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LATEST ARTICLE____________________________________

Caring for Antique Painted Furniture
by Bob Brooke


Unlike stained wooden antique furniture, painted pieces extra special care. To preserve the wood, furniture needs to be coated with some sort of protective covering against abrasions, spills and such. In this case, itís paint.

In fact, many cabinetmakers in the17th and 18th centuries preferred to paint their pieces rather than use stains and varnishes.

Contrary to the "strip and dip" approach to dealing with coatings so prevalent in many commercial refinishing and restoration shops, conservators and restorers attempt to preserve the coating on a piece of furniture whenever possible. The idea is to intercede minimally and to leave the surface as undisturbed as possible while stablizing and preserving the original finish.

Cleaning Painted Furniture
Of all antiques, painted furniture is probably the easiest to keep clean. Each week, dust or wipe clean the piece with a cloth dampened with water. Be sure not to leave water spots on the surface, as they'll dry and could leave permanent marks.

Before washing a piece of painted furniture, wipe it with a soft lint-free cloth to remove built up dust. Mild soap and water and a soft cloth are the basic tools youíll need to clean painted furniture. Never use any type of degreaser, furniture spray or polish, or alcohol, or acidic cleaning product that may discolor or damage the finish. And avoid using wax as this may melt when it comes in contact with a hot cup or bowl or when placed in direct sunlight close to a window.

For especially dirty pieces, dip a clean cloth into a solution of one teaspoon of borax, two tablespoons of vinegar, 1/4 cup dishwashing detergent and 1Ĺ cups hot water. Wring the cloth out until itís almost dry and rub the surface using a gentle circular motion.

Special Cleaning
If your piece of painted furniture has stains on visible surfaces or nicks and scratches on it, you'll want to make whatever repairs you can. Gently sand down any mars, taking care not to damage more painted finish than you have to. Carefully glue and clamp any loose joints.

Match the paint as best you can or select a new color of paint and restore the piece to near-perfect condition. Add an oil finish for greatest protection.

Avoiding Unnecessary Damage
Clean up spills or messes immediately with a damp lint-free cloth. If you do get a water ring or scuff try buffing with a dry microfiber cloth. If a water ring is being especially difficult, deep clean it using a soft lint-free rag, with a simple homemade cleaner made with 16 ounces of water, one drop of blue original Dawn, and a tablespoon of vinegar. Collectors of antique furniture want their pieces to remain as close as possible to how they were originally, which often included a coat of paint. Over time, paint oxidizes. This fades the paint and gives it a mellow look. Even if the paint dries to the point that it begins to crack, it's better left alone. A little bit of craquelure is absolutely acceptable and gives you a feeling of comfort that it's original. Resist the temptation to "freshen" up a finish with lacquer over original paint.

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