When was the last time you “fed” the wood in your home? In reality, we can’t feed any wood unless it’s still living as a tree. But the term refers to adding moisture to the finish of a piece of furniture. Your home’s climate, along with the amount of light, can dry out and damage the finish on your furniture. Even though manufacturers have conditioned us to believe that furniture needs to be cleaned and waxed, the goal really should be to keep our wood furniture and floors free from dust and put a protective coating on it to help the wood retain moisture. If you’ve ever wondered about cleaning and conditioning your wood furniture and floors, read on.
Cleaning the wood
We’ve been told to avoid using water on our furniture, but a damp cloth with a gentle soap won’t hurt the finish or the wood at all. Cleaning and conditioning wood furniture annually will keep the dust and dirt from damaging the finish as well as keep it from building up in the cracks, corners and indents of the wood.
Start with a soft rag like a cotton baby diaper or t-shirt. Place a few drops of a gentle hand soap in a bucket of warm water. Use just a few drops of soap to help lift off the dirt and grime. Place the rag in the soapy warm water and wring it out really well. Start at the bottom of the piece of furniture and work your way up. Working in this direction will help protect the wood from water streaks. Use a gentle brush to get into cracks and tight curves on the piece. You can also use a toothpick or a knife covered over with the rag to get into tight places. Rinse the rag in plain warm water and wring it out really well again, then rinse the soapy film off the wood. Dry the piece completely using a microfiber cloth.
Conditioning the wood
Now that the piece is completely clean and dried, you may want to add a sealant to the surface to keep it looking it’s best. Most furniture manufacturers recommend avoiding furniture polishes that contain silicone or oils. Silicone sprays tend to give you a shiny finish, but leave the surface oily which doesn’t absorb into the wood. Oils tend to attract dust and they can mix with the dust and leave a foggy film on the piece of furniture.
Another rule of thumb is to never put a wax on an oil based finish. A simple way to remember how to add a sealant is oil on oil, wax on wax. It may take a little investigation to figure out the type of finish you are treating, especially if it is a vintage or antique piece. Most newer furniture and cabinets have wonderful finishes that actually can just be wiped with a damp rag, with no need to worry about ever “conditioning” it.
Conditioning wood floors
Cleaning and conditioning wood floors should also happen on a regular basis. The best way to clean a hard wood floor is with a microfiber mop and a spray bottle of water. Start with a dry microfiber mop cover and lightly spray the floor with a mist of water. Using the dry mop, go over the area with the microfiber pad. It will pick up dust and leave the floor looking as clean as glass.
If hardwood floors look dull after this process, the floor finish is damaged. Before addressing this problem be sure you know what your wood floors are made of – the varied materials and finishes available today call for different treatments. Know what you are dealing with because damage to the surface could be expensive to correct.
Some great finishes are available to put the shine back on your floor. Eventually finishes will wear off so they need to be re-applied on a regular basis. A number of high quality manufacturers make a liquid floor wax for hardwood floors. The floors should be cleaned and prepped per the directions and after the wax is applied, must be avoided for 24 hours. The shine can last up to a year depending on the foot traffic in the room and the type of cleaning products used to clean the floor. It’s an inexpensive way to bring the shine back to your hardwood floors.
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