Furniture Care Tips on Wax & Waxing
Furniture Wax & 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.
Caring 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.
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.
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