Learn how to maintain your investment in furnitures.

CARING FOR WOOD SURFACES

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 strength.

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 slowly.)

After you have decided which finish is on your wood furniture, follow the appropriate procedures given below for routine and special maintenance.

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.

CLEANSER-CONDITIONER

FOR ALL FINISHES EXCEPT PAINT (Use sparingly on shellac.):
If the wood is extremely dry, grimy or if there is a wax build-up, clean the wood with a clean, soft, lint-free cloth dampened with cleanser-conditioner.

Materials Needed:

  1. Glass container with tight-fitting lid
  2. Gum turpentine
  3. Boiled linseed oil
  4. Newspapers
  5. Hot water
  6. Cup or small flat can
  7. Saucer or small pie pan
  8. Soft, clean, lint-free cloths
  9. Old toothbrush
  10. 4/0 steel wool

 

How To Prepare:
Combine 1 part of gum turpentine with 3 parts of boiled linseed oil. Cover tightly and shake well to mix. The mixture can be stored indefinitely. Because it is flammable and poisonous, keep out of reach of children and away from heat to store.

How To Use:

  1. The room should be well ventilated.
  2. Spread a layer of newspapers under the piece of furniture.
  3. Heat some water and pour into a cup or can placed on a saucer pan.
  4. Shake the cleanser-conditioner then pour enough into the cup to cover the surface of the water. Do not stir.
  5. Dip the cloth into the floating oil mixture and wring out.
  6. Rub the mixture into the wood, working in a small area at a time. Avoid getting too much moisture into joints, as the glue will soften.
  7. To clean grooved or carved areas, use an old toothbrush which has been dipped into the mixture.
  8. Wipe the surface with a clean, damp cloth, then wipe dry.
  9. Overlap areas as you work.
  10. Discard contents of the cup after use by placing in a can and putting in a closed garbage container. Do not pour down a sink drain.
  11. Follow with the appropriate wax, polish or oil treatment.

PROTECTION POLISH

After using the cleanser-conditioner, and for occasional polishing, mix equal parts of boiled linseed oil and gum turpentine and apply to the wood surfaces with a course, lintless cloth, such as cheesecloth. Rub briskly until the wood is completely dry and a sheen appears. Let the oil soak into the wood. Reapply if necessary.

  • For new furniture, apply once a month for three to four months, then apply twice a year or as needed.
  • For older furniture, use a mixture of two parts of boiled linseed oil and one part gum turpentine every six to eight months. Rub especially on the tops of tables, and to the underside of table leaves to prevent warping.

 

FOR ALL HARD FINISHES:
Lacquers, varnishes, shellacs, polyurethane/polyester finishes, as well as painted surfaces can all be protected with waxes or polishes. Select the wax or polish according to the level of gloss or sheen you desire. Do not mix products as a dull film may result. To remove an inappropriate wax or finish, clean the piece with cleaner-conditioner, then apply the appropriate finish protection.

A paste wax or an aerosol or liquid polish containing silicone will create a high gloss.
Paste waxes offer the best protection and with consecutive applications and a lot of buffing, provide a beautiful high gloss. Paste wax is recommended for fine antiques with a hard finish. It is available made from beeswax, a softer, more nourishing wax, and carnauba, a tougher, harder wax. Paste wax comes in various shades, from dark to light, to blend in with the tone of the wood. Clear waxes are also available for painted surfaces.

Aerosol or liquid polishes which contain silicones offer high gloss with very little buffing, clean as well as shine and give the wood a durable protective finish. However, silicones are rather difficult to remove and, therefore, can complicate the process of refinishing in the future. They also tend to show finger smudges more readily and need more frequent applications to maintain the gloss, causing a heavier silicone buildup.

Satin-gloss and low-gloss finishes are best achieved and maintained by the use of cream waxes or liquid cleaning polishes which do not contain silicones. Oil polishes can be used as well, but require more rubbing and attract dust quickly.

REPAIRING MINOR SURFACE DAMAGE

Occasionally, even with the best of care, an accident will occur, damaging the finish of your wood furniture. When it happens, follow the technique given below quickly to avoid damage to the finish which may require extensive refinishing.

 

Alcohol Spots

Many common products such as perfumes, medicines and beverages contain alcohol. When spilled, these products can cause irrepairable damage to furniture surfaces because alcohol has a tendency to dissolve varnish and shellac.

Wipe up spills immediately. Should spotting occur, one of the following treatments may aid in its removal.

  1. When the damage to the surface isn’t too severe, try rubbing the spot with paste wax, silver polish, boiled linseed oil or moistened cigar ash then rewax.
  2. An application of non-sudsy clear household ammonia will work on some finishes. Rub the spot with a damp cloth upon which a few drops of ammonia have been applied. Follow immediately with an application of wax.
  3. For alcohol spots that were not treated immediately, a more complicated process is used. Mix rottenstone and a few drops of boiled linseed oil, sewing machine oil or lemon oil into a creamy paste. Apply the paste to the spot using a soft cloth, rubbing with the grain of the wood. If a harsher abrasive is needed, substitute powdered pumice for rottenstone.

 

Burns, Blemishes

Burns are some of the most difficult blemishes to repair. The deeper the burn, the more damage there is to correct. When burns are very deep or severe, only refinishing by a professional will correct the problem.

  1. For minor surface burns or blemishes, use the same treatment as that described for all alcohol stains.
    Another remedy for minor burns or blemishes is to dip a cotton swab in paint remover and rub the damaged area gently to remove charred material. Scrape the area if needed. Use one to two drops of clear fingernail polish to fill the depressed area. Let set and repeat until you build up the area to the same level as the wood around it.
  2. To repair severe surface burns or blemishes, scrape the burned area with a knife or razor blade which has been taped for safe usage. To remove loose dirt or charred wood, clean the area with a cotton-tipped toothpick dipped in turpentine. Wrap 4/0 steel wool around the point of a wooden skewer or an orange stick and smooth the damaged area. Clean area again with turpentine.
    Complete the process by rubbing the blemish in the direction of the grain with very fine sandpaper or a fingernail emery board. Select an oil stain in a matching color and apply with a small brush or cotton-tipped toothpick.
    Be careful to stay in the damaged area. Reapply until the stain matches the original finish. Let dry at least two hours.
    Fill in the damaged area with a stick shellac in a color that matches the wood finish. To apply the shellac, heat a spatula over an electric range unit until the blade is just hot enough to melt the shellac. Scrape off a small piece and press it into the blemish using the edge of the spatula blade. Repeat the process until the area is filled. To level off the area, heat the blade again, wipe it clean and scrape it across the surface. Any excess shellac still remaining may be shaved off with a razor blade.
    To complete the treatment, sand off the surface using very fine sandpaper (8/0) or the fine side of an emery board. Rub lightly until the scratch is even with the finish. Lastly, rub the area briskly with a mixture of rottenstone and a few drops of boiled linseed oil, sewing machine oil or lemon oil.

 

Candle Wax, Chewing Gum

Hold an ice cube over the wax or gum for a few seconds so that it will chill and harden. Be sure to wipe up water as the ice melts to prevent water spots. Remove as much of the wax or gum as possible with your fingers, then scrape the remainder gently using the dull edge of a table knife. Rub the spot briskly with a cloth saturated in cream wax. Repeat if needed.

 

Cracking, Checking

Checking and cracking of hard finishes on wood furniture is usually caused by exposure to extreme heat or cold and appears as then, hairline cracks. Although it is usually necessary to refinish the surface, waxing will improve the appearance when checking is not too extreme. Once the wax has dried, however, it may appear white in the cracks. To remove the white lines, rub with a cloth saturated in turpentine. Use an old toothbrush to get wax out of the crevices. Wash with mild soap and warm water, rinse with clear water and dry well. Rewax the surface. NOTE: When working on a checked finish, always use a circular motion.

 

Grease Stains

  • Removing grease stains on furniture is at best a very difficult procedure. It the stain is very deep or old, it may be impossible to remove. One of the methods described below might aid in removal of less severe stains.
  • Place a blotter over the greasy spot. Press with a warm iron. Repeat until the spot is removed.
  • Make a thick paste of Fuller’s Earth and liquid spot remover, such as Carbona or Brush-Top brands. Apply to the spot and allow the paste to dry. Brush away dry residue. Repeat several times if necessary.
  • Saturate the area with mineral spirits. Place Fuller’s Earth, talcum powder, sawdust or an old cloth over the spot to absorb the grease as it is drawn out by the first application. Continue until the pot is removed.

 

Ink Stains

If ink is spilled on a worn or damaged finish in which the unsealed wood is exposed, it will penetrate deep into the wood and become almost impossible to remove. If, however, the finish has been protected with a layer of wax, ink can often be blotted up immediately without staining. The following methods may be helpful should a stain occur.

Blot the spot immediately before the ink has a chance to penetrate the wood. Clean the surface using a cream wax or a damp cloth. DO NOT RUB – keep turning the cloth to prevent smearing. Should the stain persist, treat the spot with rottenstone and oil as prescribed previously for alcohol stains.

If the stain remains, apply an oxalic acid solution with a medicine dropper or glass rod (two tablespoons oxalic acid to one pint lukewarm water). Allow the solution to stand a few minutes and rinse. The oxalic acid solution is a bleach and works slowly, so give it time to work on the stain. It may also bleach out part of the natural color. The bleach will work better if the spot is sanded lightly before application. (CAUTION: Oxalic acid is poisonous. Be careful.)

 

Nail Polish

Do not apply nail polish remover to the stain; it will quickly damage the finish. Instead, soften the nail polish by rubbing it with a cloth saturated in mineral spirits. If the finish is hard, apply paste wax with fine steel wool in the direction of the grain. Apply a small amount of oil to an oil finish.

 

Paint Stains

Never use paint remover or strong chemicals to dissolve paint; they may cause extensive damage to the finish.

Remove fresh paint by rubbing the spot with a cloth saturated in liquid solvent-base wax. For paint stains that have dried, cover the spot with boiled linseed oil. Let stand until softened; then remove with a cloth dampened with boiled linseed oil. If any paint remains, remove with rottenstone and oil, using the same procedure as prescribed for alcohol stains.

 

Scratches

  • Minor scratches which have not penetrated the finish may be hidden by an application of paste wax alone. If this doesn’t work, one of the following methods may be used to stain the scratch so that it becomes less noticeable.
  • Break a Brazil nut, black walnut or butternut in half and rub into the blemish.
  • Color the scratch with brown coloring crayon or liquid shoe dye (especially good on walnut).
  • Stain the scratch with iodine: Mahogany – use new iodine; Brown or cherry mahogany – iodine that has turned dark brown; Maple – dilute one part iodine with one part denatured alcohol. After staining the scratch rub the area with rottenstone and oil as prescribed for alcohol stains.

 

White Rings, White Haze

  • Water rings which appear as filmy gray spots are especially common on furniture. To remove, use one of the following methods.
  • Rub with paste wax and 4/0 (very fine) steel wool.
  • Rub spot lightly with a soft lintless cloth moistened with camphorated oil. Wipe immediately using a clean cloth.
  • Dip a small piece of cheesecloth in hot water to which two to three drops of household ammonia have been added. Wring cloth out tightly and rub spot lightly.
  • Place a clean, thick blotter over the ring and press repeatedly with a warm (not hot) iron.

 

White Marks, Spots, and/or Rings

  • White marks, spots or rings on furniture are generally caused by some change in the finish due to heat, alcohol or moisture. Successful removal will depend on sufficiently warming and blending the surface without making it rough. Remember that not all substances will work on all finishes. Begin with the mildest and continue to try stronger ones until the spot has been removed. NOTE: Blemishes of this nature are similar to others listed. Generally, the direct cause of the blemish is not known, so they are treated as one group.
  • Mix equal parts of boiled linseed oil, gum turpentine and vinegar and rub the surface gently.
  • Rub lightly over the spot with a cloth dampened in a mixture of one part water and two parts non-sudsy household ammonia.
  • Place a piece of blotting paper over the spot and press with a warm iron. For varnished or shellacked surfaces (not lacquer), rub the spot with a cloth dampened in essence of peppermint, spirits of camphor or turpentine and water. Watch carefully to see that the surface does not become tacky or sticky. When dry, apply paste, liquid or cream wax, or polish with a mixture of equal parts of boiled linseed oil and turpentine.
  • Moisten a small cotton pad with denatured alcohol or dilute shellac in addition to a few drops of raw linseed oil. Rub over the spot in the direction of the grain.

 

Yellow Spots On Light Wood

As bleached or blond furniture ages, the chemicals used to bleach out the natural wood color begin to lose their effect, causing a change in color. Often this change is so gradual that it is not detected until a new piece is purchased in the original shade. Exposing light furniture to direct sunlight can cause a change to occur in only a few days resulting in unattractive yellow spots. Since nothing can be done to remove these spots, it is necessary to keep furniture of this type out of the sun.

REPAIRING MAJOR SURFACE DAMAGE

Surface repairs can be made before or after the old finish is removed. However, many are not visible until after the finish is removed. Remember, some surface damage is an indication of age and may not need to be repaired.

Veneers

  • Don’t attempt to do extensive veneer repairing jobs; take the piece to an experienced cabinetmaker. But you can glue small pieces of loose veneer and blisters back into place without calling in an expert.
  • Don’t attempt to do extensive veneer repairing jobs; take the piece to an experienced cabinetmaker. But you can glue small pieces of loose veneer and blisters back into place without calling in an expert.
  • If the veneer is still attached but has loosened from an edge or corner, use a hypodermic needle or thin knife blade to insert wood glue into the area. Proceed with clamping as described above.
  • If you have a blister in the veneer, cut a slit with the point of a sharp thin knife at the side of the blister where the veneer is still glued. Be sure to follow the grain of the wood. Hold the slit open with the knife. Fill the blister with warm white vinegar and let it stand for several hours to dissolve the glue. Wipe away any vinegar that remains with a damp cloth. Let the blister and the surrounding wood dry thoroughly before adding glue. Then work plenty of wood glue under the blister, using a hypodermic needle or thin knife blade to get the glue in the blister. Apply pressure to flatten it. Leave it under pressure until the glue is completely dry.

 

Dents

  • Dents are depressed layers of wood caused by hard impacts. They can be raised back to original level by steam. Place several layers of damp fabric or damp, brown wrapping paper over the dent. Touch the fabric or paper with a warm iron. The steam will cause the wood fibers to swell back into place. It may be necessary to repeat this process until the dented area is level with the surface around it. Allow the area to dry.
  • Since the steam opens the wood pores, sand the area thoroughly to “repack the grain. If you don’t, the area will absorb more stain and have an uneven color. NOTE: Don’t use this treatment on veneers. The steam can soften the glue under the veneer and cause it to come loose. Also, be careful when applying steam near joints because the glue there can soften, also.
  • When an impact has been great enough to cut through the wood fibers, steam and heat will not repair the damage. Fill the dent with a wood filler to make it level. Follow directions on the package.

CARING FOR OTHER FURNISHINGS SURFACES

Many furnishings may not only be made of wood, but may have decorative details made of metals, ivory, leather, marble, glass or other materials. Other items may not even contain wood but other materials such as reed, cane, wicker, acrylic or iron.

For maximum beauty, utility and protection, follow the guidelines below for care of these materials:

 

Aluminum

Some parts of contemporary furniture are made of aluminum. One reason for using it is its ease of upkeep. Properly cared for, aluminum should require only dusting and occasional wiping with a soft, damp cloth.

When necessary, wash with hot, soapy (mild soap) water, then rinse and dry with a soft cloth. Do not use abrasives, cleansing powders, etc. Do not use strong soaps or detergents because they contain alkali and can cause pitting of aluminum. If any materials have hardened on aluminum, a soft damp cloth dipped in fine whiting can be used to gently rub away the dirt. Then wash, rinse and dry.

 

Brass

Brass decorative furnishings are often lacquered to protect the surface from corrosion and tarnish. As with any lacquered metal surface, they should not be polished, nor soaked in water, nor washed in hot water. Such treatment can crack the protective lacquer coating. To care for lacquered brass, wash in lukewarm soapy water, rinse with lukewarm water, dry thoroughly. The warm air of hair dryer can aid in drying hard to reach areas.

Lacquer that is damaged can be removed. One method used to remove lacquer is to soak the accessory (if it is possible) in soapy water for about fifteen minutes. Rinse with hot water and rub with a soft cloth until the lacquer peels. Another way to remove lacquer is to rub it off with a soft cloth moistened with denatured alcohol. Unlacquered brass will tarnish and requires polishing. Commercial metal polishes are available.

When cleaning and polishing antique brass, test the cleaning materials on the surface of the accessory of fixture to be sure of obtaining the desired effect. Some methods do clean tarnish and corrosion of the years, but in addition, remove the mellowness of age that is desirable on old drawer pulls, oil lamps, candle holders and other furnishings and accessories. The cleaners and polishes for brass are listed below from the mildest polish to the more powerful chemicals for removing corrosion and tarnish.

 

Polish For Antique Brass

Wash the accessory in hot, soapy water, rinse and dry. This removes surface grime, wax, etc. Moisten a soft cloth with boiled linseed oil and rub on the brass surface. When dirt and grease are removed, polish with a clean, soft cloth.

 

Polish For Soft Finish

Method 1: Wash the accessory in hot soapy water to remove the grime, wax, etc. Wipe on a paste of either fine whiting and boiled linseed oil, or rottenstone and boiled linseed oil, using a soft cloth. Rub to remove light tarnish. Polish with a clean, soft, dry cloth. Make only enough paste for immediate use.

Method 2: Wash the accessory in hot, soapy water to remove surface grime, wax, etc. Make a paste of fine whiting and denatured alcohol. Wipe paste on with a soft cloth and allow to dry on surface. Polish off dry white film. Wash in hot, soapy water. Rinse with hot water and dry thoroughly. Make only enough paste for immediate use.

Cleaner For Heavy Tarnish and Corrosion – (Use only on solid or pressed brass)

Method 1: Pour ammonia in a glass bowl and soak the brass accessory or fixture for a few minutes. After corrosion and stains have disappeared (through either method), wash brass in hot, soapy water, rinse and dry. Then polish to a soft finish using a paste of fine whiting and boiled linseed oil.

Method 2: (For accessories too large to be cleaned by Method 1.) Moisten a soft cloth with clear household ammonia and rub on brass. Turn cloth as it becomes soiled.

 

Cleaner for Difficult Stains, Corrosion – (Use only on solid or pressed brass)

Method 1: Wash the accessory in hot, soapy water to remove surface grime, wax, etc. Dip a slice of lemon into table salt and rub over corroded areas. Repeat until clean. Wash the accessory in hot soapy water, rinse with hot water and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth.

 

Chromium

Chromium is used as a plating for metal furniture. It needs only to be wiped with a soft, damp cloth and polished with a soft, dry cloth. Abrasives should not be used because they wear off the plating.

If the chrome has been badly neglected and dirt has hardened on its surface, dip a soft, dampened cloth into fine whiting and rub carefully. Then wipe with damp cloth and dry.

 

Copper – Bonze

Copper or bronze decorative ornaments and fixtures are often lacquered to prevent corrosion and tarnish. These lacquered, decorative accessories should not be polished, nor soaked in water, nor washed in hot water because such treatment can crack the lacquer covering the surface. To care for lacquered metal, wash when necessary in lukewarm water and rinse with lukewarm water; then dry thoroughly.

Damaged lacquer can be removed. One method for removing lacquer is to soak the accessory (if possible) in hot, soapy water for about fifteen minutes. Rinse with hot water and rub with a soft cloth until the lacquer peels off. Another way of removing lacquer is to rub with a soft cloth moistened with denatured alcohol. Once lacquer is removed, the unprotected metal will tarnish and require polishing. Commercial metal polishes can produce either a bright or soft finish.

 

Cleaner (and Polish) For A Brighter Finish

Method 1: Wash the accessory in hot soapy water to remove surface grime, wax, etc. Sprinkle salt on surface. Pour vinegar over the salt and rub with soft cloth. More than one application may be necessary. If corrosion is present, use hot vinegar. When the accessory is clean, wash in hot soapy water, rinse with hot water, dry.

Method 2: Wash the accessory in hot, soapy water to remove surface grime, wax, etc. Mix equal parts of table salt, vinegar and flour to form a paste. Rub on the surface until copper is clean. Wash in hot soapy water. Rinse with hot water; dry. Mix only enough paste for immediate use. (NOTE: the advantage of the paste is that it is easier to apply on rounded surfaces.)

 

Polish For A Soft Finish

Method 1: Wash the accessory in hot, soapy water to remove surface grime, wax, etc. Wipe on a paste of rottenstone and boiled linseed oil with a soft cloth. Rub to remove light tarnish and polish with a soft cloth. Make only enough paste for immediate use.

Method 2: (Warning – this polish leaves a white film when it dries which must be thoroughly washed from any decorative lines, crevices and indentations.) Wipe on a paste of rottenstone and denatured alcohol solvent with a soft cloth and allow to dry to a white film. Wash in hot water, rinse with hot water and dry thoroughly. Make only enough paste for immediate use.

 

Gesso

Gesso is a hard plaster-like material that is molded to resemble intricately carved wood. Picture frames, particularly those made during the Victorian era, were gesso on wood molding finished in gold leaf or gilding. These gesso frames of both simple and ornate designs are used for mirrors, modern museum prints, amateur painter’s works, etc.

Because the frames have been stored for decades in attics and sheds, the gold leaf and gilding are often fly-specked, dirty and greasy. The frame should first be vacuumed to remove surface dust. In order to avoid the removal of any of the gold, these very gentle cleaning methods are recommended.

 

Cleaner

Method 1: Work on a small section (one or two inches square) of the frame. Clean it completely. Then go to another small section. Cut a slice of fresh lemon and rub a small section of frame with the cut edge. Work into crevices. Sponge the section immediately with a solution of one tablespoon baking soda and one pint water. Dry thoroughly with soft cloths. Dry crevices by absorbing moisture with an orange stick wrapped with cotton or a cotton-tipped swab. Repeat process if necessary.

Always neutralize the lemon with the soda solution to prevent dissolving the gold.

Method 2: (The limitation of this method is that a white film sometimes develops in deep crevices and must be gently brushed out.) Work on a small section (one or two inches square) of frame. When clean, go on to the next section. Moisten a soft cloth with a mixture of one egg white and one tablespoon baking soda. Rub on a small section of the frame and work into crevices with a soft brush or orange stick wrapped with cloth or a cotton-tipped swab.

Before the mixture dries, remove all of it with dry cloths. Remove from crevices with an orange stick wrapped with cloth or a cotton-tipped swab. Repeat process if necessary. Discard unused mixture.

 

Ivory

Piano keys and some decorative accessories are made of ivory. Ivory yellows naturally with age and more quickly when away from light. Therefore, the keyboard of a piano or organ should be left open, and decorative ivory pieces exhibited, not packed away.

Clean ivory accessories by dusting and, when necessary, washing with mild, soapy water, rinsing and drying thoroughly. Wipe the keys of a piano with a clean, damp cloth, the long way of the key, and dry at once. When necessary, wipe them with a cloth dampened with soapy water (mild soap) then wipe them with another cloth dampened with water only; dry at once. Clean key to key.

 

Laminated Plastic

Laminated plastic is sometimes used for tops of dining tables, coffee tables, end tables and other surface areas. Wood grain effects are achieved to blend with the rest of the wood of the particular piece of furniture. High style furniture often uses plain white surfaces.

Clean laminated plastic by wrapping it with a damp cloth or warm water and soap. Rinse and dry. Polish with a dry cloth. Do not use cleansing powders. Baking soda rubbed on the surface with a soft, damp cloth removes most dark stains, ink marks and black lines from white laminated plastic surfaces. Rinse and dry.

 

Leather

Leather has been used since ancient times for upholstery and other furnishing surfaces. Until a generation ago, leather was frequently used in furnishings, and much of this furniture is still used. Today because of the cost of hides and tanning and production, leather is a luxury material used only in expensive furniture.

If you buy new leather furniture, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for care. Some manufacturers warn not to use oils of any kind, even those customarily used on leather. This is because during the tanning process sufficient oils and other finishes may be incorporated into the leather to last indefinitely. If no instructions are available, clean soiled new leather by wringing out a soft cloth saturated with lukewarm water and rubbing the damp cloth over a bar of castile soap. Rub leather briskly. Rub with another damp cloth. Rub leather briskly. Rub with another damp cloth. Rub dry with dry, soft cloths. This restores the gloss.

 

Dressing For Old Leather

  • To restore old leather, first clean it with saddle soap. Rub on neat’s-foot oil or castor oil. (Do not use mineral oil or linseed oil.) Oil spots can be removed with dry-cleaning fluid. If the leather is extremely dry, reapply oil the next day.
  • For white or light-colored leather, use white Vaseline rather than the above-mentioned oils because Vaseline will not darken the leather as much.
  • If the leather had a polished or glossy finish, don’t use neat’s-foot oil, because it will be difficult to polish afterwards. Rather, use lanolin, castor oil or 50/50 combination of the two.
  • If there are areas which need to be touched up with dye, obtain leather dye from a leather goods store or use a waxless shoe dye.
  • For tears, do not apply tape of any kind to the surface. Rather, apply an adhesive (which will remain slightly flexible and that is internally plasticized so it will remain stable indefinitely) to a piece of linen canvas, glass-fiber matting or spandex. Place the adhesive-coated fabric on the back of the leather and draw the tear together. Apply pressure to the patched area for at least three or four hours. Do not use an adhesive which will become rigid.

 

Marble

Old or new marble has a natural beauty in furnishings. To preserve the brightness and luster of old or new marble in good condition, wash with clean cloths and fresh, lukewarm water. Twice a year wash with a mild detergent to remove any residue. Waxing is not necessary for marble and is not recommended for white marble, because a yellowish tone will develop in time. Marble companies make special protective sealers for those consumers wishing them.

Draw stains out of marble by poulticing. The principle of poulticing is to keep the necessary bleach or solvent moist for a long period while the stain is drawn from the marble into the poultice, which will absorb it. Whiting can be mixed with the suitable cleaning agents and spread on the stain to serve as a poultice, or an absorbent white paper (blotter, paper napkins or cleansing tissue) can be soaked in the required solution and placed on the stain. In either case, keep the poultice moist while the stain is being drawn out of the marble. This is easily done by covering it with a piece of plastic wrap material. The process may take from one to 48 hours, depending on the type and age of stain.

Special products have been developed for use in cleaning marble and can be purchased at special supply houses.

 

Poultice For Organic Stains (Tea, Coffee, Tobacco, Soft Drinks, etc.)

Method 1. Whiting Poultice – Make the poultice by making a paste of hydrogen peroxide (hair bleach strength) and whiting. Add a few drops of clear household ammonia. Spread the paste on the stains. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand several hours. More than one application may be necessary. Rinse and dry thoroughly. Mix only enough poultice for immediate use.

Method 2. Poultice without Whiting – Add a few drops of clear household ammonia to a small amount of hydrogen peroxide (hair bleach strength). Saturate absorbent paper with this mixture and place over stains. Cover with plastic wrap sheet to keep moist. Allow to stand several hours. More than one application may be necessary. Rinse and dry thoroughly. Mix only enough poultice for immediate use.

 

Poultice for Oil Stains (butter, salad oils, etc.)

Method 1. Whiting Poultice – Wipe the marble surface with a cloth dampened with clear household ammonia. Make a paste of whiting and acetone. Spread paste over stain. Cover with plastic wrap material to keep moist. Allow to stand several hours. More than one application may be needed. Rinse and dry thoroughly. If some color remains, use poultice recommended for organic stains. Mix only enough poultice for immediate use.

 

Pewter
Present-Day Pewter

Most pewter made today is lead free and so does not darken the way antique pewter does, but some pewter containing lead is still made. Care and polishing of lead-free pewter is simple. Wash the accessory in hot, soapy water; rinse and dry. Polish by rubbing in one direction. As will all metal accessories, store so that the sides of the vase or bowl are not rubbing against another hard surface. Otherwise, scratches may show on the surface.

 

Leaded Pewter

  • Some darkening adds to the charm of leaded pewter, but too much can hide its beauty. If you use a commercial cleaner to remove tarnish, use silver polish or a specially-made pewter polish. After cleaning, wash in hot, soapy water; rinse with hot water and dry by rubbing in one direction.
  • Cleaner for Heavily Tarnished Leaded Pewter – Make a paste of fine whiting and boiled linseed oil. Dip a small piece of 4/0 steel wool into the paste and rub onto pewter in one direction. When as much tarnish as possible is removed, polish. Make only enough paste for immediate use.
  • Polish For Dull Finish – Make a paste of rottenstone and boiled linseed oil. Dip a soft cloth into the paste and rub over pewter. Rub in one direction. When clean, wash in hot, soapy water; rinse, dry and polish. Make only enough paste for immediate use.
  • Polish For Bright Finish – Make a paste of fine whiting and denatured alcohol. Dip a soft cloth into the paste and rub on the pewter. Rub in one direction. When clean, wash in hot, soapy water; rinse with hot water, dry and polish. Make only enough paste for immediate use.

 

Reed, Cane & Wicker

These are natural materials that can be cleaned with the vacuum brush attachment. If badly soiled, wash with mild soap and lukewarm water; rinse with clear water. Dry by absorbing excess moisture with dry cloths. Do Not wet wooden parts of furniture.

On a dry, windy day, outdoor wicker furniture can be washed with mild soap and warm water, rinsed by using watering hose and left out to dry.

 

Silver (Plated Or Sterling

Commercially-prepared polishes in liquid, powder or paste form are readily available. Through recent research, a tarnish-preventative silver polish has been developed. Many silversmith companies recommend and some produce such products. Follow instructions given for using tarnish-preventative polishes.

There is a method of silver cleaning known as electrolytic cleaning. However, most silversmiths do not recommend it because while the method removes tarnish, it also removes the depth of pattern and luster of silver.

Cleaner For Sterling or Plated Silver – Wash silver in hot soap suds. Make a paste of three parts fine whiting and one part either clear household ammonia or denatured alcohol. Dampen a soft cloth, such as flannel or chamois, and dip into the paste. Rub the polish on silver with straight, even strokes (not crosswise or in circular motion). Rub with another soft cloth until silver is clean and bright. Wash silver in hot suds to remove all cleaning materials. Rinse and dry. Make only enough paste for use at one time.

 

Slate

Slate is occasionally used, particularly in contemporary designs, as an insert in a coffee table, tray or other furnishing. In addition to its decorative purposes, slate is often useful as a built-in trivet or hot pad. Wash and dry slate when it becomes soiled or spotted. Do not wax slate if used for hot dish server.

Polish – Rub a small amount of boiled linseed oil over the clean slate. Rub in briskly with fingers or soft cloth. Wipe off excess boiled linseed oil with a soft cloth. Polish with a clean soft cloth.

 

Stainless Steel

Some parts of contemporary furniture have stainless steel finish. One reason for using it is its ease of upkeep. Stainless steel, properly cared for, requires only dusting and occasional wiping with a soft, damp cloth. When necessary, wash with hot, soapy (mild soap or detergent) water, rinse and dry with a soft cloth. Do not use abrasives. If the stainless steel has been badly neglected and dirt has hardened on the surface, dip a soft, dampened cloth into fine whiting and rub dirt away carefully. Then wash, rinse and dry.

 

Tin

Tin is a thin coating over iron or steel. Decorative tinware is imported today and many of the old utensils such as candle molds may be found (worn or corroded) in antique furniture items, but tin can be cleaned and waxed for decorative purposes. Use a hard paste wax. Wash tin in hot, soapy water, rinse well and dry thoroughly to prevent rust.

For information on caring for upholstered furniture ask your county Extension agent for a copy of Bulletin 905, “How To Care For Upholstered Furniture.”

Trade and brand names are used only for information. The Cooperative Extension Service, University of Georgia College of Agriculture does not guarantee nor warrant the standard of any product mentioned; neither does it imply approval of any product to the exclusion of others which may also be suitable.

WHERE YOU CAN PURCHASE RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS

  • Acetone – hardware store and drug store
  • Boiled Linseed Oil – hardware store
  • Camphorated Oil – drug store
  • Castile Soap – drug store
  • Denatured Alcohol – hardware store
  • Essence of Peppermint – drug store
  • Fuller’s Earth – hardware store
  • Gum Turpentine – hardware store
  • Neat’s-Foot Oil – shoe repair shop and hardware
  • Oxalic Acid – hardware store, drug store
  • Raw Linseed Oil – hardware store
  • Rottenstone – hardware store
  • Spirits of Camphor – drug store
  • Stick Shellac – hardware store
  • Whiting – hardware store