Caring for Wood


To clean the finish on your wood furniture just use warm water and mild dish soap. Cleaning furniture with water won’t hurt it; use a damp cloth.  Don’t soak the cloth with water. Damp cloth means a cloth not so wet that it would need to be wrung out. Use an old toothbrush for hard-to-get areas. Wipe the dirt off the surface with soft cloths or paper towels, dry off any residual moisture with a soft cloth.

After a good cleaning, the best way to protect the finish is to use a good-quality soft paste wax. Apply a thin coat as directed on the label. Wait five minutes and buff lightly with a soft (shoe) brush or cloth. Wait another 30 to 60 minutes and buff/brush again with a bit more vigor. You’ll see a beautiful shine return to the finish that will last for many months.

Use common sense. Every manufacturer is trying to sell you something. You may see a product that is supposed to work quickly, be easy to use, and can be bought off the shelf as you shop for groceries. Is that good for your furniture? Let’s see:

  • Aerosol cleaners and polishes usually contain silicone oils and other contaminants.
  • Liquid polishes are often water based; their sheen will dissipate as the water evaporates.
  • Oil polishes may be non-drying or drying. Non-drying oil polishes stay damp and attract dust. Drying oils bond to the furniture finish, are very difficult to remove, and darken with age
  • Paste waxes are the best polish material. Look for products without silicone.

If your furniture is only dusty, and doesn’t have any foreign matter (e.g. fingerprints), it should simply be dusted with the feather duster.


Keep your furniture out of the sun. The temperature of the summer sun coming through a window can go above 140 degrees. It will cook fine finishes, fading and destroying them over time, and dry out and shrink the wood, which will cause cracks.  Use sheers or blinds to shield your furniture from the sun’s harmful rays.

 Don’t place wood furniture near heating units or vents. Dry heat will cause the wood to dry and shrink, leaving cracks. Use a humidifier in the drier months to bring the moisture up to the 40 to 45 percent level.

For a quick-fix touch up, use the appropriate color shoe polish on scratches and chips, especially to make them less visible on the feet of furniture.

When polishing metal hardware, take it off the furniture first. Take your time and make a note to remember what piece goes back where. Use a quality metal polish to get it shining again. Once it’s buffed, put it back on, being careful not to scratch the wood surfaces.   Don’t try to do this all at one time. It can be a lot of work, so take a few days, doing a few pieces at a time, instead of getting tired and frustrated with trying to do too much.

Wood isn’t hungry! You cannot feed furniture. No matter what the advertising says, wood cannot be fed or nourished or enriched with polishes or oils. Once it has a protective finish over it for beauty and protection, the wood is sealed. Polishes and oils will not penetrate it.

There are several ways to remove the white hazy ring or spot that the hot coffee mug or hot pizza box made on your table. The least invasive way is to rub it with a mild abrasive, such as non-gel toothpaste mixed with baking soda or cooking oil mixed with ashes. You can rub it in a small spot with your finger or use a soft cloth on larger areas.


Lifting furniture should be done carefully. Check for loose areas. Chairs should be lifted (not dragged) by the seat rather than the back or arms. Tables should be lifted by the legs rather than the top, which could come off.

If moving furniture, remove drawers and lock doors so they don’t open. Pieces should be padded and covered for transport.