The key to
maintaining antique furniture is keeping it clean. The
following tips will help you do just that without damaging it:
1. Avoid using any of the popular spray
dusting helpers. These tend to leave a nasty buildup on
furniture that’s hard to remove later on. Instead, use a
soft cloth to gently wipe away the dust. You can also slightly
dampen the cloth with liquid glass cleaner.
2. Avoid using any of the popular oil-based
liquid furniture polishers. These leave an oily residue that
attracts dust. Lemon oil is one of the worst because it doesn’t
sink into the wood like commonly thought but lays on the
surface acting as a dust magnet.
3. If there’s oily dirt or grease, such as
may get on pieces in a kitchen, remove it with a mild dish
detergent and water solution. Work on small areas at a time
and dry immediately with a soft cloth.
4. Be extra careful when cleaning any wood
that has been gilded. The gilt is usually applied with a
water-soluble adhesive which can be removed by detergent
5. To clean uneven or carved surfaces, use a
soft-bristled brush or your vacuum cleaner with the brush
attachment. Be careful not to hit the furniture in any way
with the vacuum cleaner, itself.
6. Do not use feather dusters. They
move the dust around and can scratch the surface.
7. Before using any cleaner on the surface
of your furniture, test an inconspicuous area towards the back
8. Always avoid using too much liquid
directly on your furniture’s surface.
9. You can get long-term protection by using
a good paste wax, such as Minwax. This is a
petroleum-based product that comes in both natural and dark
shades for light and dark-stained furniture, respectively. The
hard surface it produces can be dusted more easily and without
the danger of scratching because its smoother. Waxing once or
twice a year is sufficient for table tops and chair arms. For
less used areas of furniture, such as chair legs and case
pieces, wax only every four years.
10. Try not to polish hardware while it’s
attached to the furniture. The polish will damage the
furniture’s finish. Instead, remove the hardware and polish
separately, being sure to rinse or wipe it thoroughly before
reattaching it to your pieces. If you can’t remove the
hardware from your piece, be sure to mask it from the
furniture’s surface to prevent damage. For ornate hardware,
use a cotton swab dipped in the detergent solution.
11. Do not polish ormolu, which
really isn’t brass but bronze. Instead, wash it with a soft
cloth soaked with a mild dish detergent.
12. To remove the musty odor from an antique
cabinet or drawers of a chest, spray with Fabreeze and
let dry. To keep it fresh, place a new drier sheet inside each
cabinet or drawer.
13. If mold or mildew forms on a piece of
antique furniture, dampen a soft cloth with a very mild bleach
solution (two tablespoons of bleach to a quart of water) and
wipe the affected area. Dry immediately with a soft cloth,
then wax as stated above.
14. Heat dries out the wood of antique
furniture, loosening joints. Keep your house at a comfortable
level but not excessively hot in the winter. If you must keep
the temperature up, put pans of water around to humidify the
air or use a humidifier. The air will be healthier for you,
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