Of course, most furniture surfaces are made of wood, either solid wood
or wood veneers. The finishes may vary from soft oil finishes to hard
finishes including opaque painted finishes and clear finishes,
lacquer, shellac, varnish or those containing polyurethane for added
It's important you know the type of finish in your wood furniture in
order to properly care for it. Remember that it's the finish you are
cleaning, not the wood itself. If you are in doubt about the type of
finish, try the following tests in an inconspicuous part of the piece.
Test for an oil finish by rubbing a few drops of boiled linseed oil
into the wood. If it absorbs, the wood has an oil finish. If it beads
up, the wood has a hard finish. To identify which hard finish, rub
acetone over a spot in a gentle, circular motion. Lacquer will
dissolve in 30 seconds under gentle, circular rubbing. Varnishes and
shellacs will turn to a sticky, gel-like substance after a minute or
two, and polyurethane/polyester finishes will shed acetone like water.
(A shellac can be distinguished from a varnish because shellacs will
dissolve quickly in denatured alcohol; varnish will react more
After you have decided which finish is on your wood furniture, follow
the appropriate procedures given below for routine and special
For All Finishes: Dust several times a week in order to maintain a
clean surface and protect the finish from soil build up. Use a clean,
lint-free, absorbent cloth for general dusting.
Protect all wooden furniture from direct sunlight. Exposure to the
sun's rays can dry out the wood and actually bleach out the color.
Wood breathes almost like we do, and therefore, both extremely moist
or dry air should be avoided. Use a humidifier or dehumidifier when
needed to help keep wood from drying out or warping. Also, don't place
your wood furniture near air vents; the forced air will adversely
affect the wood.
Cover the bottoms of accessories and other tabletop items with felt to
prevent scratching. Use coasters under glasses to prevent water marks.
Never let water stand on a wood surface, and always use a protective
plate under flower vases filled with water to keep moisture from
drawing into the wood.
Wash your wood furniture surfaces once a year with a sudsy solution of
mild soap and water. Using a clean, soft cloth from which most of the
water has been wrung, work on a small area at a time, overlapping
areas as you work. Clean with the sudsy solution, then rinse with a
soap-free dampened cloth, and dry immediately with a soft, lint-free
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