Dust We Must

I believe in Newton’s second law, the law of entropy, of things to move from an ordered state to a disordered one. What else explains how you can clean your house, go on vacation for two weeks, and when you return still need to dust the furniture?

Like death and taxes, dust is inevitable. And so is dusting. The dust that settles on your furniture has small amounts of grit in it. As this grit moves across the surface of your furniture, it can leave lots of little (and not so little) scratches that will damage your investment. It’s worth the time and the trouble to remove it.

dusting imageOf course, there are lots of commercial products (Pledge, Endust, Larry’s Prit-E-Good Polish) and they’ll all do a good job of removing dust and they usually leave behind a patina of oil to increase the shine. Many of these aerosols are essentially kerosene with something added to make it smell better. But maybe you hadn’t intended to grease your furniture.

Ostrich feathers make a great hat, but a lousy duster. They only stir the dust up and broken feathers can scratch surface. You need to wipe.

Any clean, damp cloth will remove dust. Old T-shirts, socks, diapers or cheese cloth make great cleaning cloths but they need to be washed several times to remove the sizing from the fabric. A dry cloth will just drag the dirt around, so use a damp cloth. Remember to wipe with the grain so if you do cause a scratch, it’ll be less noticeable. A little bit of vinegar or dishwashing soap in the water will help dissolve the dust while you clean. Don’t like the vinegar smell? You can add a few drops of lemon, orange or cedar essential oil. Remember to wipe the surface dry after, you don’t want to ruin the finish by leaving water standing on it.dusting image 2

You can make your own dusting cloths by soaking them overnight in a mixture of warm water, dishwashing soap and a couple teaspoons of turpentine, linseed oil or mineral oil. I don’t recommend plant oils, like almond oil, because they will eventually go rancid. Hang the damp rags to dry and keep them stored in a clean coffee can. The turpentine, linseed or mineral oil will add a bit of shine to your furniture, just like a commercial product.

Difficult and oily fingerprints can be removed by sprinkling with a bit of cornstarch and then polishing it with a soft cloth. For more sensitive surfaces, like your TV screen, you can use a mixture of 4 parts water with 1 part fabric softener.

dusting image 3Now that it’s clean, how do you protect your furniture? A good paste wax will help leave a protective finish between you and the lacquer, shellac, varnish or polyurethane that is protecting the wood. Despite the claims of commercial products, you can’t “feed” the wood. The finish puts a barrier between you and the wood. Most paste waxes are a combination of carnauba, beeswax and synthetic products. The harder the wax, the better the protection. Don’t use floor wax because it is too soft.

Apply a little wax with a cloth or with 0000 steel wool. For things like a table top, use a circular motion and even it out by wiping with the grain. If you can see ridges in the wax, you put it on too thick. Be sure to let it dry before you buff it off, otherwise you’re only smearing the wax around. The softer the cloth, the shinier it’ll be. Yes, it’s a bit of work but it only needs to be done once a year.

As you know, using coasters and wiping up any spilled liquids will help prevent damage.

And you don’t have to dust, but as Phyllis Diller used to say, if you write the date in the dust, don’t put the year.

How (and why) to apply paste wax

Paste wax has been used for centuries to seal, protect and add shine to wood furniture. Paste wax dries to a hard, but very thin, protective finish which makes it the best choice for maintaining fully finished furniture. It is simple to apply and offers several benefits that modern technology can`t match.

Paste wax contains no chemicals that can dry out wood furniture. Most spray-on furniture polishes contain harsh chemical solvents to make them spray effectively, which means that they are dissolving your finish even as they are cleaning it.

The solvents in paste wax are generally made from mineral spirits and are only intended to help the wax soften enough to be spread over the wood. This type of solvent is far gentler on furniture finishes.

Manufacturers of spray polish like to scare consumers with the dangers of “waxy build-up,” but this is a myth. Given the nature of paste wax, it simply does not build up in the way that they claim it does.

Every time you rub against a waxed surface, you degrade a tiny bit of the wax. When you reapply paste wax to furniture and buff it, you`re replacing missing wax, not simply layering over what is already there.

You don`t need any special equipment to apply paste wax, but it`s a good idea to keep lint-free cloths and oil-based furniture soap on hand.

Begin by dusting your furniture. A static-cling or feather duster is excellent for this, because they do not grind the dust particles into the finish, which can cause microscopic scratches. Another benefit of paste wax is that it easily fills tiny scratches, but it still makes sense to avoid causing them if you can.

To apply paste wax, start by dampening a lint-free cloth such as a shop cloth, linen dish towel or old t-shirt with warm water and a tiny dab of oil-based furniture soap. Clean the furniture thoroughly and then wipe it down with a clean, dry cloth.

Place a little blot of paste wax in the center of a clean cloth. It doesn`t need to be large, certainly no larger than a jawbreaker candy or a ping pong ball. Twist the free ends of the cloth close around the little ball of wax. Squeeze and gently knead the cloth until the wax warms and you can feel it softening.

Hold the cloth by the twisted ends and rub the part covering the wax against your furniture. Use whichever motion feels most comfortable, either small circles, back-and-forth or side-to-side sweeps. Because the wax seeps through the cloth in such tiny amounts, it doesn`t matter if you work with or against the grain of the wood.

Let the wax sit for a few seconds. You will see it start to become cloudy. This is the solvent evaporating and it is a necessary part of the process. Buff the wax lightly with a clean, dry cloth and it will develop a deep, soft shine.

If you let the wax sit too long, so much solvent will evaporate that the wax becomes hard again. Apply a bit of fresh wax and it will soften right back up.

Work in small areas if you`re polishing a very large piece of furniture. Buff each section to a high sheen before moving on to the next one and you won`t have to worry about the wax hardening.

Reapply the paste wax when water no longer beads up on its surface or when the furniture looks like it is starting to lose its shine. This will vary according to how much use the furniture gets, so check the look and feel of the wax every time you dust.

 

Tips for keeping your wood furniture in great condition

There is nothing like wood furniture to add elegance and beauty to a home. Whether it is a thick, all-natural butchers block table, an Art Deco wooden dresser, a simple mahogany dining room table or a sleek, modern coffee table, wood furniture is a staple in homes across America and the world. Make sure your wood tables, vanities and dressers stay gorgeous for generations to come with these simple solutions and guidelines.

Stain, Stain, Go Away!

Ever gasped after a child inadvertently left a giant scratch in the surface of your dining room table? Or cringed when a well-meaning adult accidentally knocked over a drink onto your beautiful wood coffee table? Well, fear not. One of the best attributes of wood furniture is that it is simple to touch up or renew its original luster.

Small nicks and scratches can usually be disguised with the help of a store-bought scratch cover product. For larger scratches, try using a felt tip pen or shoe polish in a color closely matched to the finish of the furniture piece. Shoe polish applicator bottles filled with the stain work well for the cover-up job, as do Sharpie markers. Coloring in the scratch is easy and surprisingly effective.

Get rid of pesky water spots and small nicks or scratches on your wood furniture easily and safely by using Howards Restor-a-Finish. This is Furniture Works most favorite refinisher. This product comes in any color to match your piece. Choose the right color and apply it to an old cloth. Gently rub the cloth in circles all over the piece to restore its original finish. The results are spectacular!

howards1 howards2

And what about candle wax, marring the beautiful finish of your wood dining room table? Wait until the wax cools, then apply ice. Once the wax becomes extremely hard and brittle, gently scrape it off with a plastic spatula. Finally, polish the table with a rich cream polish, and buff away any residue.

Prevent serious damage to your wood furniture by taking care not to position it in direct sunlight. Unless you are going for the weathered picnic table look, shield all wood furniture from the drying influence of the sun. Also, protect your dining room table’s finish using an inexpensive table pad when the table is not in use.

When eating a meal or entertaining guests, use a tablecloth or placemats to protect the finish of a wood table, especially when serving hot food. Place hot serving dishes atop a hot pad and candle holders over a large felt protector with a plastic top, since plastic prevents wax from running.

Use coasters beneath all glasses and mugs to protect your coffee table, dining room table and wood dressers from unsightly rings and water spots. Beware, because not all coasters are created equal. Metal coasters can sweat onto the wood, and plastic coasters can react with certain finishes on some wood furniture pieces. So consider choosing wooden coasters with felt backing and a waterproof material on top to further ensure the longevity of your wood table tops. The best coasters are those that taper up on the sides, preventing leakage.

Proper Care and Cleaning

Polishing wood furniture every week goes a long way toward protecting the finish from damage and helping your wood tables, chairs and dressers look their best. Beware, though, of cheap polishes, or any polish that contains silicone or alcohol. Alcohol can do permanent damage to a wood surface, as can any household cleaner that contains ammonia. An excellent polish can be easily made at home, by combining lemon oil with 3 parts olive oil. A wonderful product that we use for our pieces in the store is Howards Feed-N-Wax orange oil. It conditions and cleans the dirtiest of wood.

howards3 howards4

Now that you know about polishes, don’t forget to clean your wood furniture as well. Regular cleaning is especially important for coffee tables and dining room tables where food and drink are daily staples. Use a very mild soap, such as a diluted mixture of hand soap and water, as a cleaning agent for your wood furniture. And if you really want to ensure your dining room table or heirloom wood desk stays beautiful, have your wood furniture buffed and polished by a professional service once or twice a year.

Now you are fully armed to properly care for your wood furniture. And don’t be disheartened if you are unable to make a nick or small stain disappear completely. Signs of use can add character to a piece of wood furniture, and are often barely noticeable. Whether it is a dresser, coffee table, bookshelf, desk, or dining room table, wood furniture is the perfect addition to any home.

How (and why) to use a paste wax

Paste wax has been used for centuries to seal, protect and add shine to wood furniture. Paste wax dries to a hard, but very thin, protective finish which makes it the best choice for maintaining fully finished furniture. It is simple to apply and offers several benefits that modern technology can`t match.

Paste wax contains no chemicals that can dry out wood furniture. Most spray-on furniture polishes contain harsh chemical solvents to make them spray effectively, which means that they are dissolving your finish even as they are cleaning it. 

The solvents in paste wax are generally made from mineral spirits and are only intended to help the wax soften enough to be spread over the wood. This type of solvent is far gentler on furniture finishes. 

Manufacturers of spray polish like to scare consumers with the dangers of “waxy build-up,” but this is a myth. Given the nature of paste wax, it simply does not build up in the way that they claim it does.

Every time you rub against a waxed surface, you degrade a tiny bit of the wax. When you reapply paste wax to furniture and buff it, you`re replacing missing wax, not simply layering over what is already there. 

You don`t need any special equipment to apply paste wax, but it`s a good idea to keep lint-free cloths and oil-based furniture soap on hand.

Begin by dusting your furniture. A static-cling or feather duster is excellent for this, because they do not grind the dust particles into the finish, which can cause microscopic scratches. Another benefit of paste wax is that it easily fills tiny scratches, but it still makes sense to avoid causing them if you can.

To apply paste wax, start by dampening a lint-free cloth such as a shop cloth, linen dish towel or old t-shirt with warm water and a tiny dab of oil-based furniture soap. Clean the furniture thoroughly and then wipe it down with a clean, dry cloth.

Place a little blot of paste wax in the center of a clean cloth. It doesn`t need to be large, certainly no larger than a jawbreaker candy or a ping pong ball. Twist the free ends of the cloth close around the little ball of wax. Squeeze and gently knead the cloth until the wax warms and you can feel it softening.

Hold the cloth by the twisted ends and rub the part covering the wax against your furniture. Use whichever motion feels most comfortable, either small circles, back-and-forth or side-to-side sweeps. Because the wax seeps through the cloth in such tiny amounts, it doesn`t matter if you work with or against the grain of the wood. 

Let the wax sit for a few seconds. You will see it start to become cloudy. This is the solvent evaporating and it is a necessary part of the process. Buff the wax lightly with a clean, dry cloth and it will develop a deep, soft shine. 

If you let the wax sit too long, so much solvent will evaporate that the wax becomes hard again. Apply a bit of fresh wax and it will soften right back up. 

Work in small areas if you`re polishing a very large piece of furniture. Buff each section to a high sheen before moving on to the next one and you won`t have to worry about the wax hardening.

Reapply the paste wax when water no longer beads up on its surface or when the furniture looks like it is starting to lose its shine. This will vary according to how much use the furniture gets, so check the look and feel of the wax every time you dust. 

The furniture lovers at OlyFurnitureWorks recommend contacting their friends at Forrest Furnishing the next time you are looking to add to your collection of fine dining or casual wood furniture…unless we’ve got it too. 🙂