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
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
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/heating output, this can dry the wood out
prematurely, as well.
exposure to direct sunlight can bleach upholstery
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Treat your indoor furniture with care, and it can last a
lifetime. It really takes very little time and effort.
Outdoor furniture on the other hand, is a completely
different story. On the Texas Gulf Coast, the outdoor
environment seems designed to break down furniture. Left
un-cared for, furniture setup outside will not fair well.
Depending on the furniture, it may not last a single
This is where selecting the right outdoor furniture becomes
important. Whatever type of furniture you do choose, do your
best to shield it from direct sunlight and inclement
weather. If you are using fabrics, choose those that are
outdoor durability tested
"Sunbrella" is one brand that specializes in these. If
you want to use wood furniture, there are very few that
stand up to our environment.
Specialized fabrics are
made of outdoor furniture
Teak and Eucalyptus, are two of them. Even then, you have to
be diligent about treating them with Teak oil. 100 degree
temperatures and high radiation sunlight with over 90%
humidity, will drastically reduce the lifetime of outdoor
furniture. Especially wood furniture. (Teak oil is not
actually oil produced by the Teak tree, it is an oil created
for use on outdoor Teak furniture) Steel furniture is
susceptible to rust. It must be painted. Aluminum furniture
oxidizes. Painting and powder coating are required to keep
them 'healthy'. The new resin weaved furniture is proving to
be a strong alternative. Maintaining it is less tedious as
well. Wiping it down and keeping mold from forming is what
you have to do.
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