Heat & Humidity & Hardwoods
Wood furniture continues to exchange moisture with the air, shrinking and
expanding in response to changes in relative humidity.
Wood Furniture's natural response to extremely dry air is to loose moisture and
shrink slightly. This occurrence will correct itself as the relative humidity
rises and the wood absorbs enough moisture to expand.
If you don't have an air conditioner or dehumidifier, your home's relative
humidity may get too high. Parts of your wood furniture may absorb excess
moisture form the air and expand, possibly causing the drawers to stick. Once
again, this problem will correct itself as your home's relative humidity
Here are some ways to be certain you will enjoy your wood furniture for many
years to come:
Use a humidifier in winter and an air conditioner in summer to keep the
relative humidity at 25 to 35%.
Avoid placing furniture directly in front of radiators, heating vents, or
Place furniture out of direct sunlight or close window treatments during
intense sunlight hours.
Overexposure to sunlight adversely effects fine wood furniture. Checking,
crazing, cracking and bleaching are common problems resulting form continued
exposure to direct sunlight. To avoid "spot" bleaching, rearrange accessories
on the surfaces from time to time.
To achieve the maximum richness, clarity and depth of color for the surface of
your furniture, keep it dust free and clean. The best way to keep furniture
looking its best is to care for it regularly.
Dust lightly as needed with a clean lint free absorbent cloth. Clean cotton
diapers, terry toweling, cotton knitwear, or flannel cloths are all good
choices for a dust cloth. When dusting, always dust with the grain of the wood.
Small dust particles can scratch wood if not worked with the grain.
To clean, wipe surfaces with a soft, damp cloth. (Be careful to wring all of the
water form the cloth, leaving it only damp.) A damp cloth removes dust
particles that, although tiny, have sharp edges and can scratch under pressure.
Wipe the surfaces with another soft cloth to dry thoroughly. Never leave a damp
cloth on any wood furniture.
Furniture polishes enrich and provide depth to the finish, help emphasize the
wood's natural beauty, and add a measure of clarity, shine and reflectiveness.
We urge you to select a cleaning product that does not have silicone. A good
wax or cream is a far better product to protect your furniture. Steinhafels
recommends and sells an assortment of polishes and cleaner s for all lacquer
finishes. For best results, always carefully follow the directions on the
products you choose to use.
Furniture is made to be used and enjoyed, but accidents happen, especially when
there are small children at home. While wood is tough, it isn't indestructible.
By adhering to the following guidelines, everyday damage can be kept to a
Use coasters to prevent stains and damage form spills and hot dishes. Blot all
liquids immediately. Keep solvents, alcohol; nail polish and polish removers
away form your furniture surfaces.
Use padding under heavy or sharp objects or under hot or cold foods. Felt or
cloth pads are advised; many plastic products may cause a chemical reaction
when place din contact with some wood finishes. Plastic tablecloths and doilies
should be avoided for this reason.
Open and close doors and drawers gently. It is important to properly close doors
and drawers and not allow them to hang open. Door hinges, in most furnishings,
are small and delicate in nature. Any improper stress will cause doors not to
close properly. Pull drawers straight out to eliminate excess pressure on the
glide, so it does not become loose or bent.
Houses tend to settle, as a carpenter's level will confirm. Consequently,
furniture can sit unevenly, resulting in uneven doors and wobbly chairs. Almost
all merchandise today has adjustable glides, which can accommodate any leveling
problems you may encounter.
Small mars and scratches may be touched up with shoe polish, crayon, linseed oil
or a furniture touch-up pencil available at Steinhafels.
Handle with Care
Because it is hard and strong, it's easy to forget that wood furniture must be
treated with a gentle hand. This is not to say that you can't throw your feet
up on the oak coffee table, or that a few bumps and scratches don't actually
add to a piece's character, but a few thing should be kept in mind to ensure a
long life for your fine wood furniture.
Dust is abrasive, and can accumulate in carvings, cracks, and grooves, making
wood look dull and eventually leading to a damaging buildup. Dusting should be
done every week, if possible, and not with a wet paper towel. Instead, a clean,
washable cloth made of soft, lint-free cotton is recommended, something with he
texture of an old t-shirt.
In terms of cleaning furniture, remember that water is not a good cleaning
agent. Paste wax is the recommended product, preferred over oily cleaners
because it protects wood furniture for many months and adds a soft sheen to
finished wood surfaces. A good amount of paste wax, enough to thoroughly cover
the entire piece, need only be applied about once a year for optimal
Another precaution you can take to protect the finish of wood furniture is to
keep it out of direct sunlight, which can cause the finish to crack, and bleach
the wood underneath the finish.
To take care of water marks and rings left by beverage glasses, remember that if
you wax your furniture well, the rings will be in the wax, and not in the
actual finish. The Hardwood Manufacturers Association recommends covering the
stain with a clean, thick blotter, and pressing down with a warm iron,
repeating until the ring is gone.
Don't use solvents like nail-polish remover to get rid of nail polish stains -
anything containing alcohol can be harmful to the furniture. Instead, blot a
spill immediately, then rugs it with the finest grade steel wool (0000) that
has been dipped in some furniture wax. Wipe dry.
If you find someone has stuck chewed gum under a chair or table, harden the
substance with an ice cube wrapped in cloth. When hard, take it off with a
credit card. Then, repeat the same process with the fine steel wool as
recommended for nail polish removal, only this time, dip it in mineral water.
The Hardwood Manufacturers Association suggests the following tips to help
minimize the negative effect of temperature changes on furniture, because
extremes of moisture or dryness can cause wood to split and crack. First,
maintain relative humidity of at least 25 0 35%, which can be accomplished by
using a humidifier in winter and an air conditioner in summer. Also, when
storing table leaves, they suggest keeping these as close to the table as
possible, such as in an upstairs closet rather than a damp basement, so that
the table and leaves adjust to the same humidity conditions.