How to Clean Wood Furniture

Wood furniture has been a staple in living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms for many years. Not only are pieces crafted from wood elegant, they are also extremely durable and can last many years when taken care of properly. Here are a few tips gathered from many years refurbishing pieces in the furniture rental business to help you ensure your wood furniture looks its best.

Create the Ideal Environment

Keeping your wood furniture looking beautiful starts with making sure the environmental conditions don’t damage the wood. Keep wood furniture away from bright sunlight and locations near sources of excessive heat that may dry out, shrink and crack the wood. Keep temperatures and humidity levels somewhat moderate and consistent. In general 40% to 45% humidity works well for wood. High humidity can cause warping or the growth of mildew. Furniture in storage should likewise be kept in controlled conditions, and should also be kept covered.

Clean Using Tried and True Techniques

From time to time, wood furniture needs cleaning. Proper cleaning techniques depends on the surface of the wood. Most well-sealed clear-finished furniture (shellacked, varnished or lacquered furniture) can be cleaned effectively using the following steps:

  1. Remove any metal hardware before polishing them, as these solvents can damage a finish.
  2. Use a clean, dry cloth to remove any dust or dirt from the surface of the wood. A soft bristle brush can be used in hard-to-reach areas.
  3. Gently wipe the wood surface with a cotton cloth that has been damped thoroughly in a warm solution of mild soap and water and then wrung out. (Do not use a heavy detergent, as this may damage the finish.)
  4. Follow this by wiping the surface down with a second cloth damped by water only to “rinse” off the soap. Again, wring out the cloth to avoid soaking the surface of the wood.
  5. Dry the surface completely with another clean, dry cotton cloth.
  6. Finally, polish the wood with a high quality paste wax and buff according to the instructions. This helps protect the finish from damage.

Repair Damaged Surfaces

For surfaces that are already cracked, flaking or raised, or to clean veneered or inlaid furniture, water can easily damage the surface. In these cases, mineral spirits may be used instead of soap and water. However, be sure to test a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure that the mineral spirits will not weaken the finish. Be sure to follow all of the product instructions rigorously. Mineral spirits can also be used to remove a build-up of wax.

For unfinished furniture or furniture with a wax finish, dry dusting or wiping with a dry cloth is recommended. Likewise, painted surfaces should be dusted and dry-wiped rather than cleaned unless you have instructions specific to the paint type and finish. Whether you have a home staging business, have an interest in furnished housing, or just just love quality furniture, with these tips, you can keep your furniture looking amazing for years to come. If you have your own tips, join us on Facebook or Twitter and share them with our CORT community.