Bedroom furniture custom made by RJ Fine Woodworking

care and cleaning of custom furniture

These tips are for new custom, used or antique furniture of many different finishes. Always use a test area on the furniture before applying the cleaning to the whole piece.

Custom Wood Furniture Care and Cleaning Tips

The type of finish on the wood, not the type of wood, determines how  the custom wood furniture care and cleaning  can be done and how to repair damage; so know what kind of finish it has. Finishes may be soft ( Tung oil or Danish oil ) or hard ( lacquer, polyurethane ), or painted .  

If you know which finish is on your wood furniture, follow the appropriate procedures for  furniture Maintenance. Excessive dampness, dryness, heat, or cold can damage wood furniture. Sunlight can change the color. Rubber or plastic mats should not be used unless marked safe for wood, since some may soften or stain the finish. Wipe up spills at once to prevent spots that require refinishing.

Polish not more than 3-4 times a year unless it gets heavy use, with a polish recommended for the kind of finish. Too much polish may build up a cloudy film; wipe off polish before it dries completely.

Do not mix types of polish. Oil causes wax to become gummy. Clean the furniture surface thoroughly before changing furniture care products.  Now lets look at the how's of Wood furniture care and cleaning.

Wood furniture Cleaning

Vacuuming with a dusting brush attachment gently removes dust from furniture surfaces, preventing buildup. If no vacuum cleaner, use a clean soft cloth, turning it often, or soft paper towels to pick up dust. Dust furniture before vacuuming floors. If the finish is water resistant, a barely dampened towel or cloth will pick up dust.

Pads, mats and coasters on furniture, mats under vases, glasses, cups etc. protect them from spills and stains, and from heated objects. Do not use plastic or rubber on natural wood surfaces as they may soften and damage finish. Use felt under objects set on top of furniture that could scratch it.

Guide to Oil Finishes on Furniture

The oil finish can have many names, from countries, ie French, Danish, Dutch to brands. Basically cleaning oiled wood requires you blend: 1 pint boiled linseed oil, 1 pint gum turpentine, and 6 oz. distilled white vinegar. Gum turpentine is flammable but smells like fresh wood. Wear gloves. Do not use around flame or spark; do not get on skin. Wipe the surface with a soft cloth that has been dipped in the cleaning solution. Never pour the solution directly onto the wood. Let the solution stand for a few minutes to loosen the soil; then wipe off the excess. All excess oil must be removed or it will attract dust and get gummy or tacky. To finish, rub with the grain.

NEVER USE wax or furniture polish on oil finishes. Re-oil yearly with boiled linseed oil, Tung oil, or a product recommended by the manufacturer. These oils harden when exposed to air and seal the wood. Never use non-drying oils like mineral oil for wood finishes for furniture. Avoid using an oil dressing too often or too liberally as it will cause a hardened oil build-up. If this happens, use mineral spirits (paint thinner) to dissolve the residue.

Guide to Lacquer Furniture Finishes

To  do wood furniture cleaning on a lacquer piece remember lacquer is hard and glossy but is also brittle so it may be dented or chipped. Avoid hard blows. Avoid use of water unless furniture label recommends it. The newer synthetic lacquers are more durable, however older lacquered pieces and many imports have finishes affected by some solvents, so test every product first on an inconspicuous area.

Regularly you will want to dust with a soft, dry cloth. Never use oiled or treated cloths on lacquered finishes. Some finishes can be wiped with a damp (not wet) cloth, followed at once by rubbing with a dry cloth, (test first in inconspicuous spot) to remove fingerprints and smudges. A solvent-based furniture cleaner may be useable on many finishes but always test first. Apply liquid wax on occasion to maintain a gloss,

When heavy cleaning is called for use a solvent base furniture cleaner. Apply with soft cloth in one hand, and wipe at once with soft cloth in other hand, doing only a small area at a time. An oil soap may be satisfactory on some finishes but test first to be sure it is OK with finish. Protect with liquid wax or polish to maintain a gloss.

Guide to Polyurethane Finishes

Common known  Polyurethanes are K1 type poly. I use a European K2 poly that is liquid plastic resins that dry to a durable satin or gloss finish. Polyurethane finishes are much more resistant to moisture and spills and moderate heat than traditional varnishes, and do not need much protection. Note most US manufactured furniture is NOT Polyurethane coated.

Dust regularly with a soft dry cloth and wipe dry. When needed wipe with a moist cloth, not wet. This will remove fingerprints and light soil. When dirt or grime have built up, clean with mineral spirits

Wax or polish can build into an enemy. Remove it with a cloth dampened with mineral spirits. Clean small areas at a time. Wipe each area with a clean cloth before going on to the next. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands, and dispose of them afterward, or wash in hot suds and air dry. Air-dry cloths used in cleaning to evaporate the solvent before disposing.

Guide to Painted Furniture Finishes

Painted finish furniture requires regular dusting with a damp cloth. When very soiled wash with a solution of mild, non-abrasive detergent and warm water. Wring a cloth nearly dry and work on a small section at a time, then rinse with clear water. Dry the surface before continuing. Wood furniture care and cleaning.

Waxes and polishes are usually not needed. If waxes are used, use a white creamy type on light painted items to avoid discoloration. Never use oil or any polish containing oil. Avoid oil treated cloths. Hand rubbing any polish can damage painted decoration or trim.

Painted surfaces can be carefully touched up with matching paint but the results often look patched. Where possible try to remove spots and scuff marks by washing or cleaning with household cleaners. Sanding will change the luster of the sanded spot, especially if the finish has been antiqued. If extensive damage has been done, the piece will need repainting.

I hope this page on Custom Wood furniture care and cleaning has help you in understanding your fine wood furniture Maintenance whether it is custom made or a fine antique.

RJ Spomer

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