Catching up on Furniture care
July 8, 2017 3:47 PM   Subscribe

Help me up my game in a household chore.

I have nice antiques and other furniture that need to be nourished and pampered. I have given them the bare minimum of care for years, as in just dusting with a microfiber cloth. I think I am ready to take care of them like they deserve to be cared for. The finishes look fine but just parched.

I have a butcher block and a mix of furniture, some dark and some light finishes, including some oak. Also, rattan outdoor furniture that has varnish on it.

Please give me recommendations of products that are lightly pleasant smelling. I don't care for heavily scented stuff. The most important thing is feeding and preserving the the wood. Any other tips on furniture care would be helpful.

Thank you!
posted by goodsearch to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This Swiffer won me over from Pledge and the like. It does a very nice job nourishing wood furniture. The first few times, you'll want to spray it directly on the furniture, rub it around, and give it plenty of time to absorb before you put anything back on top of the furniture. For an occasional refresher for generally well-hydrated wood, you can put the spray on a cloth and then rub the furniture. For a butcher block, especially if you put food on it, I wouldn't mess around with anything other than butcher block oil or food grade mineral oil.
posted by DrGail at 6:46 PM on July 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've had very good luck with Howard Butcher Block conditioner. It will darken lighter wood, though. If you have antiques I would consult someone who is more of a specialist so you don't end up devaluing them. I've never had rattan so am not sure what to do there. I use Swiffer dusters to dust everything, and canned air (not just for keyboards!) to clean lampshades and a few other odd items that are difficult to clean otherwise. I start out farther away so I don't accidentally blast anything out of place.
posted by belau at 7:33 PM on July 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Skip Pledge and the like for the wood furniture. Dust regularly and once a year wax the wood with a neutral coloured furniture wax, and then buff like your life depends on it.

If there's an accumulation of grime on the wood, apply the wax using the finest grade wire wool. And then buff.

Think about where they're placed, if the room has bright sunlight it can bleach the wood. Very dry atmospheres can dry the wood out, and I've seen suggestions to place a shallow bowl of water in a discrete place underneath. I'm in the UK so this isn't really a problem here, although putting something in front of a radiator isn't great.

If there's chips, loose bits, missing hardware, etc, talk to a furniture restorer about getting them fixed. Likewise, if a chunk of veneer or moulding breaks off, keep the bit and get it repaired. Furniture that's 100 years old will last another 100 if you take care of it. And once pieces start to look tatty, they easily get overlooked and neglected. Love your furniture!

I don't know much about rattan or butchers blocks I'm afraid .
posted by Helga-woo at 12:55 PM on July 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

The color of the furniture shouldn't matter to the polish, only the chemistry of the original finish. If you have a synthetic finish, one of the urethanes, then all you need to do is dust it and oil/wax/silicone it a little to hide surface scratches, maybe add gloss; the pores are closed. Organic hard finishes (linseed, shellac, varnish) are also closed but more vulnerable to solvents, so be careful what you use on them -- paste wax is always safe, I am dubious of anything that sprays. Theoretically if you polish very carefully with something that dissolves your finish you can "melt out" scratches but personally I would not expect to succeed at that.

For oil and wax finishes, wax. Basically you want stable low but nonzero humidity, as Helga-woo says, and a coating of beeswax and/or carnauba. Which, conveniently, has a faint but pleasant smell! And is safe to use on food-handling surfaces! A lot of wax is softened with evaporating oil to make the wax easier to get out of the tin or better-smelling, but you don't need it. It doesn't actually feed the wood. It does dissolve other kinds of grime, which can make the furniture look better if you take off the grime in the first rubdown.

Don't use silicone on anything with a so-far-organic finish, it builds up in a weird way and eventually makes refinishing difficult. I have some furniture that's easier to cover with a semi-liquid polish, wax dissolved in an evaporating oil, and some that's easier with solid wax, but I think the solid wax is a better and more durable finish. In either case you rub it in thinly and wait a bit and then rub it in pretty hard to gloss it up.

My grandparents said "once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month forever" and I do not, alas, live up to that but even a couple times a year is enough for the finish to get better over time.

I am a little worried by "parched" finish in case you mean varnish or shellac beginning to flake -- in practice, clean it really really gently and keep waxing it, but eventually it will need refinishing, presumably with the same finish.
posted by clew at 8:24 PM on July 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

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