Cleaning and care
Looking after your antiques, ensuring they're displayed, stored and handled correctly is essential to preserving them for future generations. Furniture needs informed care and it's important to remember that furniture isn't just wood; the beauty of wooden furniture is often how the wood is aged as well as the other materials used.
First of all - try to keep your furniture clean. Waxing the finish is important, but keeping the finish clean is even more important. The way you care for your furniture and the products you use to do this will make an enormous difference in how your furniture will look and how long the finish will last.
Second - 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.
Third - 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.
Finally - cleaning should be done with a damp cloth or a cloth sprayed lightly with Endust. Don’t soak the cloth with water. Damp cloth means a cloth not so wet that it would need to be wrung out.
The temperature in your home can greatly affect the condition of your furniture. Excessively dry conditions can cause furniture to dry out and shrink, while excessively damp conditions can cause mould growth. Try to keep your pieces in a stable environment where the temperature and relative humidity don't fluctuate dramatically. The following points are worth bearing in mind:
- don't place furniture near heat sources as heat causes shrinkage. This can loosen joints and veneers and change the shape of the piece over time.
- light can also damage furniture. Natural or artificial light of a high intensity can alter finishes and if severe can break down the wood. Use blinds or curtains to reduce light levels.
- if moving furniture, remove drawers and lock doors so they don't open. Pieces should be padded and covered for transport. Use clean white cotton gloves when moving gilded furniture (available inexpensively at chemists).
- 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.