Beautiful 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
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.
Always 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.
If 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
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.