1. To clean the finish on your wood furniture just use warm water and mild dish soap. Cleaning furniture with water won’t hurt it — just be careful not to soak it. Use an old toothbrush for hard-to-get areas. Wipe the dirt off the surface with soft cloths or paper towels until they come up fairly clean. Then dry off any 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 coat as directed on the label. Wait five minutes and buff lightly with a soft (shoe) brush or cloth. Wait another 30 to 60 minutes and buff/brush again with a bit more vigor. You’ll see a beautiful shine return to the finish that will last for many months.
3. Keep your furniture out of the sun. The temperature of the summer sun coming through a window can go above 140 degrees. It will cook fine finishes, fading and destroying them over time, and dry out and shrink the wood, which will cause cracks.
4. Don’t place wood furniture near heating units or vents. Dry heat will cause the wood to dry and shrink, leaving cracks. Use a humidifier in the drier months to bring the moisture up to the 40 to 45 percent level.
5. For a quick-fix touch up, use the appropriate color shoe polish on scratches and chips, especially to make them less visible on the feet of furniture. Carefully using a matching-color felt-tip marker first will hide it even better.
6. When polishing metal hardware, take it off the furniture first. Take your time and make a note to remember what piece goes back where. Use a quality metal polish to get it shining again. Once it’s buffed, put it back on, being careful not to scratch the wood surfaces. I recommend that you don’t try to do this all at one time. 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 with trying to do too much.
7. Wood isn’t hungry! You cannot feed furniture. No matter what the advertising says, wood cannot be fed or nourished or enriched with polishes or oils. Once it has a protective finish over it for beauty and protection, the wood is sealed. Polishes and oils will not penetrate it.
8. There are several ways to remove the white hazy ring or spot that the hot coffee mug or hot pizza box made on your table. The least invasive way is to rub it with a mild abrasive, such as non-gel toothpaste mixed with baking soda or cooking oil mixed with ashes. You can rub it in a small spot with your finger or use a soft cloth on larger areas.
Another method that has excellent results is to place a soft cloth or towel over the spot and iron it carefully for 10 to 20 seconds at a time with the iron at a medium setting. You can turn the iron up a bit if needed. Always keep the iron moving and check your progress frequently.
9. When shopping for new or antique furniture, look at the back, inside and undersides of furniture and drawers. Many times it tells you more about quality than looking at the “show” side. The so-called “secondary” woods can speak volumes about the age of the item and the quality of construction.
10. Restoring or refinishing an older or antique piece of furniture to its original glory might seem like a good idea, and many times it is. But it’s important to get advice from someone who is knowledgeable about the item you are considering. You may find that your piece is valuable and just needs a proper cleaning. Any more extensive work should be left to a professional.