Cleaning vintage furniture

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Posted on: 01 June 2017 by Josie Pimm

Cleaning and maintaining it could be challenging – if you rub too hard or use the wrong cleaner, you can easily harm the finish and wood. Here are several tips on how to carefully clean vintage pieces of furniture, so they can find a new place in your home.

Beautiful, antique furniture can be a wonderful addition to your home, whether it is passed through generations or you have recently discovered it in a thrift shop or at a yard sale. But cleaning and maintaining it could be challenging – if you rub too hard or use the wrong cleaner, you can easily harm the finish and wood. Here are several tips on how to carefully clean vintage pieces of furniture, so they can find a new place in your home.

 

Before starting to clean old furniture, cabinetry, etc., that you have found in your grandma’s attic, you need to thoroughly assess the actual condition of the piece. Grime and grease have probably built up over the years, while the once gorgeous finish may be ruined by scratches or deeper chips

and dents. However, you can successfully restore the old glory of the piece, if you follow several simple steps.

 

First, you need to clean the dirt and grime off the wood without damaging the finish. Take extra caution when dealing with gold- or silver-gilded parts, as they can be easily harmed – remove the dust with a soft brush. Another fact to consider is that rubber makes silver tarnish fast, so use fabric gloves. Before trying any specific household cleaning product or a cleaner you’ve mixed yourself at home, try to test it on a small area that isn’t visible. If the finish displays some unwanted reaction such as changing its colour or softening, then you need to replace the cleaning product. Of course, all-purpose cleaning products should be avoided at all times – there are professional products, specifically made for cleaning old, vintage furniture. And of course, if the piece is really old and valuable, don’t even try to clean it up. Often, the grime built-up is considered by antique dealers an important part of the history of the piece and can add to its price – just like old collectible coins that lose all their value, if you have been unwise enough to clean and polish them.

 

But let’s get back to the cleaning of old, vintage wood furniture. In order to remove the layers of dirt and grime, you can use a little lukewarm water and mild oil-based dish soap. Forget about energetic rubbing – only gentle movements that won’t harm the surface. Use soft cotton cloth and move it the direction of the wood grain. The wood shouldn’t be soaking wet, so use just enough soapy water to clean it effectively. Then take a clean soft cloth to dry the washed area and leave the piece for a few hours, so any water can evaporate. If you notice a spot where the finish of the wood is chipped, don’t wet it, otherwise moisture will reach the wood itself and cause swelling. If soapy water doesn’t work, choose a specialized cleaning product. Wax-based products are usually preferred, although some experts rely on oil-based cleaners. If you are not sure, just visit the nearest antique shop and ask for advice.

 

Solvent-based cleaners are also a safe alternative – they won’t make the wood swell, but can be, of course, flammable and toxic, so be extra careful. Naphtha and mineral spirits can be used for removing wax build-up and oily grime the same way as soapy water. These don’t damage most finishes, but again – test any cleaner on a small spot out of sight beforehand. Professional tenancy cleaning covering W3 avoid abrasive scrubby pads from steel wool and synthetic steel wool, as they will leave the finish dull and most probably damage it. Now, it’s time for a nice coat of furniture paste wax. It will create a light film on the surface of the wood and brighten it up.

 

If you want to clean an old upholstery, you should follow the same rule again – proceed carefully with gentle rubbing and soft cleaning products. Besides the mild dish soap, here you can use a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar. Steam cleaning is also an option, if the upholstery is really dirty and old. After you finish the cleaning, keep away that kind of furniture away from sunlight, as UV exposure is extremely damaging and de-colourizing.

 

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Finally, make sure you use special products against rusting on any metal parts of your vintage furniture. Clean the dust regularly with a soft cloth. This will prevent the build-up of dirt and grime, and will maintain the piece nice and beautiful.

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Josie Pimm

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