How to Clean Wood Furniture

We’re back talking about our favorite furniture material – wood! Last time, we explained what to expect from wood as a material and how it reacts to its environment. Today, we’ll talk about how to care for and clean wood furniture to keep it looking its very best.

Keep It Dusted!

Sounds simple, but the best thing you can do to clean wood furniture is to dust it regularly. Dust creates a dull, worn-looking surface on wood, and it builds up in cracks, grooves, or carving. If furniture is not cleaned regularly, dusty buildup becomes difficult to remove.

Dust wood furniture with a clean, washable cloth made of soft, lint-free cotton – like an old t-shirt, cheesecloth, piece of flannel, or dish towel. Your cloth should not have any snaps, buttons, zippers, or thick seams that could scratch furniture surfaces. Don’t use a cloth that has hanging threads or unraveling edges, as they could catch on knobs, carving, or other loose pieces.

Sprinkle a few drops of water onto your dusting cloth, moistening it just enough to make dust adhere to it. Wipe off dust using gentle, oval motions along the grain of the wood. Turn or fold the cloth as soon as dirt is visible on any section.

Harvestmoon Panel Bed in cherry with matching chest and nightstand from Maple Corner Woodworks
Dusting Don’ts

Don’t dry dust. Dust is abrasive, so dusting with a dry cloth will eventually dull the finish of your furniture.

Don’t get wood wet. Dust with a damp cloth… but not too damp! If you can see traces of water on the wood after you wipe, your cloth is too wet. Water can cause swelling, warping, or staining when it penetrates a finish, so wood should never get wet or soaked.

Don’t slide objects to dust around them. Sliding lamps or decorative objects across a wood surface can leave scratches. Always lift objects up to dust under and around them – never slide.

Don’t use a feather duster. Feather dusters simply move dust around, flinging it into the air where it will settle right back onto your furniture. Also, if a feather breaks, the quill could scratch the wood.

Choose the Right Cleaning Product

Regular dusting should keep your furniture in such good shape that you won’t need cleaners or polishes. But life happens, and we understand that you may occasionally need to bring in the bigger cleaning guns.

We carry Howard products in our store, and we use them in our own homes. Clean-A-Finish is a great, general-purpose wood soap for deep cleaning, while Feed-N-Wax conditions wood to prevent drying and gives it a lustrous finish. Murphy’s Oil Soap is another good product when wood furniture needs a deeper cleaning.

For furniture with an oil-based finish, you can use 100% mineral oil to clean tough spots. Don’t use mineral spirits, which will damage and remove the finish.

Not all oils are safe for wood, so be wary of oily cleaners and polishes! Silicone oil will create a nice shine and slippery surface, but it can also seep through cracks in the finish into the wood, eventually ruining the finish. Labels often fail to specify whether products contain silicone oil – when in doubt, don’t use it.

Finally, if you need some help determining what product is right for your furniture – ask us! We are always happy to guide our customers toward products that are safe for the specific finish of their furniture.