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Michigan State University Extension
Home Maintenance And Repair - 01500263
06/24/03

Antique Wood Furniture--Care and Cleaning



For antiques with the original finish.

Care
Avoid extremes of humidity and temperature, which accelerate cracking and checking of finish, and loosen joints and veneer. Do not set beverage glasses, vases of flowers, etc. on surfaces without coaster or mat protection.

Cleaning
Vacuum or dust with a soft cloth. Occasionally use a cloth just barely dampened with solvent-based cleaning wax to wipe the surface to pick up more dust, and immediately wipe with a dry cloth or soft paper towel. Do not use spray waxes and polishes on surfaces as they will leave a higher gloss and some silicone which may make future refinishing more difficult.

Occasionally wax with paste (carnauba) wax. Rub on a very light coat with a soft cloth with the grain of the wood (or put a lump of wax inside a few layers of folded cheesecloth and rub onto wood thus preventing heavy smears); then buff at once with soft cloth, turning often, until wax coating is hard. (Old cotton tee-shirts are good.) Be sure all wax is completely buffed until hard to avoid smears and streaks. Here a small electric polisher is a great "arm-saver" on all smooth surfaces; wipe surface gently with clean soft cloth after applying wax to remove any loosened soil and then let set several minutes (following wax label directions) before power buffing. An occasional re-buffing will renew the soft gloss. Paste wax helps cover small cracks and checks in old finishes, and can easily be removed with solvent when desired.

NOTE: Antiques that have been refinished should be treated according to type of finish as described in other sections. Since old finishes may be affected by cleaning treatments, always test the first time on any inconspicuous place on furniture to be sure it is compatible with finish. Generally, the above treatments are satisfactory.

References

This article was written by Anne Field, Extension Specialist, Emeritus.

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