Furniture Care Tips | The Furniture Connoisseur

Furniture Wax & Tips on Caring for Wood Furniture
For centuries, wax has been recognized for its natural protective qualities. Used throughout history by craftsmen, wax provides surface protection and enhances the inherent beauty of wood. Furniture wax should never be considered a protective finish, but rather as a protective barrier, providing added wax protection to a finish or substrate from such things as moisture, dust and airborne pollutants. We have all seen water bead up on the hood of a car. Wax on furniture does the same thing. However, if water is left to stand on a waxed surface, it will eventually penetrate the wax and possibly affect the finish and wood. Remember, wax is not a protective finish but a barrier coat that will allow you a little more time to clean up a spill. Wax also provides scratch resistance and protection from dust, in that it creates a barrier between the finish and the dust cloth. As you dust, the cloth is charged with dust particles, which can scratch and dull the finish. This will eventually obscure the natural beauty of the wood. Furniture wax provides protection but also adds depth to wood and imparts an overall healthier look to furniture as well as adding scent to a room. Wax is a very stable material and if properly maintained, will protect a finish indefinitely.

Tips On How To Care For Antique Furniture
When developing a preservation plan for your antique furniture, furniture paste wax is a useful tool in reducing wear and detouring effects from the elements. It is not the definitive factor that makes up a successful furniture care plan. Remember, wood is a natural substance and reacts to environmental changes. Light and humidity are two other factors that must be considered. Their affects on furniture can be devastating.

Ultraviolet (UV) light is particularly harmful and causes irreversible damage. The light and increased temperature accelerates the degradation of finishes and colorants. Damage, in severe cases, can only be restored after stripping and refinishing. This loss of “patina” can greatly affect the value of your furniture, particularly if it is an antique. Furniture should be moved out of the direct sunlight. Blinds and curtains are helpful in diffusing the intensity of sunlight, but museum grade window film is the best. There are window films available today that are clear and provide 99.9% protection from harmful UV rays, as well as significantly reducing temperature levels in the home.

Wood & Moisture
Furniture is also affected by humidity. Wood expands and contracts as the moisture in the air changes. The ideal range (but not the only expectable range) for relative humidity (RH) is between 45 and 55 percent. If a dramatic change occurs in the RH it is possible that furniture may experience shrinkage damage and warping. Finish and veneer detachment is also a possibility. Furniture exposed to high humidity levels for a prolonged period of time may experience mold growth and insect infestation. Avoid placing furniture in attics, basements or any area in the home that may experience extreme temperature or RH changes.

Tips On How To Apply Paste Wax
Furniture wax is easy to apply and maintain. Here are a few helpful hints: Before applying furniture paste wax, wipe the surface clean with a moist, not wet, cloth. This will remove the water-soluble dirt. The thinner in the paste wax makes it an excellent cleaner for removing grease and oil-based dirt. The biggest mistake that people make when applying furniture paste wax, is applying too much. Wax is tenacious about sticking to other things, but it does not stick well to itself. If you put a whole can of paste wax on a tabletop and buff it out, you will be left with the small amount that you should have put on in the first place. The only difference is that you have just wasted an entire can of paste wax and spent the day trying to get it off. So, with a soft, clean, cotton cloth, apply the furniture paste wax by first dipping the cloth into the can of wax. Now, rub the wax on in a circular motion over the wood surface. Rub it vigorously and spread the wax on thinly. The next step is to buff the paste wax, but when should you do that? This is one of the great mysteries about waxing. Not really, it’s simple. You are waiting for the solvents in the furniture paste wax to evaporate. What determines that is what kind of solvent was used in the paste wax. Was it a fast or slow evaporating solvent? And what is the environment like that you are waxing in; hot, cold, humid…. etc., all of these things will effect the drying time and how the wax buffs out. The point is that there is no exact time to begin buffing the paste wax. Could be five minutes, twenty minutes or more. Most of the time it’s about ten or fifteen minutes, if all the conditions are right and the proper amount of paste wax is applied. You will know the wax is ready to buff when it looks dry or hazed over. When the wax is ready, take another clean cloth and buff the surface. Buffing lightly will produce a satin sheen; while more buffing can produce a higher sheen or even a gloss. If you try and buff the wax too soon, before the solvent has fully evaporated, you will effectively be stripping the wax from the surface. This is the reason a poorly waxed surface appears to have shiny and dull areas. If the solvent in the paste wax has not fully evaporated the buffing cloth will pick up the solvent and use it like a wax stripper, removing any dry wax as you attempt to buff the surface. If the paste wax is left on too long, it simply is harder to buff out. In any case, one should not be alarmed; this can easily be corrected in either instance by simply applying another coat of paste wax.

How Often Should You Apply Paste Wax? 
That depends greatly on how often the surface is used and cleaned. A surface used frequently gets cleaned and dusted more frequently. Every time a waxed surface is “wiped”, minute amounts of wax are removed. Eventually, there is not enough wax on the surface to buff to a shine. This is when a fresh coat of wax should be applied. Maintaining a waxed surface is easy. It needs only to be dusted with a soft cloth. If the waxed surface becomes dirty, a slightly moistened cloth may be helpful in removing the dirt. If that does not work, try a fresh coat of paste wax.

The importance of caring for your furniture, particularly historic furniture, cannot be over stated. The wonderful furniture that surrounds us is dependent on our support and interest for care and preservation. Maintaining your furniture’s condition and taking measures to prevent damage will ensure many years of use and enjoyment.
 
Did You Mean Furniture Polish or Furniture Polish?
Furniture Polish includes a broad rage of products, from paste wax, liquid wax, lemon oil, spray polish, cream polish, this polish, that polish, etc., etc., etc. The list is never ending and can be very confusing. It seems like anything you put on your furniture falls into the furniture polish category. Not to complicate things further but there is another group of furniture care products that also belong in this category. They are the furniture revivers, burnishing polish, polishing creams, polishing liquids, waxes that wax...and polish?! How can this be? How can they be so different...and the same? Now I'm confused! I just wanted a furniture polish!

Furniture Polish
Technically, each of the products that I have mentioned are a furniture polish. That is, they will all make the furniture's surface smooth (or appear smooth) and glossy. However, most people, when they think of furniture polish, are thinking of the "furniture polish" that they can hold in their hand and spray on the furniture. Yes, of course, a furniture polish! Don't you wish it was that simple? It isn't. It is. I'll explain: Keep in mind that to "polish" something means to make the surface smooth and glossy. An example would be the results produced after polishing your silver or jewelry. This type of polish requires some kind of mechanical participation in order to be successful. It can be applied and buffed by hand or machine but the physical act must be carried out in order to achieve success. Furniture revivers and burnishing creams fit into this category and have at least one of two key ingredients in common. They will have some type of burnishing agent, like pumice powder for instance or a chemical like mineral spirits. Some will have both and some will use a water base rather than a chemical base. Whatever the formula, the coarseness of the burnishing agent and/or how aggressive the chemical is, will determine how quickly a smooth, glossy surface will appear. There are many considerations when choosing one of these products...far too many to mention here. In the context of this discussion, it is important to note the difference between these polishes and the more familiar group of "furniture polishes" that I will describe in a moment. The aforementioned polishes however, will actually affect the finished surface. They [restore] reflective clarity by removing surface scratches, scuff marks and white ring marks that obscure the view of the wood below.

Furniture Polish Too
The other and more familiar furniture polish; spray polish, oil polish, cream polish, paste wax, liquid wax, etc., all [restore] reflective clarity to some degree. However, they do this by obscuring the scratches, rather than removing them, giving the [impression] of a smooth, glossy surface. A furniture polish that contains wax and a furniture polish that contains oil i.e. mineral (aka lemon oil), both "fill" the scratches, "leveling the surface", so that the light reflected back is less diffused. This effect tricks the eye into thinking that the surface is smooth and shinny, when actually nothing has changed except the esthetic value. That is unless you use a furniture polish that contains wax, in which case you have also added a degree of surface protection. Mineral oil based furniture polish offers NO surface protection whatsoever and once the oil has evaporated, so goes the effect. Furniture polish containing wax does not do this because a thin coat of wax is left behind, which does not evaporate. The wax creates a barrier coat, protecting the surface, allowing whatever is set on the wax to move across it, rather than the finish. This added protection helps guard against white ring marks and scuff marks that over time will obscure the finish and the view of the wood. 

All Furniture Polish is Not Created Equal
Furniture polish in spray form is the most popular of the polishes because of their convenience and ease of use. But, be aware that all furniture polishes are not created equal, nor do they accomplish the same tasks. You should have a clear objective before choosing one. I know, that sounds like way too much consideration to give to a furniture polish but choosing the correct furniture polish can be very beneficial. Most people today use a furniture polish as an accessory for dusting furniture, which isn't necessary if all that you want to achieve is the removal of dust. In which case all you need is a soft cloth, synthetic and/or natural. A soft cotton cloth is an excellent choice but microfiber dust cloth is arguably the best material available today for dusting. But, If you have an interest in protecting and preserving your furniture, however, you should consider a furniture polish with a wax base formula, such as Original Beeswax Polish. If you are using a spray polish as your primary care and maintenance polish, then all you need to do is choose a quality product and follow the manufacturers directions for use. Moreover, if you are using a paste wax or liquid wax for primary care and a spray polish for maintenance, be aware that the spray polish could potentially harm the the waxed surface or remove it entirely. The reason is that most furniture polishes are a solvent base, i.e. mineral spirits and turpentine, which both remove wax. They are good vehicles for getting the wax to the surface (if you are okay with solvent) but once the solvent has evaporated and all that is left is the wax, any solvent that comes into contact with it will remove it. In other words it is counterproductive to spray a solvent base furniture polish over a paste wax or liquid wax surface. Is there a way to maintain a paste wax and liquid wax finish with a spray polish, without harming it? Yes, there are two ways. The first is a professional trick and still requires that you are careful. Rather than spraying the furniture polish directly on the surface, spray it on the polishing cloth. A soft cotton cloth is perfect! When you do this two things happen. Some of the solvent will absorb into the cloth and the rest will evaporate, leaving only the wax and a little solvent vapor. If you are careful, you will be touching the surface with only the wax that is left on the polishing cloth. If this approach causes too much trepidation, I know of one another professional trick that is much easier. In fact, you could do it with your eyes closed! Try using The Furniture Butler Patina Protector or similar product. Patina Protector contains NO solvent and is non-hazardous and safe for ALL finishes. In fact, it will actually increase the performance and protection of all waxed surfaces. Just spray it on the surface or a cloth and wipe. Voila, a safe, easy and worry-free furniture polish. You see, it is that simple. 
 
Leather Care Products and How to Clean Leather
Cleaning Leather and Leather Care is an easy task that should never be overlooked. Leather demands, at the very least, the same consideration that is given to all fine wood furniture and should be cared for and maintained on a regular basis. Leather care performed correctly will preserve the natural beauty and suppleness of the leather, while extending it's life dramatically. Neglecting your leather can prove very costly, particularly if it is antique leather. Having to replace any leather because of neglect is costly and tragic but if it is antique leather, it can be devastating, as all of the historic value is lost. 

About Leather / Leather Care Tips
Leather is a porous material but very durable and because of this quality there is a tendency to neglect it. Unfortunately, because of the leathers porosity, it is vulnerable to contaminants such as dust, dirt, grease, grime, smoke, perspiration and other environmental toxins. These toxins can settle on the surface of the leather and potentially damage or discolor it. Eventually, if neglect or poor maintenance continues, the toxins will migrate into the leather pores and affect the integrity of the leather fibers. It is at this moment that the leather fibers will begin to deteriorate, losing strength and flexibility, which becomes noticeable when the leather hardens and begins to crack. Heat and sunlight are particularly harmful to leather, as they will dry the natural oils, fade the color of the leather and accelerate the degradation of the leather. UV light is responsible for the leather fading but it also increases the temperature of the leather, producing heat that will dehydrate the leather fibers. Heating vents, space heaters and fireplaces are heat sources that should also be considered. Leather furniture and leather articles should be moved out of the direct sunlight and away from other harsh heat sources. If doing so is not possible, practical or desirable, then developing a leather care and maintenance plan becomes more critical.

Leather Care Products
Deciding on leather care products can be confusing and a bit overwhelming, particularly with so many leather care products and methods from which to choose. It is important to remember that leather is a dynamic natural material that is affected by its environment. Simply put, it is skin that has been tanned to resist decay. The key word here is "resist" decay and although leather is very durable, it will not last indefinitely. Generations? Yes, if like most other things, you care for the leather...properly. Think of leather care in a similar way that you would care for your own skin. Leather should be cleaned and maintained, kept out of harsh and detrimental environments, deep cleaned and conditioned once and awhile, and sometimes just left alone. But unlike your skin, leather is unable to regenerate the natural oils and nutrients needed to maintain elasticity and suppleness. So "feed" and love your leather as you would care for your own skin, using quality leather care products that are safe, avoiding harsh chemicals and leather care products containing silicon that is known to desiccate the leather. Do not use leather care products that simply sit on the leather surface and become sticky and collect dust. Dust particles on leather are known to be abrasive and under perfect conditions, become reactive if moisture is introduced. In other words, love your leather, love your furniture and love life! 
 
Robin Richardson
Furniture Maker/ Restorer
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