As a woodworker, you know the time, consideration, and care it takes to craft a beautiful piece of hardwood furniture. Whether you have made a bench for your front entrance, a new table for your breakfast nook or shelves to store your personal library on, it is important to take proper care of your hardwood pieces. Through different hardwood cleaning techniques and day-to-day practices, you will be able to guarantee your workshop pieces for generations to come.
Step 1: Choosing the best wood finish
While this step comes before your woodworking project leaves the workshop, choosing the right wood finish is an important part of guaranteeing your furniture’s endurance over the years. While wood wax is a fantastic natural option-as it often utilizes bees wax-it is less scratch and water resistant than a finish like polyurethane. Learn more about wood finishes and the wood finishing process in Forest 2 Home’s blog Woodworking 101: Wood Finish Types and Techniques.
Step 2: Make coasters your new best friend
Sticky fingers, spilled cups and accidents happen-that is life! That said, to keep your hardwood table tops free of cup rings and heat damage, utilize coasters, potholders, and placemats. Not only will these prevent ring and heat damage, but they will also lessen the risk of scratches from bumped around plates, utensils, and table décor.
If you happen to leave behind a ring or hazy spot, a tip we have come across is rubbing the spot with a mild abrasive like a non-gel toothpaste mixed with baking soda, using your finger or a small cloth!
Step 3: Be mindful of the outside while inside
Several environmental factors can have a large impact on your custom built furniture-whether they are being used or stored. To properly take care of your hardwood furniture, try to avoid direct sunlight, heat, and moisture. This can be done by placing furniture away from uncovered windows, vents, fireplaces and more. Heat will cause wood to dry and shrink, leaving cracks behind. Overall, the more temperature controlled, the better!
Step 4: Dust hardwood furniture regularly
Frequent dusting is key to maintaining beautiful hardwood furniture. When dust is allowed to sit, it builds deposits that leave a filmy layer and scratches the surface of wood furniture (not to mention the allergens and irritants it accumulates!). To dust your custom hardwood furniture, use a damp, microfiber cloth that will trap dust particles before they become airborne. Then remove moisture with a dry terry towel.
There are several methods to dusting that may better suit your preferences, such as feather dusters for delicate surfaces. The optimal dusting tools are ones that will not reintegrate dust into the air stream but collect it directly from the surface to be disposed of.
Step 5: Proper cleaning of hardwood furniture
There are many methods to clean your hardwood furniture-some swear by just water and dish soap while others swear against the use of water entirely. It is important to never use all-purpose cleaners, as they can damage the finish on your woodworking piece.
For sticky spots specifically, we recommend dipping a cloth into water that is mixed with dish soap. Wring it out as much as possible and wipe the area, immediately followed by wiping the area with a soft, dry cloth.
When it comes to oil polishes and cleaners, it is important to remember that they will never absorb into your finished woodworking piece-it is your wood finishes job to prevent anything from penetrating it! These cleaners and sprays can provide some protection and shine, but it is important to bare in mind that there will be residue and film left behind that is likely to show fingerprints.
Step 6: Re-applying furniture wax to hardwood furniture
Re-waxing the surface of hardwood furniture can provide continued protection on top of the manufacturer’s finish of varnish, polyurethane or shellac. There are various methods of application as well as different waxes like paste wax and liquid wax that are make specifically for furniture.
Paste wax: hardens into a thick layer of protection that may last as long as two years
Liquid wax: thinner than paste wax, liquid wax generally needs a minimum of two to three coats and will need to be applied more frequently than paste wax. Liquid wax is easier to apply.
Step 7: Removing scratches from the surface of your wood furniture
Regardless of how diligent you may be, scratches are inevitable. For small, shallow surface scratches, paste wax and scratch covers can be applied. Scratch cover is a liquid polish that can hide abrasions to the point where they are no longer visible.
For deeper gouges in the woods surface, options include using wood filler, colored wax that can closely match your wood furniture and re-sanding and refinishing your project. Each of these option may impact the appearance of your wood furniture which is why it is best to treat wood furniture with proper care before reaching this step.
Step 8: Removing stains from the surface of your wood furniture
As mentioned, life happens! Like the aforementioned toothpaste and baking soda tip, there are various ways that may help to remove stains from your wood furniture including:
- Remove dark spots by blotting the stain with a cloth soaked with vinegar
- Remove crayon marks by applying mayonnaise to the area and allowing it to sit for a couple of minutes before rubbing it clean and buffing with a dry cloth
- Remove watermarks by applying petroleum jelly and letting it sit overnight. Wipe up the petroleum jelly the following day and the stain should be removed along with it.
While these methods and a variety of others have helped some, they are not guaranteed to eliminate stains in their entirety. Whenever possible, be sure to clean a stain as quickly as possible-the longer it sits, the harder it will be to remove.
Step 9: Absorb unwanted smells from wood furniture
Whether in use or stored, older wooden pieces can develop unpleasant odors. To deodorize your wood furniture, scatter the surface with the natural odor eliminator, baking soda. You can also add a pan of charcoal, coffee grounds or kitty litter inside of drawers to absorb smells that are internal. Vinegar, another natural odor eliminator, in a glass container can also be placed in each drawer for a few days to draw out unwanted scents.
Oftentimes, odor from wood furniture is coming from mold and mothballs. A great way to lessen this issue is putting the wooden furniture out in sunlight if you are living in a dry environment. If you are living in a more humid environment, try placing your piece, along with a dehumidifier, in an enclosed room and leave the dehumidifier running. The dehumidified can help pull the moisture and subsequent odors from your hardwood piece.
Step 10: Proper hardwood furniture storage
While optimal storage may be a climate controlled room with proper space and protective coverage, it is not always possible. Likely, your furniture storage area may be a garage, basement or attic, if not a storage unit off of your property. Whenever possible, try to ensure you are storing your hardwood furniture to the best of your ability-this will extend its life insurmountably!
Make sure your wood has enough moisture
By treating wood furniture with furniture polish before placing it in storage, you prevent the wood from drying out and becoming more susceptible to cracks.
Whenever possible, manage the temperature and humidity. Both temperature and humidity fluctuations can cause warping, cracking and structural integrity defects to your hardwood pieces. Excess humidity can also cause wood to rot. The more temperature controlled, the better! When storing furniture at home, placing a humidifier, dehumidifier or humidistat in storage locations can help immensely.
Spacing out stored furniture
Whenever possible, space out furniture as much as possible. Avoid stacking or pushing objects against one another as this can inevitably lead to cracking and breakage.
Covering stored wood furniture
Cover your furniture to prevent scratches and damage. The best way to cover your furniture is with cloths, furniture pads, and moving blankets as this will shield stored furniture from light and dust while still allowing for airflow that plastic covers do not. Plastic covers also create condensation, so it is best to avoid them whenever possible.
Have any questions or comments about taking care of your hardwood furniture? Send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org! We can't wait to see your next Forest 2 Home furniture build- use hashtag #BuiltWithF2H on Facebook and Instagram and tag us with @shopf2h so we can see and share your work! Happy Woodworking!