We will begin with ways to avoid damage. While quality wood pieces are solid enough to withstand the wear-and-tear problems that arise with other materials, there are a few things that can damage wood and wood finishes, and common sense says the best place to start is with prevention. We will then discuss proper maintenance and repair techniques.
Light and heat: Fading and bleaching when wood spends time in direct sunlight. The heat from this exposure can also do harm. For this reason, wood furniture shouldn’t be kept in harsh lighting or near unshaded windows and shouldn’t be kept directly next to heaters, radiators, or fireplaces.
Humidity or dryness: Wood fibers absorb and desorb water from the air. Therefore, wood can swell in high humidity and shrink and dry out in low humidity. The pieces are then pulling and pushing against each other and may change enough to no longer fit together. Sometimes wood can even warp over time. If possible, wood furniture should be kept in moderate humidity, around 40 – 45 %.
Mishandling: Valuable handmade wood furniture should always be moved with care and never dragged across the floor. When moving pieces, it is best to have extra help and use a dolly when possible. Other mishandling may include sitting on pieces not meant to hold a person’s weight and setting things on the surface that cause damage. For example, plastic cups and placemats can scratch the surface and the colors can leach into the wood. Soft coasters (on the underside), table cloths, cloth placemats, felt pads (under lamps and such) and writing pads can protect wood surfaces. Nothing hotter than 140 degrees Fahrenheit should be placed directly on quality wood.
Chemicals: Wood furniture lasts longer when it is kept clean, but harsh chemicals should never be used. All-purpose cleaners and sprays can dry or damage the surface of wood. Solvents, such as nail polish remover, should never be used near it. If anything is spilled on the surface, it should be cleaned immediately but usually a warm wet cloth and mild dishwashing soap is all that is needed. Well-formulated cleaning products without abrasives may be used, but with utmost care. Spot test any new product on a discrete area to be sure it is safe.
Regular maintenance will slow and (in some cases stop altogether) the deterioration that can occur over time with handmade wood furniture. There are steps that can be taken regularly to preserve these pieces.
Weekly: It’s important to remove dust and airborne dirt often. If these build up, they can scratch the surface of furniture. Dry cloths can also scratch the surface. It is best to dust weekly with a slightly moist soft cloth or other soft material. Some experts feel that feather dusters should even be avoided, as they can lift bits of the finish off.
Monthly: Once a month, wood pieces should be polished or waxed after dusting. Non-oily polishes are usually a good choice. Orange oil or a polish wax are even better as they will keep the wood from drying or cracking.
Yearly: Annually, it is good to remove build up from wood surfaces. This can be done by cleaning with a safe commercial product, following the directions carefully. When cleaning, always work with the grain. Then, polish with a high-quality soft paste wax and buff after 5 minutes. Buff again after 30 – 60 minutes for a beautiful shine.
Scratches or chips: These can usually be addressed with an appropriate color shoe polish or even a felt-tipped marker to blend small damaged areas with the surrounding color.
Dents or gouges: For slightly larger areas of damage, use a wood filler or a colored filler wax stick in the appropriate shade. These should be applied in several thin layers rather than in one thick layer.
Spills: Spills should always be addressed immediately. Spots should be cleaned with warm water and mild dishwashing soap; however, it is important that the wood not be “soaked,” and it should always be properly dried afterwards.
Stains: White hazy rings from a hot mug or dish can be cleaned with a very gentle abrasive, such as a non-gel toothpaste and baking soda, using just your finger or a soft cloth. The white rings from condensation on a glass can be addressed the same way, but with these moisture rings, using a warm hair dryer blowing on the spot first to see if it goes away from the gentle drying process. Ink stains can be gently cleaned with a mixture of baking soda and water.
Fading: If a piece has faded over time or from being in direct sunlight, it can be restored with a commercial finish restoring product in a shade closest to the wood stain. As always, it’s important to work with the grain and follow the product directions.
Amish furniture is an example of the highest quality wood furniture available. It is long-lasting and timeless. But, even the highest quality handmade wood furniture like ours must be cared for properly to avoid damage, even if it’s just the damage done by time. Preserving these beautiful pieces is easily done by following these guidelines and tips.
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