Caring for Furniture

Furniture care is a subject you’re probably not very interested in, but it’s a pretty sure bet that the people you give or sell your projects to find it very interesting. In fact, “How do I care for it?” is probably the first question they ask you.

If you give them an intelligent answer, their respect for you grows, but if you fumble around and show you don’t really understand the subject, they may lose some confidence in you. There’s no reason for this to happen because there are really only two things you need to know: the causes of damage and how to avoid them, and which furniture polish to recommend.

Causes of Damage
The two elements that cause the most damage to furniture, especially to the finish, are light and physical abuse. No one can keep furniture totally away from light, but furniture can be kept away from bright light near windows, which causes finishes to deteriorate faster than they would otherwise. To see what light does to finishes, compare the condition of an old finish protected from light under some hardware with the finish around it.

So the first instruction you should give is, “If you want the finish to stay in good shape for as long as possible, keep the furniture away from bright light, especially direct sunlight.”

The second is, “Discipline your children and pets so they don’t abuse the furniture, and use table cloths, place mats and coasters to protect the finish from scratches and water rings.”

Furniture-care Products
There’s more hype, myth and misinformation about furniture polishes and waxes than about any other product related to furniture. Most of the problem is created by the suppliers themselves.

Here are the facts:

Furniture-care products do five things more or less well:

• add shine to a dull surface.

• add scratch resistance.

• aid in dusting.

• aid in cleaning.

• add a pleasant scent to a room.

No furniture polish or wax replaces natural oil in the wood (only a few exotic woods ever had it in the first place), feeds or moisturizes the wood, feeds or moisturizes the finish or builds up (unless, of course, the excess isn’t wiped off). No furniture polish or wax does any harm to the wood or finish, either. Furniture polishes and waxes are totally inert.

In fact, furniture-care products don’t really do much at all, and the United States and, to a lesser extent, Canada, are the only countries where these products are used to any great extent. Most people in Europe and Japan just wipe their furniture with a damp cloth when it gets dusty or dirty.

So you could simply advise your family member, friend or customer, “You don’t need to do anything at all except keep the furniture clean by wiping it now and then with a damp cloth.” But this probably won’t work because people are conditioned to want to “use” something, to do something “good” for their furniture.