Wood Care Tips

Advice for caring for your fine woodworking pieces

NOTE: When repairing wood furniture and surfaces, it is always best to work with a professional. Wood-N-Things, Inc. is not liable for the outcome of using the recommendations below. The user of this information does so at their own risk.


Clean Up

Clean all food spills from wood surfaces immediately and thoroughly. Most foods can damage wood finishes eventually, particularly high acid foods such as orange juice, coffee, tea, mustard, etc. But, don't wipe up spills with a wash rag or dish sponge as detergents are also damaging to wood surfaces. When cleaning off wood, use mild soap and water with a clean, lint-free rag. Use water sparingly and towel dry any excess. Water could permanently raise the graining of the wood if allowed to penetrate through the finish. Dirt and dust should be removed from wood regularly, using a soft cloth.


Proper polishing of real wood furniture is very important to prolong the life of the furniture. Wood needs to have its natural moisture replenished to prevent the wood from prematurely drying out. A polish containing real lemon oil is the best thing for treating your fine wood furniture. Make sure that the polish contains real lemon oil, not just a lemon fragrance. Be cautious of over the counter sprays and "cleaners" as they may contain silicone or wax products (to make them shine). Wax attracts dust, dirt and grease that will build up under multiple layers of wax. Never apply polishes over dirty wood. Before polishing, wipe away all dirt, dust or spills. Applying over dirty wood only makes the problem worse (scratches, etc). Always polish with a soft white cloth. Polish in the direction of the grain of the wood. Avoid using any polishes that contain alcohol or silicone. Alcohol can have a drying effect on the wood and silicone can often leave a smeared appearance. If your wood furniture is already coated with a high build-up of old polish or wax, you need to remove this first before applying fresh lemon oil polish. The old polish and wax can be removed by using a furniture cleaner designed for this purpose. Furniture cleaners and good lemon oil polishes are readily available at most major hardware stores. Call our office if you need a recommendation or supply source.

Fresh Air and Ventilation

Open your home often to fresh air, allowing wood to breathe. Natural humidity is good for wood. Conversely, a controlled environment can dry out wood quickly; causing premature cracking and splitting if not cared for on a regular basis. Use a ventilating fan when cooking. It removes the majority of airborne smoke and grease which otherwise would be absorbed by wood cabinetry.

Sunlight Damage

Whenever possible, do not expose wood surfaces to direct sunlight. The sun not only accelerates drying and cause cracks, loose joints or delamination of veneers, and it also tends to bleach wood. In turn, stain pigments become discolored and new pigments are prevented from penetrating the wood, thus yielding a washed-out effect. Window blinds or drapes should be used as necessary to prevent direct sunlight contact with your wood furniture.

Water Marks

White water rings and water spots can sometimes result on table tops from moisture or condensation of beverage glasses. These water rings can usually be easily removed without damage to the finish, especially when they are removed shortly after they occur. Alcohol (also known as shellac thinner) can be applied to the water ring area using a soft, white cotton cloth. Apply the alcohol in the direction of the grain keeping it confined to the water ring area. The alcohol will displace the water and the ring should disappear. After using the alcohol it may be necessary to apply a light coat of lemon oil polish for a uniform sheen appearance. Please use caution while working with the alcohol. It is a flammable liquid and should not be used near any open flame or spark source. Also, you should pre-test the furniture in an out of the way area of the furniture to make sure that the alcohol does not harm the existing wood finish. Alcohol should not harm any finish other than shellac. If you see any harmful outcome in your test area, then do not use this technique on the water ring.

Scratches and Scrapes

Damage to finished wood top surfaces are often caused by the decorative accessories found around our homes. This can include lamps, knick knacks, vases, figurines and all of the other items that we place on top of our wood furniture.

Damage caused by these items can sometimes be extensive and costly to repair. It often might result in the total refinishing of the top surface. Prevention of these damages is a more logical and cost effective solution. Felt discs and felt strips are readily available in several shapes and sizes at your local paint stores, hardware stores and home centers. They come in various colors and they usually have a self-adhesive backing. We strongly recommend that you look at all of the items around your home for the potential for surface damages. Even some items with flat bottoms, such as porcelain vases or porcelain figurines, might look like they will not cause any damage but can cause some slight abrasions over a period of time. These items are all candidates for protective felt discs.

Please take the time to look around your home for these potential damage causing items. Almost every home has some form or another of these items that can damage your finished wood top surfaces. Remember! Prevention is much less expensive than correction.

Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew growth and odor can be a tremendous problem on wood furnishings. The odor can usually be detected all over but the actual growth is usually on the inside and underside of furnishings. One method for elimination of this problem is to wipe down the interior, bottoms or other unfinished areas with a mild solution of chlorine bleach in water. If cleaning is also necessary, you can add a few drops of liquid dish detergent to the cleaning solution. The chlorine bleach should be used at a rate of 1 tablespoon to a quart of water. Remember not to drip the bleach on any of the finished wood surfaces. The finished areas should be cleaned with a wood cleaner (available at any paint store or home center) and then, if possible, the finished wood item should be left in direct sunlight to dry. You should only leave it in the sunlight for a few hours at the most. Sunlight can be a natural oxidizer and will have a positive effect on killing the source of the mold/mildew odor. Remember, this should only be performed after all the other mildew elimination services listed above have been performed.

Go with the Grain

Any work performed on wood, involving any type of physical or mechanical action, should always be performed in the direction of the grain. On finished woodwork, even such simple tasks as polishing the wood should be done in the direction of the grain. Polishing across the grain, over a period of time, can possibly result in very fine surface scratches that become detectable from working across the grain of the wood. Unfinished wood should be sanded in the direction of the grain. Sanding across the grain, even with very fine finishing paper, can cause slight surface scratches to appear after the wood has been stained and finished.


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