Furniture Care and Maintenance


All good things that are made with precision and skill must last. To remain in their top form, every furniture piece needs care and maintenance. There are variety of materials used to make furniture, including woods, fabrics, leather, leatherette, and panel furnishings which are essentially adjoined pieces of furniture. Every type of material has its own maintenance requirements. Appearance and form are two important reasons for maintaining and caring for your furniture. When you lovingly decorate your house with a particular theme in mind, the appearance speaks volumes and hence must last a long while. And over long duration of time, furniture tends to be loosen its shape and hence regular finishing and fixing is important to let it retain its form for a long time. Below we look at some common materials used for making furniture and tips on their care and maintenance.

Wooden Furniture and Finishes

Due to its many properties wood has always been the preferred material in the production of furniture all over the world. Being a naturally occurring product, wood is highly susceptible to changes in weather conditions and over time fading of color and unevenness in surfaces can be seen. For overall structural maintenance, casters should be used while moving wood furniture and always make sure that the furniture is picked up from the strongest points, which is generally along the horizontal grain. Further, follow the tips below for care and maintenance:

  • Wooden furniture, for indoors and outdoors both, must be coated with moisture resistant and heat resistant finishes.
  • Wooden furniture should never be placed against radiators or heaters. Heat can not only cause fading of color, but diminishes the natural resilience of wood.
  • To clean wooden surface, very little amount of liquids must be used. And these must be sparingly be applied directly to the surface. Always use a damp cloth, and immediately dry it off by wiping with a dry cloth.
  • Precaution must be taken to use soap or other detergents to clean wooden furniture. On softwoods, mild soaps can be used, but no soap should be used to clean hardwoods such as oak. Hardwoods contain tannic acid, which reacts with soap to turn into a black-blue stain on the surface.
  • If your wooden furniture is spoiled by oil somehow, it must be cleaned by using a white spirit. Take precaution while using spirits as these are highly flammable. Always provide enough ventilation for surfaces to dry up completely before use.
  • Steel wool or other abrasive material should never be used on a polished wood surfaces. It can cause scratches and indentations which are very hard to treat.
  • High end lacquered and polished surfaces, with a glossy sheen must be cleaned with benzene solutions to maintain the finish. It is recommended that expert help is sought to do this.
  • Some wooden furniture comes with wax treated surfaces. These can be cleaned with a soft bristled brush. Always keep in mind to use the brush only along the grain.

Fabrics

It may seem upholstered furniture is easy to clean, especially if its fabric. But for long lasting freshness and prim look, it is important that you pay attention to what kind of fabric is used for your furniture and follow maintenance guidelines for the same. Natural fabrics, like linen, can lose their shape and color if treated with highly concentrated chemicals and man-made fabrics, like polyester or acrylic may wither away or shrink if not treated properly. Following are some quick tips for maintaining furniture with fabric upholstery:

  • Always begin by vacuuming your fabric sofas or chairs. This helps to remove surface dirt and pet hair. It is important because there might be some dirt which may toughen into stains if treated with wet cleaning first.
  • If there has been a fresh spill, blotting is the first step to be followed to avoid it from spreading. Most handy blotting devices are high absorbent wash cloths or blotting paper, easily available from furniture cleaning vendors.
  • If you are using chemical upholstery cleaners, it is important to know what kind of fabric they are suitable for and the age of your furniture upholstery. If your fabric upholstery is dyed in different colors or is antique, calling in a professional is strongly advisable. Also it is advisable to read the directions and information of fabric cleaners mentioned on labels.
  • Upholstery can be stained in many ways. It could be a beverage stain, oil stain, or a food stain. There are different cleaning solvents available in the market for different stains. Additionally, you can create your own stain remover at home. For example, for greasy or oily stains, use cornstarch or baking soda on the stained area to let it absorb the oil and then vacuum the stain. And for food stains, alcohol or vinegar can be used. Simply dab a piece of cloth in the solution, wipe the stained area, and finally vacuum it.

Leather

Leather is a natural material. Although, faux leather is also commonly used for making furniture, but it does not have the high quality of genuine leather. Genuine leather goes through either of the two types of tanning: chromium tanning and vegetable tanning. Chromium tanning makes soft and supple leather upholstery and vegetable tanning makes it firm and rigid. Leather upholstery maintenance depends upon its type. Following are some tips to maintain your leather furniture:

  • Avoid placing leather furniture in way of direct heat or sunlight, as it can catalyze the fading process.
  • Vacuuming of leather furniture must be avoided as it can cause scratches and tears, which can lead to discontinuities in perfect grain of the hide. If it has to be done, a soft brush attachment must be used.
  • Pigmented leather can be simply be cleaned by microfiber cloth wipe soaked in cold water which is demineralized.
  • A microfiber cloth soaked in mild soap solution can be used to clean aniline leather surfaces and unprotected and unfinished leather furniture. Aniline surfaces are thinner than regular leather surfaces and unprotected leather is not tanned.
  • Vacuuming can only be done for split leather furniture. Split leather is grainy and rough on both sides, because it is not finished and is simply sanded. Soft brush can also be used to clean split leather furniture.
  • Spot removal from leather is really tricky. Most stains are very tough to remove without causing any discoloration. Alcohol and water solution can be used to lighten the dark stains, such as that caused by ink. However, it is advisable to seek professional help rather than too much experimentation.
  • Use of leather creams or oils is also not highly advisable to be used on genuine leather, as it always leaves a residue on the surface. Test the creams on a small patch to check if they do or do not lead to discoloration, before applying on a larger area.

Leatherette

Leatherette or faux leather is a less expensive variant for leather. It has the same finish and look as that of leather. Leatherette is also of two types: made out of polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Both types have different care instructions. So your first step should to be identify which type of leatherette has been used to make your furniture. And then you may follow these tips for its upkeep:

  • Furniture made of PU leatherette must be cleaned with a damp microfiber cloth only. No abrasive material should be used for surface cleaning.
  • Mild soap and water solution can be used to clean PU leatherette furniture.
  • To remove tough stains, alcohol based spray cleaners can be used on PU surfaces. Rubbing alcohol can remove stains including those of ink, food, lacquer, crayon, etc.
  • PU leatherette is water resistant, so you can use lukewarm water to wash the entire furniture piece to remove dirt from hidden pores.
  • Air dying PU leatherette can also remove smells or odour from it.
  • PVC leatherette can also be cleaned with a microfiber cloth. A solution of warm water and liquid detergent can best remove tough dirt from the surface.
  • PVC leatherette has poly-cotton fabric on its underside. At the same time, it is also non-porous, so water can be directly used to clean the surface, but it must be given ample time to dry off.
  • Alcohol based solutions can be used to remove stains from PVC leatherette and a silicone spray can be used to give a smooth finish.
  • PVC leatherette furniture must never be dry cleaned because the solution used for dry cleaning can make the material stiff and uncomfortable.

Panel furnishings

Panel furnishings can be generally described as involving the way a piece of furniture is put together. This calls for essential attention because the hinges and joints on your furniture are main points which let your furniture retain its functional shape. If any joint or hinge goes loose, it can hamper the durability of the furniture greatly. So here are some tips to keep your furniture joints as strong as new.

  • A loose joint in a sofa or a wardrobe must be repaired at the earliest. It causes stress on the other joints and if not repaired in time, it can cause the whole frame to fail. Common indicators of lose joints are creaking noises when you open a wardrobe door or sit on a sofa.
  • Gluing is the most convenient repair that you can do yourself. Get proper construction glue from a furniture repair shop. Some common strong adhesives are: plastic resin, epoxy, and resorcinol.
  • If your panel furnishings are secured by screws and nails, ensure to check for rust on them. You can grease them with wax or oil for longevity. Waxing and greasing furniture joints is advisable to be done every few months for prolonged use.
  • If your panel furnishings somehow break or crack, they must be replaced with glue blocks. Glue blocks are wooden braces usually cut from hardwood. Joints and leg support in tables and chairs can be secured by driving nails through glue blocks into the furniture legs and corners.
  • Another option to secure lose joints is with steel braces or long screws. These are generally used for wardrobes and drawers where glue blocks could hinder movement. Another benefit for using steel braces and long screws is when a loose joint is difficult to take apart.