Congratulations! You’ve made an excellent investment and bought an amazing piece of hardwood furniture. Handcrafted and built using centuries-old techniques with proven track records, you know that this is no ordinary piece of furniture.
But what really makes it different? Does hardwood furniture behave differently? Does it need special care?
You can rest assured that with a little knowledge, care, and common sense, you can easily ensure that your hardwood furniture stays in your family for generations as unblemished as the very first day you laid eyes on it.
Why solid-wood furniture is different.
Unlike furniture made from compressed woods or synthetic materials, your hardwood furniture is made entirely from natural wood. This means that it behaves a little differently.
It all boils down to the nature of wood.
There is a large amount of water in trees. When wood is first cut from a tree, almost 50% of its weight is moisture. Most of this moisture is removed by carefully drying the wood. Just a little bit is left so that the wood can continue adjusting to the moisture levels around it.
What does this mean?
In very simple terms, wood contracts in a dry environment and expands in a humid one. This is normal behavior and is not something you need to worry about.
In dry conditions, you may notice small gaps that weren’t there before (or slightly larger gaps between table leaves). Or in very humid conditions, the drawers of your dresser may not open as smoothly as you’re used to. Don’t worry, these conditions will disappear when the relative humidity in your home returns to normal.
Here are a few simple tips to minimize the effects that changes in relative humidity have on your furniture:
- Use an air conditioner and/or humidifier: Use these to maintain the relative humidity in your home at between 25-35 percent.
- Keep furniture away from direct sunlight, if possible. If your furniture is next to a window, close the curtains or rotate your furniture occasionally so that the direct sunlight is distributed evenly over time. Try not to keeps items such as lamps, coasters, placemats, etc., in one spot for too long so that “ghosting” doesn’t occur and leaves a footprint.
- Store leaves of a table close to it. This will ensure that they are both experiencing similar levels of relative humidity and are expanding or contracting in tandem.
A little information about finishes.
Once a piece of furniture is made, it is given a clear coat, called a finish, to both protect it and enhance its natural beauty. The finish protects by shielding the wood from moisture and dirt. It enhances beauty by adding luster and enriching the grain of the wood.
There are several kinds of finishes ranging from nitrocellulose lacquers to complex polyester resins. In fact, it is the kind of finish that will largely determine how you care for your furniture.
Modern finishes are very durable and provide ample protection for your furniture.
Now that you know what to expect from your furniture, let’s talk about caring for your handcrafted masterpiece.
A lot of hard work by skilled craftsmen went into creating the piece of furniture now sitting proudly in your home. It was built with care to last for generations.
With a little more care, you can keep it looking great for its entire long life.
- When cleaning spills of any kind, remember to always blot and never wipe.
- Never slide anything on the surface of your furniture. This will scratch the finish, and sometimes the scratch may reach all the way down to the wood. Always lift items when you want to move them.
- Whenever wiping or cleaning, always do so in the direction of the grain.
- Place items on hardwood furniture with care. If possible, use felt between the item and the furniture.
- Whenever possible, use placemats and coasters.
- Use a protective pad when writing with a ballpoint pen on your hardwood furniture.
- Avoid using old clothes to clean your furniture. Buttons or zippers may cause scratches.
- Avoid placing electronic items that will subject your furniture to prolonged heat on it. This includes laptops and some stereos.
- Do not put hot dishes directly on your furniture.
- Keep anything with solvents away from solid wood furniture. This includes hair spray, perfume, and nail polish remover.
- If your furniture is placed outdoors, remember that it will darken where the sun touches it. To ensure that it darkens evenly, rotate your furniture occasionally and move around any items that may be placed on it.
- When moving your furniture, always lift it. Never drag it.
- Your furniture comes with detailed instructions on how to care for and clean it. Keep these instructions handy and refer to them whenever needed.
- Hardwood furniture can be cleaned with mild non-alkaline soap and water. Use a soft cloth with the soap. Dry immediately with a soft, dry cloth. Buff the finish lightly, always going with the grain.
- Your furniture will benefit from a more thorough cleaning and waxing once in 6 or 12 months. Wax also has the added benefit of preventing cracking and bowing while maintaining elasticity.