November 27, 2022

10 tips on caring for wooden furniture

1. To clean the finish of your wood furniture, simply use warm water and mild dish soap. Cleaning furniture with water won’t hurt them – just be careful not to soak them. Use an old toothbrush for hard-to-reach areas. Wipe dirt off the surface with soft rags or paper towels until they come out fairly clean. Then wipe off the residual moisture with a soft cloth.

2. After a good cleaning, the best way to protect the finish is to use a good quality soft paste wax. Apply a thin layer as directed on the label. Wait five minutes and buff lightly with a brush or soft (shoe) cloth. Wait another 30-60 minutes and buff/brush again with a little more vigor. You will see a beautiful shine return to the finish that will last for several months.

3. Keep your furniture out of direct sunlight. The temperature of the summer sun streaming through a window can exceed 140 degrees. It will bake fine finishes, discolor and destroy them over time, and dry out and shrink the wood causing cracking.

4. Do not place wooden furniture near heaters or air vents. Dry heat will cause the wood to dry out and shrink, leaving cracks. Use a humidifier during the drier months to bring the humidity up to the 40-45% level.

5. For a quick touch-up, use the appropriate color polish on scratches and chips, especially to make them less noticeable on furniture legs. Careful use of a matching color marker first will hide it even better.

6. When polishing metal hardware, remove it from the cabinet first. Take your time and write down to remember which piece goes where. Use a quality metal polish to make it shine again. Once polished, put it back in place, being careful not to scratch the wooden surfaces. I recommend that you don’t try to do all of these at once. It can be a lot of work, so take a few days, doing a few pieces at a time, instead of getting tired and frustrated trying to do too much.

7. The wood is not hungry! You cannot feed the furniture. No matter what the advertisement says, wood cannot be nourished or nourished or enriched with varnishes or oils. Once it has a protective finish on it for beauty and protection, the wood is sealed. Varnishes and oils will not penetrate it.

8. There are several ways to remove the white ring or fuzzy spot that the hot cup of coffee or the hot pizza box has made on your table. The least invasive way is to rub it with a mild abrasive, such as gel-free toothpaste mixed with baking soda or cooking oil mixed with ashes. You can rub it on a small spot with your finger or use a soft cloth on larger areas.

Another method that works great is to place a soft cloth or towel over the stain and iron thoroughly for 10-20 seconds at a time with the iron on a medium setting. You can raise the iron a little if necessary. Always keep the iron moving and check your progress frequently.

9. When buying new or old furniture, look at the backs, insides and undersides of furniture and drawers. Many times that tells you more about the quality than looking at the “show” side. The so-called “secondary” woods can say a lot about the age of the object and the quality of construction.

10. Restoring or refurbishing an old or antique piece of furniture back to its original glory might seem like a good idea, and often it is. But it’s important to get advice from someone familiar with the item you’re considering. You may find that your piece is valuable and just needs a proper cleaning. Any larger job should be left to a professional.

Bill Oakley has owned and operated Oakley Restoration & Finishing in New Milford for 16 years. He previously ran his antique restoration business in Brooklyn, NY. His websites include and the new or you can email him at [email protected]