We all love our wood furniture, and we would probably love it more if it wasn't so easy to damage. But much like a child who has just gotten their fourteenth body piercing, you love it despite it's flaws.
There's good news though! Unlike some unruly teen, there are specific steps you can take to ensure that your wood furniture doesn't become riddled with holes, markings, and Faux-Hawked boyfriends whose band is about to make it big...
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Step 1: Why Wood?
Because i'm having a hard time trying to come up with a way to carry on the teen-aged daughter joke, I'll explain this in real terms.
Wood is a great material for a first furniture set, or for a furniture set that will be in a high danger area, such as a play room or nameless back alley bar which is known for random outbreaks of Five Finger Fillet. Dents, scratches, cracks, and chips can either be buffed out or puttied up with out being too obvious (though, more than likely it won't be an exact match).
If granite or glass ever becomes chipped or cracked, that piece is, for the most part, broken forever. Wood, on the other hand, can be nailed or glued back together; and while it may not remain beautiful, it will remain functional.
Similarly, if leather or cloth were to become stained, they are almost certainly destined to stay that way. Wood can easily be re-stained or re-painted. Much like that teenager...
Nope, I just can't get it to work.
Step 2: Why Not Wood?
Overall, wood furniture is more resilient than most other materials but the wear that it will take is more likely to show. If you drop something heavy on granite and the granite fails to chip or crack, then more than likely no one will ever know you dropped something on their expensive counter top. If you were to do the same on wood, it will almost certainly leave a permanent dent.
Last time I took a knife to a glass table there was almost no residual damage. I can't say the same for the last time I took a knife to a wood table. (Don't judge me, you don't know my life.)
Wood is also much more susceptible to environmental factors such as humidity, dust, and light. This also means that coasters are a must. Especially if you have irresponsible teenage daughters... with sketchy boyfriends...
Sorry, I won't try any more.
Step 3: Scared Yet?
No? My, my, aren't you the saucy furniture buyer?
I like your pluck my friend, and for your devotion to wood I will give you the secrets to making it beautiful. FOREVER!
or until the style you bought isn't cool any more...
Step 4: It's All About Environment.
Much like an after school special from the 80's, there are a gang of factors trying to warp and ruin your wood furnishings. The ring leader of this band of notorious nogoodnicks goes by the street name of "sudden changes in relative humidity". But like all gang's from the 1980's, knowledge is it's greatest weakness, so here are some helpful hints that you can spray in danger's eyes:
Experts suggest that the ideal range of home temperature for wood furniture is 70 to 72 degrees with humidity levels kept within a range between 40 and 60 percent. If exposed to relative humidity in excess of 70%, furniture and finishes can crack when the humidity level drops suddenly and the piece contracts. So you folks in the rain forest, be careful.
Also keep in mind that no amount of furniture oil will prevent wood furniture from drying out if the relative humidity remains below 30% for an extended period of time. Air conditioner use in the summer and humidifier use in heated homes during the winter will help control the environment greatly. Dehumidifiers can be used in rooms that are typically damp or during times of high humidity when an air conditioner is not in use.
While this information may sound intimidating, most people keep their homes within these ranges for general comfort reasons. You only really need to focus on the relative humidity if you live in a place that is prone to general dampness, such as the American South East, or the ocean. Oddly both have the same humidity levels in the summers.
Step 5: Storage and Transportation.
Taking care of your furniture means treating it right. Outside of massaging it's feet, noticing new hair cuts, and always telling it it's beautiful, here are some tips on storing and transporting your piece:
Keep table leaves near the table to which they belong when not in use so they are exposed to the same environment as the table and will expand and contract at the same rate.
Keep wood furniture away from heat vents, radiators and fireplaces to prevent it from drying out. Use a shield or diverter on heat vents if necessary.
If you need to store your wood furniture, its better to store it in an unheated space since humidity will not vary as much at lower temperature.
Keep products containing alcohol and harsh chemicals away from your furniture's finish, including those found in colognes, perfumes and nail polish remover.
Use caution when moving your furniture. Get enough help so you can lift the furniture instead of pushing it laterally, which can over stress joinery, especially at the legs. Lift tables by their apron or legs rather than by their top, which could detach or loosen. Lift chairs by their seat rails and not by their arms or crest (top back) rail.
When transporting wood furniture in a vehicle, place the furniture on its back or top rather than its legs. Carefully detach marble tops and transport or store them on their edge, as you would a mirror.
Step 6: Dust: Know Thine Enemy. Then Kill It.
While it's not your biggest threat, it is the most common, and by dusting correctly, you can ensure that your furniture won't take as much dust damage.
Dust is abrasive and accumulates in the nooks and crannies in the surface of the furniture. As more dust accumulates it becomes harder to remove. To get rid of the dust, you need to use a soft cloth. Unless you are employed as a French maid, stay away from feather dusters because they can't be cleaned and the quill ends can become exposed and scratch your furniture. If you are employed as a French maid, keep doing what you're doing.
An old (but clean) cotton T-shirt or similar cloth or chamois is ideal for dusting. Dont use cloths that are frayed or unraveling as they can snag on your furniture and cause damage. Always be sure to clean the dusting cloth right after dusting so you won't be tempted to use a dirty cloth in the future, and be sure to keep plenty of clean dusting cloths nearby so you won't use a cloth any longer than needed. Residual dust on a cloth can really tear up a table in the long run.
If you are going to use product or water to clean the furniture, a lightly damp dusting cloth is ideal; do not use excessive water or dusting spray. Excessive amounts of water can warp or swell wood.
Always remember to dust in the direction of the wood grain using an oval pattern and once your dusting cloth gets dirty, turn it over, fold it or replace it with a clean one. This will keep scratches to a minimum and help to disguise the few unavoidable scratches that will accumulate.
And always be sure to lift lamps instead of sliding them across the furniture to prevent scratching the finish.
Step 7: Sunlight. Can It Do Anything Right?
As we all know, the sun is a giant ball of gas that has no positive impact on our earth what so ever, and whose sole existence, according to most scientists, is to ruin your wood furniture.
The ultraviolet rays of the sun will damage a finish and bleach the wood underneath. Although some wood bleaching can soften and enrich tones, excessive light exposure is not generally good for wood furniture. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can also cause the finish on wood furniture to crack. Clear finishes may also yellow or become opaque in response to excessive light. In severe cases, excessive exposure to light can cause the cell structure of wood to break down.
But don't worry, it would seem that sunlight has a weakness: it can't pass through solid objects. With this in mind, we've come up with a brilliant strategy to protect your furniture: keep your stuff in the shade. If you do need a piece of furniture that will be exposed to constant sunlight, you may reconsider and get something more resilient, such as glass or granite.
Step 8: Cleaning Products.
Be careful about which commercial furniture sprays and polishes you buy. Many contain silicone, which, initially, makes the wood silky smooth and attractive, but over time, it attracts and traps dust. We recommend that you avoid any wood polishes containing silicone. Rather, use either a lightly damp cloth, or a moisturizing, silicone-free, wax-free dusting spray such as Guardsman. (Which we sell. WINK WINK.)
Some woods, such as teak, require occasional oiling. Many commercially available furniture products contain linseed oil or other agents which can dry your wood. When used repeatedly, they can create a gummy coating on the surface of the finish that darkens and hides the woods grain. We recommend that you use only a quality teak wood oil, such as Kemisk or Zinolin. (Which we also sell. WINK WINK.)
You can find a list of recommended furniture cleaning products on our site; Nowell's Furniture. There may be cheaper cleaners out there but we've looked around and these are the best. You may pay more up front but they will help to extend the life of your furniture. (We're awesome. WINK WINK.)
Step 9: Teak: What Is It and How You Can Make It Work for You.
High quality teak furniture is plantation-grown in Thailand or the surrounding region. It has a very high natural oil content, giving it protection against stains and deterioration. Traditionally teak is the wood of choice for ship building because it is resilient to water and sun damage. These same qualities make it excellent for furniture construction. Teak has a rich grain and color ranging from a honey gold to a chocolate brown. The grain and color come from the growth rings, and no two pieces will be exactly alike.
If you find a good teak oil, you can extend the life and durability of your teak furniture. It keeps the wood from drying out, inhibits staining, and protects it from ultraviolet light bleaching.
Step 10: Parting Advice
No matter what kind of wood furniture you get, you want it to last you as long as possible. Make sure to follow as many of these steps as you can and you'll get the most life out of your purchases.
If you loved this instructable so much that you want to buy some wood furniture to take care of, check out Nowell's.
For those of you who have stone, leather and fabric furniture, keep an eye out for our care tips on those. The main goal of our store is to make your home look as nice as it should, so if you have any questions about how to take care of what you have, or how to decide on what you want, leave a message and we'll help you out to the best of our abilities.
Thanks for reading.