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How to Clean Wood Furniture: Tips for Keeping Wooden Furniture in Mint Condition

Adding wooden furniture and accents to a room is one of the easiest ways to create a space that is warmer, more elegant, and timeless.

And speaking of time, these pieces can almost transcend it: Lasting for decades, adapting to every style and space, and in some cases passing stories on from generation to generation. To make sure they stay up to that challenge, it’s important to know how to clean wood furniture—and, if you’re renting your wooden furniture for just a short period of time, knowing how to clean it can save you from paying unnecessary charges upon returning it. 

how to clean wood furniture properly and safely

At Executive Furniture Leasing based in Greensboro, NC, we consider ourselves experts in the world of furniture and furniture upkeep; and we’ve compiled some of our favorite tips for how to clean wood furniture in this go-to guide. 

How to Clean Wood Furniture 

Sure, some types of furniture require less maintenance than wood —but do they offer the charm, style, and sophistication of this classic? Many people agree: The look and feel of real wood furniture is well worth the time and effort it takes to maintain it. And when it comes to how to clean wood furniture, you might find it easier than you think. 

Dust First, Dust Often

Dust is one of the biggest complaints of wood furniture owners, as it can scratch the surface over time. It’s important that you work regular dusting into your cleaning routine to prevent this. Use a soft, lint-free tool to clean, like a microfiber cloth or soft brushes, both of which are also excellent choices for intricate details and hard-to-reach areas. Regular dusting prevents particles from accumulating and damaging the finish.

Choosing the Right Cleaning Solution

Knowing the type of wood and its finish can help you find the right cleaning solution. For most wood furniture, though, a mixture of mild dish soap and warm water is effective and safe. Mix a few drops of dish soap in a bowl of warm water, dampen a soft cloth, and gently wipe down the surfaces. Avoid using excessive water, as it can lead to warping or swelling of the wood.

Again, some types of wood require more specific care, so take the time to do some research before cleaning. 

Spot-Cleaning for Stubborn Stains

Address stubborn stains promptly to prevent permanent damage. For water rings, a mixture of equal parts baking soda and toothpaste can be gently rubbed onto the stain. Ink or marker stains may require a soft cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol. 

Always test any cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area first to ensure it won't harm the finish.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals

Harsh chemicals, such as bleach or ammonia-based cleaners, can strip away the protective finish of wood furniture. Stick to mild, wood-friendly cleaners to preserve the natural beauty of the wood. Read product labels carefully and opt for solutions designed specifically for wood surfaces.

Polishing for Protection

While not always necessary, polishing wood furniture can provide an extra layer of protection and make it stand out with some shine. Choose a high-quality wood polish or wax and apply it sparingly with a soft cloth. Buff the furniture in the direction of the wood grain for an even finish.

How to Clean Wood Furniture: Tips for Keeping Wood Furniture Clean

Now that you know how to clean wood furniture, it’s time to find out how to keep it that way. In between cleaning, here are some things you can keep in mind to keep your wood furniture looking as good as new. 

Protect Against Moisture

Wood is sensitive to changes in humidity and moisture. To protect your furniture, try to avoid placing hot or wet items directly on the wood surface. It’s a good idea to have coasters or placemats on hand to prevent water rings and heat damage.

Tackle Water Spills

Accidents happen, and if your wood furniture is exposed to water, act quickly to prevent damage. Wipe away any spills immediately with a dry, absorbent cloth. Follow up with a gentle wipe using a slightly damp cloth and then dry thoroughly. Avoid leaving water standing on the surface, as it can penetrate the wood and cause damage over time.

Prevent Sunlight Exposure

Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can cause the wood to fade and lose its original color. Position your wooden furniture away from direct sunlight or use curtains and blinds to minimize exposure. A tablecloth can also provide some protection, though it will also keep your wooden table from being on display. 

Regular Inspections

Schedule regular inspections of the furniture to identify any issues early on. Check for loose joints, damaged hardware, or any signs of wear and tear. Promptly address any concerns to prevent further damage and maintain the overall integrity of the piece.

Transportation and Handling

When moving or rearranging your rented furniture, lift and carry it instead of dragging it across the floor. Dragging can cause scratches and damage to the legs or corners. Use furniture pads or blankets when transporting to provide an extra layer of protection.

Maintaining Upholstered Parts

If your wooden furniture includes upholstered elements, follow the manufacturer's guidelines for cleaning and care. Typically, a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment can be used to remove dust and debris. 

Documenting and Communicating

If you’ve rented your wooden furniture, take clear photographs of its current condition as soon as you get it, and document any existing damage or wear for the rental company. This can help avoid disputes about the condition of the furniture when you do return it. 

How to Clean Wood Furniture: Finding the Right Solution 

Different wood types and finishes require specific care to avoid damage. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you select the right cleaning solution for your wooden furniture.

Identify the Wood Type

Hardwoods, like oak and maple, are more durable and can withstand stronger cleaning solutions. Softwoods such as pine, on the other hand, are more sensitive and may require gentler care.

Some furniture may be made from exotic woods like teak or mahogany, each with its unique characteristics. Research the specific needs of these woods before selecting a cleaning solution.

Check the Furniture Finish

Furniture with a varnished or lacquered finish has a protective layer that makes it more resistant to water and stains. You can use a slightly damp cloth for cleaning.

Oiled finishes enhance the natural look of the wood but require special care. Opt for cleaning solutions designed for oiled wood to avoid damaging the finish.

Painted wood furniture may need a different cleaning approach. Avoid abrasive cleaners that could damage the paint, and use a mild solution to prevent discoloration.

Read Manufacturer Guidelines

Check the manufacturer's guidelines for cleaning and maintenance. They often provide specific instructions for caring for your furniture, considering the type of wood and finish used.

Keep in mind that using the wrong cleaning solution may void the warranty on your furniture. Adhering to manufacturer recommendations ensures that you maintain warranty coverage.

Perform a Patch Test

Before applying any cleaning solution to the entire piece, perform a patch test in an inconspicuous area, such as on the underside. This allows you to check for reactions, such as discoloration or damage to the finish.

DIY Solutions for General Cleaning

For general cleaning, a mixture of mild dish soap and warm water is often enough. Use a soft cloth or sponge dampened with the soapy solution to gently wipe down the furniture.

A solution of white vinegar and water (equal parts) can be effective for cleaning wood surfaces. Vinegar has mild disinfectant properties and helps remove grease.

Specialized Wood Cleaners

There are also numerous commercial wood cleaners available that are specifically formulated for different types of wood and finishes. These can be a safe and convenient option for regular maintenance.

Consult Professionals for Antique or Valuable Pieces

If you have antique or valuable wooden furniture, consider consulting professionals for cleaning advice on their recommendations on how to clean wood furniture. They can provide specialized care to preserve the historical value and integrity of these pieces.

Final Word: How to Clean Wood Furniture

Whether you’ve invested in the furniture of your dreams or you’re renting high-quality wooden furniture from a company like Executive Furniture Leasing, it’s important to know how to clean wood furniture to keep it looking proper for years to come. This can save you headaches or extra costs down the road, and keep your space looking spiffy for years to come.

If you're in search of wooden furniture for your home or apartment, look no further – we serve Greensboro and the greater Triangle area! Our collection includes affordable furniture options for every room in your home. Contact us today at  336-851-1351 or fill out the form below.

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