How to Care for Your Wood Furniture
Keep pieces looking beautiful for years with these maintenance tips
Published: April 2, 2014
From furniture to cabinets, nothing’s more naturally suited to cabin décor than wood. It’s warm, earthy and beautiful … but at the same time, a cabin can be a harsh environment.
CRACK A WINDOW – A sealed-up cabin interior can hold in dry, smoky air, which can discolor and dry out wood. So, open those windows whenever you can and let your wood breathe.
Think about it: Before it was harvested, wood was encased in a bark sheath to protect it from the elements; it received moisture from the root system, and it was allowed to “breathe” the open air. Other than woodpeckers, beavers and the occasional lumberjack, life was good. Now it’s sitting out all alone, stripped of its armor, with little moisture except condensation from cold drinks. Left alone, it will fade, discolor and shrink, a sad ending for a once-proud tree. But don’t light the bonfire yet – these few tips can keep that wood furniture gorgeous for years to come.
1. Create new bark. Yes, the real bark is long gone, but that doesn’t mean the wood doesn’t need some protection from the elements. First, strip off any heavy build-ups of old wax or polish with an appropriate furniture cleaner, then apply a fresh polish containing real lemon oil (a lemony smell isn’t enough) to replenish and retain moisture. Avoid alcohol-based cleaners or polishes, which dry out wood.
2. Whether cleaning, dusting, or polishing, always go with the grain. Wood’s surface is great at grabbing onto small, hard particles (dust) over time, so even gentle dusting across the grain can have a sandpaper effect and mar the surface.
3. Get thee out of the sunlight. The wood we use for furniture was not meant to withstand UV rays; that’s what the bark was for. Draw curtains when you leave the cabin, and move the furniture out of the sunlight while you’re gone, or just throw a shawl over it.
4. Air the cabin out. A dry, smoky cabin interior can cause the wood to discolor or dry out prematurely. Wood loves itself some fresh air, so crack that window every chance you can.
5. Mold and mildew. So maybe you got a little too much moisture, and now your pretty rocking chair is discolored and smells like stinky feet. Use a diluted bleach solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water should be fine) to disinfect, then wipe dry. Place in direct sunlight until completely dry (the sunlight is also an oxidizer that will kill biological growth), and apply polish.
|When life gives you lemon oil …|
… make sure you read the ingredients. Some commercially-available “lemon” oils are actually made from petroleum distillates, and they can cause more harm than good when applied to delicate wood furniture. True lemon oil is extracted from, you guessed it, lemons. More specifically, it comes from lemon peels, and has a host of favorable attributes to both clean and preserve wood. Formby’s, Parker & Bailey and Old English are all real lemon oil cleaners.
Covering up scratches
When the inevitable happens and you do find a deep scratch in your favorite piece of furniture, here’s a trick of the trade: Rub a color-matched crayon along the scratch to fill it. You can remove any excess crayon by gently scraping it with the edge of a credit card.