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Furniture Maintenance
by Terry Canup

Few people think of maintaining furniture

It is a little known fact, that, like a car, furniture does require maintenance. Unlike a car, though, it does not require frequent attention. Because of this, people usually end up neglecting to do this. Many do not even know it should be done in the first place.

The amount of maintenance you do, will play a big factor in determining how long your furniture lasts. The type, and frequency of maintenance, depends on the specific type of furniture with which you are dealing. Traditional mattresses, for example, should be rotated head to foot every other time you change out sheet sets. If they are 2 sided, they should be flipped every 6 months. Rotation is simple. You just leave it on the foundation and spin it around until you have switched the top and bottom. This evens out the wear on both the surface, and the innerspring. Mattresses can last 2 to 3 times longer by doing these simple tasks.

Case-goods (bedrooms, dining rooms, tables, TV centers) require a different type of
maintenance. This is based on how the pieces are constructed. Wood veneers, solid woods, and hardwoods need to be dusted and occasionally oiled to prevent the wood from drying and cracking. This is especially true if the furniture sits in, or near a window and/or has direct exposure to sunlight. Additionally, if it is immediately next to, or under, an air conditioning output, this can dry the wood out prematurely, as well.
Prolonged exposure to sunlight can bleach fabrics
Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can bleach upholstery fabric
How wood furniture dries or ages, depends a great deal on the part of the country in which you live. Here on the Gulf Coast, humidity levels are generally favorable. It is the Sun that poses the greatest threat to indoor furniture. Just a few weeks of Southern Sun can change the color of fabrics, or dry out wood to a surprising degree. UV filtering glass in windows can help with the "bleaching" effect. Other solutions include light filtering curtains and window shades. Not only can the Sun bleach and dry furniture with its intense light, the heat that it generates can further dry and warp woods over time.
Direct sunlight will dry and bleach wood
Example of sunlight bleaching and drying wood

In the more Northern climates, where the Sun is at more of an oblique angle, and the light is not as direct or intense, humidity is a more prominent problem. Near coastlines especially, humidity must be monitored and controlled.  Lack of humidity will cause the premature drying of wood products, while too much humidity can lead to mold growth and the breakdown of glues that hold the furniture together.

Indoor heating and air conditioning both affect humidity levels. Generally A/C units are designed to reduce humidity levels to optimum levels for human habitation. These same levels are good for wood furniture as well. Heaters on the other hand usually have no humidity control in their design. The majority of heaters put out hot dry air that can additionally dry wood. This is especially true if the wood is in direct line of the heaters output. This situation can cause results similar to exposure to direct sunlight. Adding air baffles that limit the furniture's direct exposure or moving the furniture slightly can help avoid this problem.

If you find your furniture is drying out, the use of oils may be your solution. One word of caution. If your furniture has a polyurethane gloss finish, or a stone, marble, Formica, vinyl wrap, or resin surface, oils cannot penetrate to the wood underneath and should not be used. The oils will sit on the surface and cause a mess. Also if you have particle board, press-board, or MDF directly on the surface of your furniture (such as print-on finishes), without a wood veneer, you should also avoid oils. Make sure the surface of your furniture is real, exposed wood.

Old English makes an excellent light lemon oil  Formby lemon oil has a stronger scent, be sure to
                ventilate the area when applying
Lemon oil is a mild oil used to prevent woods from drying

On wood surfaces, recommended oils include lemon oil and tung oil. These oils are readily absorbed by the wood and replenish the moisture lost to the atmosphere. Applying the oils lightly with a brush (stroking with the grain) is the quickest, simplest way to do it. These oils can even rejuvenate older dried pieces. This is something done quite infrequently, depending on how the piece is wearing. It takes only a very thin coat of oil to accomplish this task. Apply lightly and brush with the grain. Be sure to find an inconspicuous place to test your oil of choice, to assure wood color stays consistent.
Minwax is another major supplier of furniture oils  Brush the oils on very lightly and with the grain
Tung oil is a heavier more substantive oil used to restore already dried woods and as a preventative on outdoor wood furniture like Teak and Eucalyptus.

Upholstery
maintenance is done differently. It is a good idea to have fabric sofas professionally treated at time of purchase. The treatment that we use is called FabriCoat. It is a silicone protectant that helps prevent the fabric from setting stains. Once you have the upholstery in your home, regularly vacuuming it is recommended. Steam cleaning is NOT recommended. Some fabrics do not handle the moisture well. Consult your manufacture's label for your specific fabric cleaning methods.

Real leather should be "fed" once a year
                with a hyde food
Leather needs special maintenance and "feeding"

Top grain leather upholstery should be treated at least once a year. The drier your climate, the more important this treatment becomes. Left alone, leather can dry out and crack. Something like Hyde Food does the trick.

Bonded/Blended leather (such as DuraBlend) and leather looks vinyl are different and should not be treated with leather food. Wiping this upholstery down with a damp, lint free cloth should do the trick quite well! Vinyl sofas can be treated with a protectant like Armorall. Bare in mind that once you start using this kind of protectant, you have to keep using it. This should not be used on bonded or blended leather surfaces.


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