General Wood Care

The following wood care tips represent a subsection of the Better Homes and Garden book: Making a Home


  • Don't avoid dusting furniture. Frequent dusting removes airborne deposits that build up in a filmy layer and can scratch the surface. 
  • Clean, dry, soft cloths or feather dusters will effectively remove dust; however, to avoid scattering the dust into the air, where it floats until landing back on furniture surfaces, dampen the cloth very slightly.


  • Classic feather duster: An ostrich-feather duster removes dust from easily damaged, delicate surfaces, such as silk lampshades, mirrors, picture frames and art, and fragile collectibles.
  • Treated cloths: For dusting, soft, nonscratching cloths pick up and hold dirt. Use them in place of silicon sprays, which are not recommended for fine wood furniture.
  • Lamb's-wool duster: These contain lanolin, which attracts dust and makes it cling to the cleaning tool. They're also effective for dusting carved or turned areas that cloths can't reach. A long handle makes them ideal for hard-to-reach areas, including light fixtures and ceiling fans. 
  • Soft, lint-free cloths: Clean cotton T-shirts or diapers are commonly used. Dampen them slightly to help trap dust. 
  • Terry towels: Use a clean dry towel to remove any moisture left from dusting with a damp cloth

Additional Furniture Cleaning Tips and Guidelines

  1. Keep your handmade furniture away from radiators and heat vents and avoid prolonged periods of direct sunlight. If you must put furniture near an air duct, use a shield or guard to direct the heat away.
  2. Extreme heat can damage the finish, so do not put hot objects directly on your solid wood furniture. Use a serving plate when serving hot foods. Always protect your table from hot pans and dishes, and look for hot pads or trivets that will not trap steam between your pan and the table.
  3. Solid wood furniture prefers an environment with constant humidity and we recommend an environment with 35-45% relative humidity. This can be very challenging in homes without humidity control, but avoiding direct heat sources and sunlight will help.
  4. Dust as often as you like with a clean, dry, soft cloth following the wood’s grain. For tougher spots, you can wipe it with a damp cloth.
  5. Keep substances such as nail polish, nail polish remover, perfumes and aftershaves away from your furniture because these contain solvents or alcohols that can damage the surface.
  6. Store table leaves as close as possible to the table itself. It is better to store dining room table leaves in an upstairs closet than in a damp basement or warm attic.
  7. Avoid storing your furniture in any environment that is not temperature and humidity controlled. Also, if you must temporarily store your beautiful Amish furniture, look for a climate controlled storage space
  8. Direct sunlight will darken your solid wood furniture over time and should be avoided or at least rotated through the sunny spot to keep the color uniform.
  9. Because hardwoods are open grained, solid wood furniture will expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity. Care in controlling the furniture’s environment will help minimize minor cracking and warping that is the natural part of a wood’s character.
  10. Use coasters for drinks, but if a glass sweats simply wipe it up with a clean cloth.


  • NEVER use all-purpose cleaning sprays unless your furniture has a plastic coating, such as the kind used on kitchen tables and children's furniture. 
  • You'll usually want to avoid cleaning wood with water. However, sticky spots may need to be treated with soap and water. Here's how: dip the cloth in mild soap or detergent dissolved in water, wring the cloth nearly dry, and wipe the area. Rinse and immediately dry with a clean, soft cloth
  • Oil polishes, cleaners, and furniture oils protect wood by making the surface more slippery; they do notoffer a hard protective layer. 
  • Products that contain a high percentage of oil make the surface smear, showing fingerprints. Avoid polishing with pure olive oil, which smears and attracts dust.
  • Most commercial spray and liquid furniture polishes contain silicone oil, which provides some protection. If you have used sprays and polishes in the past or suspect that furniture has been polished with them, be aware that residues can interfere with refinishing and may need professional attention.
  • Homemade recipe for cleaning wood: Some experts recommend reviving grimy wood furniture with a mixture of equal parts olive oil, denatured alcohol, gum turpentine, and strained lemon juice. Apply with a soft cloth and buff with a clean cloth.
  • Typically during manufacture, varnish, polyurethane, or shellac is applied to wood to protect the surface. Applying wax or polish protects the manufacturer's finish and helps to reduce surface scratches. Wax provides a hard finish and long-lasting protection, doesn't smear, and is more durable than sprays or polishes. Use paste wax or liquid wax made specifically for furniture. Depending on use, paste wax finishes may last as long as two years. Liquid wax is easier to apply but leaves a thinner coating; it may need to be applied more frequently than paste wax. Learn how to properly apply waxes to eliminate streaks or a cloudy appearance. Always apply wax in light coats, rubbing into the surface with the grain. Allow to dry and buff to a clear shine with a soft cloth.