Furniture Maintenance,  Do's and Don'ts

A little regular maintenance can head off future problems before they happen.  Conversely, doing the wrong things to your furniture can damage its surface, weaken its joints or accumulate into needed and costly repairs.  Much of this information is just “common sense,” but many of us are so busy in our everyday lives that we don’t have time to worry about the details.  Here’s a short list of tips to remind you of the “little stuff” that may help prevent the costly, “big stuff” later on.

Enjoy your furniture. Good furniture should last a lifetime if you use a “Common Sense” approach to taking care of it.


Things you SHOULD do:

1.       Deep clean and wax your furniture once a year. The basic yearly care of furniture is: A) wipe down your furniture with mineral spirits to remove old wax, dirt build up and oil.  (Mineral spirits won’t hurt the existing finish, different chemistry).  B) After wiping down with spirits allow the piece to dry overnight.  C) Then apply a thin coat of paste wax - BriWax or Howard’s works well – following the instructions on the can of wax.  Use tinted wax to enhance the color. D) After that, dry dust only.  Do not use any other polish and do not use product that contains oil of any sort or silicone—nothing but paste wax. Period.   Reapply wax once a year.

2.       Just like people rotate their bed mattresses, you should also rotate your furniture, such as dining room tables, kitchen tables, coffee tables, side tables, etc.   Pick a date, like your birthday or a holiday and turn the table around.   Remember that furniture exposed to strong light will fade and the finish may even start to disintegrate.  Excessive wear from using one spot more than another will decrease the life of your furniture.

3.       Use felt cloth or discs beneath lamps, vases and other decorative items you set on your antique furniture.  This will save your furniture from being scratched and the finish damaged.  This also works to protect hardwood floors from the tips and feet of your furniture.

4.       Use coasters!  It seem like such a simple thing, but people so often forget.  Do not place anything that is moist or wet directly against your furniture.  This includes sitting pot plants on them.  If you want to use a piece of furniture for plants or other high moisture items, purchase glass cut to size for the tops of your furniture.   Also, don’t forget to use clear plastic discs (about the size of a nickel and available from the glass company) between the furniture and the glass so that the finish can breathe.

5.       Use trivets, place mats or a large table pad to protect your dining room table from hot dishes and plates.   

6.       If you have a “sticky” drawer, purchase a can of silicone lubricant.  Pull out the problem drawer and make sure that the wooden runner is not completely worn down or that a part isn’t missing. Then by simply spraying the bottoms of your drawers on the runner and the corresponding case runner(s), you will find the drawer will open and close more easily. Beeswax works as well for this application.


Things you SHOULD NOT do:

1.       Don’t place your furniture in strong light as a permanent location. The light will fade the pigment in the wood and damage the finish. Strong light will also fade upholstery and cause the fabric to deteriorate faster. When possible, close blinds and curtains during the day and remember to rotate your furniture once a year.  Don’t use a centerpiece like a beveled mirror or a table runner on your dining table for long periods of time if it sits in strong light. When you remove the centerpiece, you will notice a difference in color where the centerpiece sat and it generally is not repairable.

2.       Don’t put plastic covers directly on your wooden furniture. The plastic (if left any length of time) will adhere to your furniture and might pull the finish off when you try to remove the cover because the solvents in the plastic are the same as the solvents in the finish.

3.       Don’t store your dining room table leaves in the closet standing on end because the leaves may warp especially if they are only used once or twice a year. When possible, store them flat under a bed wrapped in a couple of old sheets.

4.       Don’t try to repair your loose dining room or kitchen chairs yourself unless you have clamps as well as glue. Gluing without clamping is the same as not gluing and putting fresh glue into joints that already have glue in them probably won’t hold because glue doesn’t stick to glue.

 5.       Don’t try to move the bed by yourself to clean under it. You will probably torque it and stress the joints where the rails fit in and the bed may break. Instead, get help. Help is a lot cheaper than hiring a furniture professional to repair the broken bed while you are sleeping on the floor.

 6.       Don’t put scent packets directly on your furniture. They smell great but if left on the furniture, will damage the finish. Again the solvents are the same as the finish. Put these decorative packets in a pretty dish or bowl.

 7.       Don’t set colored candles (red green, blue and black are worst!) directly on your furniture, especially if it is light colored. The color may bleed through the finish and into the wood. When you are burning votive candles, check the glass candle holders every so often to make sure they aren’t real hot. When they get too hot to pick up, the heat may scorch the finish on your furniture.

 8.       Don’t load bookshelves with too much weight. The shelves will sag and may even break the supports, especially if the shelves are not made of solid wood.

9.       Don’t panic if you see a white mark on your furniture. Leave it alone and it may go away by itself. A white mark usually means that moisture is trapped in the finish and if left alone may disappear on its own. Whatever you do, don’t try mayonnaise or cigarette ashes or oil. If the white mark doesn’t go away by itself within 48 hours, call a furniture pro to help you out.

10.   Don’t “feed” the finish on your wooden furniture. The finish is synthetic and the wood is dead. You only need to keep it cleaned, waxed and dry, not oiled.