase or an old-fashioned writing surface protect and complement the look of the wood.
Keep wood in the shade. Caring for wood is not only concerned with the proper handling and cleaning but also the right placement of the furniture. Did you know that the ultraviolet rays of the sun dull the wood? Wolman, a manufacturer of exterior wood care products, refers to an exterior wooden structure when warning against the drying and discoloring effects sunlight has on decks and patios. Even so, the lesson holds true for interior wood as well. A wooden table placed in front of a window will – over time – begin to gray. This is especially obvious when a portion of the table is consistently shaded. After I managed to ruin a particularly gorgeous cherry wood writing desk in this manner, I am always mindful of furniture placement. In case of a doubt, put a cloth over the item during the worst time of the sun exposure.
Wax and silicone polish are evil. Experts in the field tirelessly warn against the readily available wax and silicone polishes that permeate the wood care product aisle. Wax tends to build up on wood (no matter much elbow grease you apply to rub it out). Due to its sticky nature, it attracts dust, dirt debris and smoke. Before long, there are plenty of smudges on the furniture. The vicious cycle continues as the furniture owner applies more wax polish to clean the items. Adding insult to injury, some waxes actually react with the wood’s surface coating and damage the upper layers of the furniture. Silicone is not much better. Sure, it makes the table top so shiny that you could use it for a mirror, but due to its chemical makeup this substance actually soaks into the finish. This alters the nature of the finish and – if a refinish takes place – might actually make this task virtually impossible without a costly wood stripping job.
Caring for wood takes dusting and polishing. Toss out the feather duster (it moves the dust from left to right but does not remove it) and instead opt for the static cling dusting cloth. Some brands come with a handle, which makes them very convenient for even taller pieces of wood furniture. Static cling products also have the advantage of reducing the dependence on spray cleaners. Dust the wood as often as needed. Polishing wood, on the other hand, should be a monthly ritual. Use a high quality furniture polish (without wax or silicone) and a lint-free soft cloth. Remove old wax buildup with wood cleaner prior to polishing with a new product. Work with the grain of the wood.
Whenever caring for wood involves the use of cleaners and chemicals, remember that ‘less is more.’ Sure, polishing that gorgeous oak bookshelf takes a bit of elbow grease when you don’t douse it in waxy oil, but the resulting shine is well worth the effort.
Wolman: “Wood Care Basics”
Furniture Products: “Wood Care Tips from Guardsman”
More by Sylvia Cochran:
DIY Refinishing Hardwood Floors? Read This FAQ First!
Guide to Cleaning Exterior Wood, Aluminum and Vinyl Siding
How to Remove Candle Wax Stains