How to Treat Your Furniture
First and foremost we need to talk about how you should be treating your furniture to begin with because if you don't, you'll quickly see the ramifications! Hardwood has long been sought after as a material used to produce items around the household and really anywhere people interact with. Nowadays it's less common (but there seems to be a recent resurgence) to have hardwood in your home. This partly comes from companies continually mass producing products that tend to steer away from the use of hardwoods for cost effectiveness and how simple it is to keep their products looking half-decent for a long time. Here at A9 Designs we go against the grain (figuratively and literally) by shaping hardwoods into products you'll love to own!
Damages from Plates, Cups, and the Environment
- The most prevalent form of damage we see are rings from water condensation on cups or heat transfer from a coffee cup onto the surface of hardwood. This one is a pretty simple one to avoid by always using a cup coaster (ideally with some form of heat blocking such as cork). For plates and other large items that can introduce heat or moisture to the wood surface, use a trivet or cloth placemat. Luckily, these can also add a decorative touch to the hardwood piece.
- Another high source of damage is from the sun, believe it or not. Even next to a window without proper UV coating (as most do not still but are becoming more prevalent) (also, here's a great article on those window coverings if you're interested to learn more and save some big money on utilities!) Also, avoid heating + AC vents, fireplaces, and other heat sources. These tend to warp wood over time.
Keeping Your Wood Clean and Fresh
- Lightly clean and dust off your wood with lighter cloth materials to prevent surface scratches (such as microfiber, old T-shirts without prints on them, or cloth diapers). For harder to reach areas you can use a lambswool duster as it attracts dust to it.
- For heavily soiled spots or sticky messes, mix a small amount of anti-grease dish detergent with warm water, wring out excess water from the cloth, and gently rub in a semi-circular motion around the affected area. DO NOT USE ALL PURPOSE CLEANER whatever you do. Please. Just don't. It can and will eat away at the finish of the wood (including potentially diluting the oils while introducing unwanted cleaning chemicals into the grain of the wood). After cleaning with the soapy cloth, be sure to rub gently once more with a water saturated cloth and quickly a dry cloth. You want as little water to penetrate the upper grain as possible.
- Light rings from cups and plates mix 1:1 baking soda and toothpaste. Gently rub in a semi-circular motion until the stain is gone. Wipe of excess with a clean small cloth towel.
- Dark spots from water and food soak a clean cloth towel in white vinegar and blot the affected area. Wait until the stain lightens or is gone and repeat as necessary.
- Crayon marks are easily removed with mayonnaise! Just lather is on the affected area for a few minutes (not too long), and wipe away with a damp cloth. The oils in the mayonnaise will help to dissolve the waxes of the crayon. Oh and yes, we eat this stuff.
Protecting Your Wood From Wear and Tear
Probably the most important part of this post and what most of you came here for, how to avoid messing up the finish on your wood and revitalizing the finish if it's already messed up beyond simple cleaning!
- So the reason I mentioned not to use all purpose cleaners is because the chemicals can react to the finishes most large wood furniture producers use on their products. They achieve these finishes mostly using petroleum distillates or silicone oil that shine for years to come but when combined with cleaners, dirt, and grime, can cause a dull, sticky mess over time. Using wax based products on these wood pieces can also cause thick build ups and should never be used on hardwood furniture, else it will cause another sticky mess.
- Wildly popular are touch up sticks for small scratches, which are usually wax based or ink based, either are fine. Other alternatives to try before moving on to more drastic steps are liquid based polishes (such as Old English Scratch Cover) that help to pull the natural luster of the wood grain and visually "fill scratches". We find that these fixes work best on legs and parts below a furniture's surface area.
- At some point, your wooden product will start to dry out and that lustrous color has become dull like a dock next to the ocean. Fortunate for you, there are steps to re-saturate your wood (unlike the poor dock that will just be torn down eventually). To begin we need #0000 steel wool, murphy's oil (or tung oil, walnut oil, linseed oil) and a cloth towel. Lightly rub the steel wool into the surface of the wood going with the direction of the grain pattern and not going in a circular pattern, rather a strait back and forth. Next, you're going to generously apply the proper oil for the product and rub into the wood surface. Allow for 2 hours of air drying (without a direct heat source, please) and apply a second coating (same drying procedure as before). If you're not going to apply another protective layer than your product is ready within 18-24 hours!
A9 Designs Suggestions
Lighter Woods - Tung Oil + White Mineral Oil (1:1 mixture)
Medium Woods - Tung Oil + White Mineral Oil (1:1 mixture) or Linseed Oil
Darker Woods - Tung Oil + White Mineral Oil (1:1 mixture) or Walnut Oil
Here's a great article on wood oils! You can also ready our article in the Woodworking Blog section.
- Many hardwood products you own or could purchase will have a wax finish on them. These finishes are easily scoured and can look rough with a little bit of use (depending on the quality of the wax) but can be repaired relatively easily! For re-waxing or applying wax to a wooden piece you'll need #0000 steel wool, furniture wax, very fine scouring pads (such as Scotch Brite), and a soft clean cloth towel. Begin by gently rubbing the steel wool into the surface to remove the existing wax (always going with the grain of the wood) and use the soft cloth towel to remove the wax you're scraped off. Next, generously apply a coating of furniture wax to the surface(s) you're re-finishing and gently rub it into the surface(s) with the scouring pad, going the direction of the grain as always. Allow the wax to set for 15 - 20 minutes (do not exceed 25 - 30 minutes) and remove the excess wax with a clean scouring pad. Lastly, to finish off the polished look, buff the surface in a semi-circular motion with a soft clean cloth until you get the desired look and feel.
So as you can see, there isn't much to taking care of hardwood products (truly, little sarcasm) but with a little effort, you can keep whatever you own looking spectacular for years to come! Have an edit, comment, or question? Shoot us an email and we will address it right away.
Happy Wood Finishing!