How To Maintain Your Log Furniture

August 17, 2017 l Posted in: Tips

how to clean wood furniture

People choose wooden furniture for their homes or vacation houses for a few reasons. For one thing, wooden furniture — especially log furniture — is beautiful. Wood adds a warm and welcoming touch to a living room, bedroom or outdoor area. For another thing, you have many styles to choose from, from a rustic, hand-hewn, unfinished log to a smoother, stained cottage style log.

Wood is also very durable, able to withstand years of use. Some people relish the idea of passing down their wooden furniture to the next generation. Although wood is solid and sturdy, it can still benefit from proper care and treatment over the years. From everyday cleaning to the occasional deep clean, and from protecting your furniture to fixing slight damage, here’s how to care for your log and wooden furniture to keep it looking great for many years to come.

Tips for Cleaning Wood Furniture

When you buy your furniture, it’s a good idea to ask for suggestions and instructions on the best way to clean wood furniture. The company that made your furniture should have a list of care instructions that will keep it looking great for many years. Of course, getting care instructions right from the manufacturer isn’t always possible. For example, if you’re buying wood furniture secondhand, such as at an estate sale or flea market, the person selling it might not be clear on how best to care for it.

Dusting Wood Furniture

best way to clean wood furniture

One rule of thumb to follow when it comes to keeping your wood furniture looking great is to dust it regularly. While you don’t have to dust every day, removing any accumulated dust at least weekly is ideal. Here’s why.

Dusting your furniture removes the fine layer of dirt and debris that can build up on the surface of the wood. If that layer of debris and dust isn’t removed frequently, it can harm the wood. The tiny particles collect on the wood, forming a thick layer that can scratch the surface.

Several dusting tools exist, some of which are better suited for wood surfaces than others. They include:

Lint-free, soft cloths — A soft, cotton cloth, such as a cut-up old T-shirt or clean cloth diaper, can be a useful tool for removing dust from wood. To get the best results, wet the fabric and wring it out before using it to wipe the furniture’s surface gently.
Microfiber cloths — Microfiber cloths can be either reusable or disposable. The fabric is smooth and soft enough that it doesn’t scratch delicate wood surfaces. The design of the fabric also allows it to grab and hold tiny dust particles.
Feather duster — A feather duster might be the tool people think about when they think about dusting. But feather dusters aren’t always the right choice for wood. Since they’re used for dry dusting, they usually do little more than reposition the dust, tossing it into the air so it can settle down on the wood surface again. Additionally, the quills in the duster can break or become worn, creating a ragged edge that can scratch the wood.
Lambswool duster — Lambswool dusters usually feature fluffy wool attached to the end of a long handle. The wool naturally contains lanolin, a wax produced by the sebaceous glands of sheep. The wax helps grab dust and pull it away from the wood. The long handle lets you use the duster in harder-to-reach places.

Should You Spray Wood Furniture?

Household cleaners such as all-purpose cleaners and dusting sprays or polishes promise to make quick work of your cleaning chores. But they aren’t necessarily the best option for cleaning wood furniture.

All-purpose cleaners, for example, aren’t exactly “all-purpose.” Sprayed on unfinished wood, they can discolor or otherwise damage it. It’s best to reserve them for use on surfaces that have a plastic coating. If you’re not sure how your wood furniture is finished, skip the all-purpose cleaner.

Dusting sprays or polishes are ostensibly designed for use on wood furniture. But how you use them determines their effect on your furniture. It’s best not to spray them directly on the surface of the wood. Instead, spritz the cloth or duster you’ll be using.

how to clean log furniture

Spraying the wood directly with the polish can cause a film to develop over the years, discoloring the wood and causing it to lose its luster. Sprays that contain silicon are usually not recommended at all for delicate or fine wood furniture.

How to Wax Wood Furniture

Instead of using a polish on your wood furniture, you can use a wax to protect its surface. Keep in mind that wax or polish is an “either/or” choice. If you decide to use wax, you can’t switch to polish. If you decide to use polish, you can’t switch to wax.

Wax offers a few benefits over polish. For one thing, it provides a more durable, protective surface. It helps to protect the surface of your furniture from scratches and is going to last longer than a coating of polish. It’s also less slippery and less likely to smear or show fingerprints than polishes.

You have two types of wax to choose from: paste or liquid. Each has their own pros and cons. For example, liquid wax is often easier to use and apply. But it’s thinner than paste wax, and it won’t last as long as a protective coating. Paste wax can protect the surface of wood for as long as two years, according to Better Homes & Gardens. It takes a bit of effort to apply a coating of paste wax, but that effort can be worth it.

waxing wood furniture

1. Apply the Wax

You can apply paste wax in one of two ways. The first option is to use a soft cotton cloth to rub the wax onto the surface of the wood. Place a small ball of wax in the middle of the fabric, then gently knead the wax with the cloth to soften it up. Rub the wax onto the wood, using the cloth and a circular motion.

The second option is to use a brush to apply the wax. Brushes tend to make short work of larger areas, such as a flat table surface. They are also ideal for getting wax into crevices and nooks and crannies of detail work.

2. Let Dry and Add Another Coat

Once you’ve covered the surface, let the wax dry. You can let it sit overnight or for a few hours. You might need to wipe or brush away excess wax. If there’s too much wax on the surface, you’ll likely see some streaks. Use a circular motion to wipe those away.

You can add a second coat of wax if you want, or leave it with just a single coat.

3. Buff the Wood

buffing wood furniture

Get ready for an arm workout. Buffing the wood after waxing gives it a deep shine. It does take a lot of elbow grease, though. Use a soft cloth or piece of lambswool and rub the wood to make it shine. If you have a handheld power buffer, this can be a great time to break it out.

How to Clean Wood Furniture Naturally

You don’t have to use commercial wax or furniture sprays to keep your wood and log furniture looking as good as new. Several common household products and pantry ingredients allow you to care for and clean wood furniture naturally.

Vinegar and Oil Dusting Spray — Yes, you can essentially clean your wood furniture with a salad dressing. To make a vinegar and oil dusting spray, combine two tsp. of olive oil, 1/4 cup of vinegar, one cup of water and a few drops of your favorite essential oil in a spray bottle. You can skip the essential oil if you don’t have any. It just makes the spray smell nice.

Put the lid on the bottle, give it a good shake to emulsify the oil and vinegar, then spray on a soft cloth. Use the cloth to dust finished wood furniture.

Vinegar and Oil Polish — If you want to protect your wood or restore a shiny surface to older furniture, create a polish with a higher level of oil than vinegar. Mix one part vinegar and three parts olive oil in a spray bottle. The oil will help condition the wood, while the vinegar will clean it. Pour a small amount of the polish onto a soft cloth, then wipe the cloth on the wood in a circular motion.

Remove Buildup With Tea Bags — One of the issues with using furniture polish on wood is that it tends to build up on the surface over time. The buildup of polish can dull the wood, causing the furniture to lose its sheen. One natural way to remove that buildup is by using black tea. Black tea contains tannins, which helps remove grime and improve the health of the wood.

how to clean wood naturally

To use tea to clean your furniture, steep two black tea bags in a pint of boiling water. Let steep for about five minutes, then let the water cool. Dip a soft cloth in the tea, wring it out to remove excess water and gently wipe the surface of the wood.

Clear Away Watermarks With Salt or Baking Soda — Setting a glass down on a wood surface without using a coaster can leave behind a ring, created by the water that condenses on the outside of the glass.

Mix one tablespoon of baking soda or one teaspoon of table salt with enough water to make a paste, then gently rub the paste onto the water rings. Rub the paste into the wood until the marks or spots are gone.

Wax With Beeswax — You don’t have to use commercially available furniture wax to protect your furniture. Beeswax also makes a great furniture wax, especially when combined with oil, such as olive or coconut oil.

To make the wax, combine one part grated beeswax with four parts of oil in a bowl. Heat the wax and oil until the wax has melted. You can use the microwave to do this — just make sure to check it every few seconds. Stir the wax and oil together to incorporate them, then let cool. Apply the wax to the wood, removing any excess and letting it dry between coats.

How to Deep-Clean Wood Furniture

There might be times when your wood furniture is in need of a deep clean. Perhaps the piece was an antique shop or estate sale find, or it’s the furniture you use in your vacation home, which is vacant during parts of the year. Outdoor furniture might need a deep clean from time to time, as well.

cleaning your log furniture

Before you set about deep-cleaning furniture, it’s important to make sure the surface is in stable condition and will be able to withstand any soaps or cleaners you use. If the surface of the wood is significantly damaged — for example, if it has a lot of scratches or water stains — your best bet might be to send it to a professional or a conservator for care and cleaning.

If you don’t have specific cleaning instructions from the furniture manufacturer, or you’re not sure what type of finish the wood has, it’s best to test the cleaner or soap in an out-of-the-way, small area first. Soak a cloth or cotton ball in water, then add a drop of oil soap to it. Gently wipe the cotton ball or cloth on the wood.

If you see damage, such as changes in the color of the wood or the finish peeling off, don’t continue cleaning. If you don’t see any changes, the soap is probably safe for the wood and you can continue to clean it.

Combine the oil soap or detergent with water in a bucket. Use the ratio of soap or detergent to water recommended on the cleaner’s packaging. Dip your cloth in the water, then wring out. Rub the cloth over a small area of the surface at a time, making sure not to use too much liquid.

Once you’ve cleaned the entire area of the wood with the soap or detergent solution, rinse it by wiping a soft, damp cloth over the surface. Don’t use a dripping wet cloth — be sure to wring it out well before use. After you’ve rinsed away the detergent or soap, gently dry the furniture with a soft cloth.

Care for Other Areas of the Furniture

Wood furniture isn’t necessarily only made from wood. Many furniture pieces feature components made from other materials. For example, a log paddle arm sofa features upholstered cushions, made from either fabric or leather. To keep a wood sofa with upholstery looking good, you’ll want to care for and clean the upholstery from time to time.

The same is true of any metal hardware on a piece of furniture, such as hinges on cabinet doors or drawer pulls. Here’s how to care for materials that aren’t made of wood on wooden or log furniture.

Cleaning Upholstery


cleaning furniture upholstery

The easiest way to keep upholstery clean is to remove loose pieces of dirt and dust from it regularly. You won’t be able to “dust” upholstery like you would a wooden surface, though. Instead, your best bet is to vacuum the furniture, using the brush attachment on your vacuum or even a handheld, portable vacuum.

If the upholstery has a stain or rubbed-in dirt, you might want to use a special upholstery cleaner on it or send it to a professional for cleaning. If you use an upholstery cleaner, test it in a small area first to make sure it won’t damage the fabric or cause the color to bleed.

If the cleaner doesn’t damage the fabric, spray it over the stained area and let it sit. Rub the soap into the stain using a brush, then wipe away any foam or bubbles that form. Let the cleaner dry on the fabric.

Leather upholstery occasionally needs special care. You can vacuum it like you would other fabrics to remove dust and loose dirt. But to keep the leather soft and supple, you’ll want to condition it once or twice a year. Follow the directions on the conditioner’s label for best results.

If something does spill on your leather cushions, act quickly. Grab a soft cloth or even paper towels and wipe it up. Don’t use soap or other cleansers on the leather.

Cleaning Metal

Metal handles and hardware on wood furniture can get dirty and dingy just like the rest of the piece. In fact, considering handles and knobs are going to be touched the most, they might be the parts of furniture that need cleaning most often.

cleaning metal hardware on wood furniture

The easiest way to clean metal hardware on furniture is to remove it from the furniture. That way, the cleaning solutions you use won’t damage the wood or other parts of the furniture.

The Smithsonian Institute recommends using a solution of one part acetone and one part rubbing alcohol to clean metal hardware. You can also invest in a cleaner made specifically for the type of metal if you know what kind of metal it is.

To clean very rusty metal, soak the knob or handle in vinegar, then wipe clean with a cloth. Before you reattach the hardware to the furniture, make sure it’s thoroughly dry and that all the cleaner has been rinsed off.

How to Protect and Maintain Wood Furniture

When it comes to maintaining your log furniture, an ounce of prevention is often worth more than a pound of cure. How you protect and care for your furniture will determine how frequently it needs cleaning and care.

The environment you store your furniture in will influence its lifespan and will also either diminish or increase its risk for damage. For example, wood is particularly susceptible to damage caused by changes in relative humidity, or how moist or dry the air is.

When conditions are very humid, such as in the middle of a Florida summer, wood is likely to absorb some of the water from the air. That can cause it to swell. The swelling can affect how well the furniture holds together or can put pressure on certain areas, weakening the piece.

Conditions that are very dry are no good for wood, either. For example, the dry air in a desert area, such as Utah, can cause the wood to lose moisture from within, so that it contracts or shrinks.

maintaining log furniture

The best way to protect your wood furniture from fluctuations in humidity is to keep it in a temperature and climate controlled space. Use a humidifier in arid areas or a dehumidifier in more humid zones. The goal is to keep the area your furniture lives in within 10 percent of the average relative humidity for your region.

Light can also cause damage to wood furniture. Usually, prolonged exposure to light can bleach the wood, discoloring it. Bleaching isn’t reversible, but there are ways you can protect your furniture from excessive sun or light damage.

Try not to put the furniture directly in front of or beneath a source of light. For example, don’t put a log sofa directly in front of a window that gets plenty of sunlight. Keep outdoor furniture in an area that gets plenty of shade.

With the right amount of care and protection, your log furniture will last you for many years and can be a wonderful thing to pass down to your children or grandchildren. To learn more about log furniture and how to clean and care for it, contact us at Rocky Top Furniture today.