5 Steps to Properly Care for Your Solid Wood Furniture
I am always so excited when my customers finally get their new furniture into their home. I love to hear their reaction, I love to see how it looks in their light, with their decor. The first question they always ask is “How do I care for it?”
This is a very good question, because there is a lot of bad information and bad products out there that can quickly or slowly damage solid wood furniture. Understand that not all furniture is made to last, and that many products are not made to help your furniture last. A particle board table is only supposed to last a few years, so you can use cleaners on it that will eat through the finish in a few years. Your solid wood table from Luke’s Furniture Company is built to be an heirloom, so let’s look at the best ways to care for it. Note: these are cleaning tips for furniture that has received some kind of a varnish topcoat. If the only finish is wax or oil, care may look different.
1.Wipe the table with a damp cloth every time you use it.
Simple, boring, exactly what the wood needs. After you use the table, simply wipe it down. If this is done consistently then you usually will not need to take additional steps.
2. Use a soft sponge and some dish soap.
Life happens. Your kids colors on the table, you leave some spilled coffee and forget about it for a day. The damp cloth may work, but if you need a bit more power, just use a simple dish soap and a sponge. This is a great thing to do with any of your finished wood furniture, and you may be surprised at how dirty some furniture is after you clean it this way.
3. Avoid chemical cleaners.
Most chemical cleaners on the market are not designed to extend the longevity of the wood finish. They are designed to make the wood look great for the moment so you buy more of the cleaner. Many of these cleaners contain mineral spirits, which actually dissolves the finish. The purpose is to dissolve any dust created from scratches and scuffs, but it dissolves a small amount of your finish in the process. Over the course of a few years, you will see areas where the finish has worn away.
4. Apply wood oil every 1-3 months.
A good quality wood oil is essential to keeping your wood table hydrated and protected for the long term. My favorite is General Finishes Orange Oil, but there are many good ones out there. The main thing to avoid is any oils that have added mineral spirits, as it will slowly degrade the finish. Make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle, but generally you will apply the oil, let it sit for about 10 minutes, then gently buff it off. I suggest the additional step of buffing with the direction of the grain for the final step.
The oil will help in three main ways.
- It lubricates the surface. This seems like a strange benefit, but it is a very important one. The lubrication allows things to be pushed across the surface of your table WITHOUT SCRATCHING. Having that oiled surface will prevent scratches and scuffs.
- It HYDRATES the wood AND finish. If you ordered a custom table from us here at Luke’s Furniture Company, you will have an excellent finish to your table. It will look clear, smooth, consistent and will allow the wood itself to be the star of the show. You wouldn’t normally think of it, but the finish is actually porous. Tiny microscopic cracks and pores are all through the finish. These are what can absorb the oil while it is sitting on the table top waiting to be buffed. They also allow small amounts of oil to get through and hydrate the wood. When an area of wood or finish gets dry, more of these cracks can form,so that area will accept more oil and rehydrate.
- It can fill scratches and scuffs. The oil can fill in small surface scratches and scuffs. It will not fix deep scratches, but it can make them less noticeable.
5. Optional: You can apply furniture wax.
This last step is optional, and may not even be the best idea for you (more on that later). Wax works very similarly to oil, but performs those same tasks in a more effective and longer lasting way. It leaves a thin layer on the surface of the finish that can fill in small scratches, lubricate the surface and also add additional protection from moisture. I suggest waxing wood furniture every 6-12 months if you choose to use this method.
The main downside to wax is that if you regularly apply it, refinishing the table in the future will be much more difficult. A refinisher knows that it is extremely difficult to get all the wax removed, and varnish will not stick to the wax. One other weakness to wax is that it doesn’t handle heat well. A hot pan or really hot coffee cup could leave a burn mark. It is better to burn the wax than the finish, as it is easier to fix, but it is something to keep in mind.
Whether you ordered a custom, handcrafted table from Luke’s Furniture Company or got it from somewhere else, consistently following these steps will ensure you get a long life out of the finish on your furniture. Keep in mind though, even solid wood furniture can use a refinish every 5-10 years to keep looking its best. If you are looking for a table that will stand the test of time, contact us today to start designing!