Cleaning Antique Furniture: 8 Things to Keep In Mind | Maid4condos

Cleaning Antique Furniture: 8 Things to Keep In Mind

Cleaning Antique Furniture: 8 Things to Keep In Mind
October 11, 2021

Whether you collect antiques or are the proud owner of some family heirlooms, antique furniture requires special care. You want it to maintain its lustre, as well as its value. Therefore you should be aware of proper cleaning to avoid causing damage to the delicate finish.

Things to remember when cleaning antique furniture

Using the wrong cleaning products can actually lift off the finish. In fact, the natural build-up that occurs on antique furniture adds to their appearance. Here we offer eight things you should keep in mind when cleaning your antique furniture to avoid common cleaning mistakes.

1. Only clean as needed

This should make you happy if you hate cleaning. Some people over-clean their sofas, upholstery and antique furniture which can cause damage and ruin their look. Instead, light dusting is all it takes to keep it looking its best. Using excessive cleaning products or trying to wax the furniture too much will make it harder to clean over time. Unless your antique furniture has noticeable grime on it, then a light dusting is fine.

2. Understanding wear and patina

Next, it’s important to understand natural wear on antique pieces. You’ll tend to see discolourations on the furniture where it has been handled or used most often. For example, wooden chairs might have darker areas across the top of the chair where people would frequently grab the chair to pull it out from the table. These natural discolourations are actually considered quite valuable and can add to the charm and character of the chair. They are created either by wearing away the finish or by oils found in your hand. Therefore never try scrubbing away darkened areas or retaining lighter areas as this will damage the furniture and ruin its time-worn ‘patina.’

3. Avoid wax

We often think that antique wood furniture needs waxing to protect it. However, the natural patina that forms over time actually helps strengthen the original finish and protects the wood. When you wax you can actually cause damage and dull the finish. Some mid-century pieces made of teak can benefit from waxing, but you really shouldn’t use anything unless specifically instructed to do so by an antique expert.

4. Avoid reapplying finishes

As mentioned above, you really shouldn’t try to clean antiques by taking off the finish and replacing it. This again, will ruin the patina and destroy the value. Therefore always steer clear of oil products containing varathane and urethane as you will be sealing in grime while also potentially creating a chemical reaction that cracks the original finish.

5. Restoration vs cleaning

If you want to have your antique furniture professionally cleaned, make sure you are very clear in what you ask for. Cleaning will keep the integrity of the patina in place while restoration involves stripping away the old finish and replacing it with a new finish. This is really not desirable as it will completely change the appearance of the piece.

6. Wet vs dry

If you need to try to remove what you believe is grime, you can try doing this with mild soap and water. Avoid harsh cleaners, waxes and oils as you never know what kind of reaction this might create. Always make sure you thoroughly dry the furniture or else the damp can cause issues from warping to water stains. This is one of the reasons the dry option to simply dust works best on furniture that is not dirty.

7. Test cleaners

If you are trying a new type of furniture cleaner on any surface in your home, do a small test first. Choose a small, less obvious area so that if it does cause discolouration or remove the finish, it will only be in one tiny area instead of the entire piece of furniture. A good idea is to test natural cleaners instead of synthetic ones.

8. Finished vs unfinished wood

It can often be difficult to tell if wood is finished or unfinished. An easy way to confirm your wood is unfinished is to run a wet sponge over it. It should darken in colour if unfinished, as there is nothing preventing the water from penetrating the wood. However, sometimes oils from hands can add a bit of protection which could prevent the water from absorbing. If you are sure the wood is unfinished you can use a wood oil treatment once a year to help protect the wood. This is the only furniture that really requires such a treatment to help preserve it. When in doubt, stick with the dry dusting method.

To learn more about cleaning antique furniture, or to explore basic cleaning services for your home, call Maid4Condos at 647-822-0601 or contact us here.

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