To keep the wood surfaces in your home clean and beautiful without damage, you need to consider the kind of wood and the treatment its receives.
General Cleaning for Wood Furniture and Paneling
One of the first rules of cleaning wood is this: never soak it with water. Wood is porous, and applying water will swell the pores. Water can also damage many types of finishes-the proof is that most of us have a table or desk with tell-tale rings on them left by wet cups.
While dusting with a barely-damp cloth shouldn’t harm painted wood surfaces, any application of water to oiled, lacquered, or unfinished wood is likely to leave permanent, disfiguring marks. Opt instead for a dry dusting cloth, or use the dusting attachment on your vacuum cleaner to keep wood furniture and paneling clean.
Clean Wood With Vinegar
It isn’t a good idea to clean wood with pure, undiluted vinegar-in addition to leaving water marks, the acid in the vinegar could “eat” certain kinds of finishes. However, for polishing, a homemade treatment of half olive oil and half white vinegar can buff up stained and oiled wood finishes nicely. Simply apply with a soft clean cloth and rub in well. Blot off any excess with a second cloth.
For wood floors, add a cup of white vinegar to your mop bucket for extra grease-cutting power. But don’t let pools of water stand on the wood afterwards, or you may wind up with water marks, especially on darker woods. Stand on a towel and “walk” it around the room to wipe up any excess water.
While vinegar can be safe, DON’T use other solvents like alcohol, ammonia, or acetone-these will damage your furniture or even strip off the paint.
Waxes for Wood Surfaces
Adding a shine to wood furniture, especially antiques or exotic woods, is as easy as applying some wax. Waxes made specifically for wood furniture are designed to provide extra protection from moisture, dust, and stains as well as a pleasing soft sheen. Even better, if you want to refinish your furniture at any point, wax will not cause problems.
Liquid waxes are the easiest to apply, and often dry quickly, but you may need to apply more than one coat to really see results in terms of both looks and protection. The results from liquid wax usually last up to four months, depending on how much wear your furniture gets.
Paste waxes offer superior, long-lasting protection to fine wood furniture. It isn’t necessary to apply more than one coat to most woods, but the extra effort can take your wood from looking good to looking great. The hard, shiny finish given by paste wax is well worth your time for treating lacquered and oiled woods.
Removing Water Stains
As with stains on fabric, it’s best to treat water stains on wood as soon as possible after they happen. Blot up any excess moisture and try one of the following home remedies, depending on what you have lying around the house:
Apply shaving cream, leave for five minutes, and wipe up
Apply real mayonnaise on a cloth. Let rest on the stain for up to ten minutes, and wipe off
Gently apply metal cleaner. Leave for five minutes and wipe away excess
All-In-One Wood Cleaners
Finally, many products are available that treat wood while cleaning it. These products, while effective for painted, sealed, and laminated wood surfaces, should be tested in an inconspicuous place on unsealed or oiled woods before trying. These cleaners can be a convenient and effective solution for wood surfaces in areas that are frequently soiled, such as kitchens or bathrooms. Try products from Magic American, specially designed to clean sealed woods. Better yet, they are readily available at home improvement stores for reasonable prices.