Interior Decorating Information

7 Tips to Care for Your Antique Furniture


During your spring cleaning, don't forget to think about your antiques. In this month's column, we'll give you seven tips to help you care for your antique furniture.

1. Use paste wax

Every couple of months, wax with a good quality paste wax that can be found in any hardware store. If you wax too much, it can dull the finish and attract dust. To remove a waxy build up, apply varesol with a clean cotton cloth. Proper waxing will bring up the color and grain of the wood and protect it. Rub a small amount on a soft cloth and apply it in circular motions. Let it dry then buff with a clean cloth.

2. Don't use aerosol sprays

Avoid aerosol spray polishes because they can contain silicone oil and other agents that can be harmful to your furniture. For daily cleaning, use a clean cloth or a clean duster. For those who like to use something more, I recommend Orange Oil because it works well to clean and polish wood finishes. I like it because it doesn't leave a wax build up and doesn't contain linseed or silicone oil.

3. Use coasters

A great deal of surface damage can be prevented if you always remember to use coasters, mats and trivets and avoid placing hot and/or wet items directly on furniture.

4. Avoid scratching furniture

Never slide anything (vase, plate, serving dish etc) across a surface because it will scratch. A very light scratch can be treated with Restore-AFinish, a great multi-purpose product. Deep scratches require the skill of professional restorers.

5. Clean liquid spills

Spilled water should be thoroughly wiped up immediately. Alcohol and solvents (nail polish, nail polish remover, perfumes) should be dabbed, not wiped because they can act like a furniture stripper and damage the finish. White rings left from either a hot drink or a wet glass should be attended to right away. A little Brasso applied with a clean cloth may do the trick. Or, I have found that Restor-A-Finish works well to remove white rings. Always test on a small area first. Remove candle wax - Wait for the wax to cool then gently loosen using a fingernail to remove.

6. Draw the drapes

Just as sun damage to the skin is cumulative and permanent, its effects on wood are just as destructive. Diffused sunlight over a long period of time can be as detrimental as direct sunlight over a short period of time. Sunlight can turn a clear finish yellow.The only good news about sun damage is that it's easy to avoid. Draw the drapes, pull the blinds or have an UV-filtering film applied to your windows.

7. Don't ignore relative humidity

Central heating is the worst thing to happen to antiques. A warm inside and cold outside makes life comfortable while wreaking havoc on antiques. It's the fluctuations in relative humidity that central heating creates which cause the problem. Wood responds to relative humidity by expanding and contracting as it tries to maintain a balance with its environment. It's not the rapid changes during the course of a day that cause the most damage. It's the long-term seasonal fluctuations, which cause the serious damage.

During the dry winter months when it is cold outside and warm inside, wood tends to shrink. During hot damp summers when it is warm outside and cooler inside, wood tends to expand. Long-term exposure to these conditions leads to cracking, warping and splitting.

To guard against the fluctuations in relative humidity in your home, use a humidifier during the cold winter and a dehumidifier in the damp summer. Think twice before putting a good piece of furniture in a basement, attic, near heating vents or near fireplaces. Keep fresh air circulating. Maintain a constant room temperature and turn it low at night.

Martin Swinton owns Take-A-Boo Emporium located in Toronto, Canada. He does furniture restoration; caning and rushing repairs; appraisals and has teachescourses on antiques. Martin can be reached at http://www.takeaboo.com


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