Antique wooden furniture is universally loved and prized. An old chair, table or dresser doesn’t have to be particularly valuable to delight the eye and excite imaginings about its past. Wood adds a comforting natural beauty to any environment, and old wood is some of the most beautiful of all.
The tips below will help you care for your antique wooden furniture.
Antique furniture should be kept out of direct sunlight. Ultraviolet rays can damage old varnishes and cause them to degrade, crack and darken. Where wood itself is exposed, UV rays can damage its structure and cause bleaching.
Extremes of temperature will cause furniture to expand and contract. This flexing of the wood can over-stress the varnish and cause it to crack. Joints, too can become loosened. Perhaps the parts of antique furniture most vulnerable to extreme fluctuations in temperature, though, are veneers and marquetry, both of which can become displaced by repeated expansion/contraction stresses.
Too dry and too damp are both enemies of wooden furniture. Dry air will dry the wood and make it more susceptible to cracking, glue can become displaced as shrinking wood pulls away from joints, drawers can stick against their runners. High humidity can cause mould and encourage insect damage.
If you are concerned about your antique furniture consider investing in a humidifier or de humidifier (depending on your climate).
Borer can wreck a piece of furniture. Larvae eat away at the grain of the wood and the mature beetles bore out through the surface leaving their characteristic holes. If borer is suspected the piece should be taken as soon as possible to a specialist for treatment.
Your furniture is at risk, too, from cockroaches and rats. These pests cause damage through their feeding and through the staining effects of their excrement.
The first part of any cleaning routine for antique wooden furniture is dusting. This can be done with a soft cloth on solid wood furniture. However, if the furniture is veneered or particularly delicate, a feather duster is better as it will not catch and lift veneer or snag on intricate carving.
Although there are furniture oils on the market, these attract dust and dirt which may eventually degrade the finish of the furniture. Instead, for cleaning and protective purposes, use a good quality paste, or carnauba, furniture wax.
Useing a soft, lint-free cloth, apply a little wax at a time and rub into the wood, going with the grain. Buff immediately until no streaks or smears remain. Repeat every three to four months.
A more traditional alternative to paste wax is beeswax. This gives a beautiful honey glow to wood and every application will add another layer of protection to your cherished furniture.
A Warning Note
Never use silicone-based polishes on antique furniture as they leave a residue that is very difficult to remove and which my hinder future repairs or refinishing.
If you use an aerosol polish, don’t spray it directly on to the wood as the aerosol component will eventually degrade the finish of your furniture. Instead, spray the polish onto a cloth first and then apply to the furniture.
Beautiful for Years to Come
Careful placement of antique wooden furniture within the home so that it is not overly exposed to light, extremes of temperature or excessive humidity, along with a simple dusting and waxing routine will keep your furniture in great condition for years to come.
Learn more about caring for antique furniture in this video.