Caring for Wooden Antique Furniture

Antique Dresser

Antique DresserBeautiful old furniture glows with a warmth that’s very special. The beauty of antique furniture that has been cleaned and waxed reflects loving care by its owners over the years. Here are some tips for keeping your antique furniture in the best possible condition.

The NUMBER ONE RULE is NEVER use Pledge or other spray furniture cleaning products on your antique furniture. They leave an oily residue–even the ones containing lemon oil. It’s not the shine you need to preserve but the patina.

Never use anything that has a rough texture to it. This could scratch the furniture you’re trying to preserve. And that means avoid feather dusters too. Broken feathers are like little scratchy sticks that will mar the surface.

Remember to take the dust oft the piece entirely. This may sound silly, but a lot of times, when an object has wax on it, you just move the dust around. This happens when you use a spray cleaner like Pledge.
Minwax Finishing WaxAlways use a good-quality paste wax, like Minwax–to wax the wood. Higher priced beeswax from England will also work well. Apply a little at a time, rubbing softly following the grain of the wood, building up a deep layered finish. A furniture’s patina, especially on an older piece, is very important and must be nurtured. This process should be done at least once a year, if not more.

Use a very soft cloth, such as cheesecloth, for waxing. Try not to overdo the amount of wax you use. Spread it on in a thin, even coat and rub evenly and gently to bring up a high polish. You want to build up a good finish with wax, one that will seal and protect the wood underneath.

But be gentle when waxing your antique furniture. If a piece of veneer or inlay comes loose, save it. Such pieces are irreplaceable, and substitutes are impossible to find. The pieces should be tucked away in a safe place, then brought to a furniture or wood expert to restore. Don’t attempt to glue them back or to make the repairs yourself.

Many pieces of furniture have some kind of metal ornamentation or hardware, such as brass knobs or keyholes, ormolu, or other decoration. These bits of metal should not be polished with any metal-cleaning product. By polishing the metal, you take a chance on damaging the wood underneath. Instead you should just dust them carefully several times a year. If the hardware on your piece is badly tarnished, carefully remove it, polish it with a good polish appropriate to the type of metal, and replace it on the piece.

Caring for your Antique Furniture with Minwax Finishing WaxIf your house or apartment is especially dry in winter, you should use a humidifier. Wood responds to changes in temperature and humidity. It swells or shrinks and can warp or split. So try to avoid extremes in temperature and make sure that your wood objects do not dry out or become too damp. Today’s homes, especially, are often heated with forced air heat, which can tend to dry out furniture quickly. The same applies to too much moisture. Occasionally check the back of your furniture, like pieces resting against an outside wall, for signs of mold and mildew. If you find some, immediately wipe it off with a soft cloth moistened with a very dilute solution of household bleach–10 parts water to 1 part bleach.

In the case of spills, stains, or serious scratches, avoid using homemade remedies. Instead, call a good furniture restorer to assess and repair the damage.

Boxes and other little wooden objects should be dusted very lightly with a soft, dry brush or small dust rag. Try not to use a dust rag since loose threads can catch on pieces of veneer or marquetry, pulling them off.

Article By Bob Brooke

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