Regularly cleaning your wood furnishings isn't just a matter of good housekeeping; it actually helps preserve the beauty and quality of the furniture.
Wood Furniture Cleaning: Do ... and Don't!
- Do dust frequently: Frequent dusting is great for your wood furniture; it helps protect it from potentially abrasive debris.
- Don't use all-purpose cleaning sprays: These kinds of sprays can be harmful and ineffective. Instead, use polishes designed for use on wood furniture.
Furniture Care Basics
These simple care and cleaning tips will help your furniture stand the test of time.
- by Jennifer Sellers
For most people, home furnishings are an investment. When you buy a piece of furniture, you expect it to be reasonably durable for however long you own it. Fortunately, there are simple guidelines for keeping your wood furnishings and upholstery in top shape for many years.
Your wood furnishings can be some of the most beautiful and lasting pieces you'll ever own. To help ensure their timelessness, you'll need to follow a few basic care and cleaning steps.
Start at the Beginning
Proper furniture care begins when you first buy your wood furniture. Many pieces will come with cleaning guidelines from the furniture manufacturer. The manufacturer's recommendations will not only provide you with an ideal care guide, they will also ensure you maintain your furniture under any warranty terms. If manufacturer guidelines aren't available, the sales associate you're working with is likely to be knowledgeable about wood care basics.
Before your wood furniture is delivered, carefully determine where it will be placed. "First, try and keep wood furniture out of direct sunlight and away from direct heat sources," emphasizes Eric Mawyer, vice president of training for Guardian Protection Products, a company that creates furniture care products designed to protect the appearance and extend the life of both wood and upholstered furniture. "Sun can fade the finish and heat can prematurely dry out the wood, causing issues with the finish," he says.
If you do place wood furniture in high-humidity or high-temperature areas, it may crack over time. In addition, if your furniture is in constant direct sunlight, its lacquer may darken. If you have pieces that are already in wood-unfriendly places, consider rearranging your furniture layout. You may also want to purchase furniture cleaner designed to slow the damaging effects sunlight has on furniture. Guardian Protection Products have additives that do just such a job, says Mawyer.
Handle with Care
In general, wood furniture is notoriously durable. And while your wood pieces may not be the most fragile or delicate furnishings in your home, you'll still want to take care what you put on or against them:
- Clean up spills as quickly as possible.
- Use coasters to avoid beverage rings.
- Don't place hot plates, cups or dishes directly onto the wood.
To protect the finishes of your wood furniture, it is also good to use cloth placemats rather than those with vinyl, plastic or rubber backs.
Regularly cleaning your wood furnishings isn't just a matter of good housekeeping; it actually helps preserve the beauty and quality of the furniture. In fact, if dust builds up for too long, it can scratch the surfaces of your furniture.
"Whether casual wood furniture or fine wood furniture, basic proper care will keep it looking great for a long time," says Mawyer. "Choosing the right products to polish and clean the surface of your wood furniture is very important. Improper cleaning products and methods can do more to damage the wood's finish than to help. Avoid wax-type polishes that can continue to build up on the surface of the wood over time, causing it to become hazy. A damp cloth or gentle water-based cleaners are all you need to remove finger prints, smudges and dust off the wood's surface."
Your upholstered furniture will likely be exposed to much more wear and tear than your wood furnishings, but there is still a lot you can do to enhance their durability.
"Unfortunately many people don't take the time to properly care for their upholstery," says Mawyer. "One thing we know for sure is that fabric is not self-cleaning, so some simple maintenance performed by the customer is necessary if their furniture is going to look great for a long time."
A Good Start
Even before your upholstered furniture is delivered to your home, you can take steps to protect it. Mawyer suggests having a quality fabric protector applied to the upholstery before delivery. "This can help customers keep accidental spills from becoming messy, permanent stains," he says. "And if there is a stain, protected fabric allows for easier cleaning."
Perhaps the simplest things you can do to help preserve the quality of your upholstery are flipping cushions and vacuuming. Once a week, rotate and fluff your sofa and chair cushions; this should help keep the wear even. You should also vacuum your sofa monthly, if possible.
"Simple vacuuming of the horizontal surfaces of fabric upholstery at least once a month can be one of the best ways to help keep airborne dust and dirt from settling into fabrics causing them to look dull and dingy," says Mawyer. "Over time, dust and dirt can actually begin to break down the fibers in fabric, causing furniture to look old before its time. Rotating the cushions will also ensure people are not always sitting on the same cushions—this provides for more even wear."
Vacuuming is safe for almost any upholstered furniture, but when it comes to additional cleaning, you have to consider what kind of fabric you have. These days, store-bought upholstered furniture usually comes with cleaning codes on the manufacturer's tag. The tags will let you know the safest, most effective way to clean your upholstery:
- W: This code indicates that foam from water-based cleaners, such as mild detergents or non-solvent upholstery shampoos, may be used.
- S: Water-free solvents must be used for upholstery with this code. Professional cleaning is recommended.
- W-S: Upholstered furniture with this code can be spot-cleaned with foam of a water-based cleaner or professionally cleaned with a mild solvent. Do not use carbon tetrachloride clean products on this furniture.
- X: This furniture should be cleaned by vacuuming only.
Whenever you apply a new type of cleaner to your upholstery, test it first in an inconspicuous area of the furniture. If you're having your furniture reupholstered, be sure to get fabric-cleaning guidelines from the upholsterer or the fabric store. If you are unsure about how to clean your fabric, Mawyer, suggests contacting a professional. "They will know the right way to clean the fabric without damage," he says.
The Sunlight Factor
Like with wood furniture, upholstery that is regularly exposed to direct sunlight will not last as long. To help prevent the fabrics of your upholstered furniture from fading, place it somewhere in the room where it will not receive intense or prolonged exposure to sunlight.