Susan Silver Antiques

Susan Silver Antiques
755 North Main Street, Route 7
PO Box 621
Sheffield, Massachusetts 01257
Phone: (413) 229-8169
Fax: (413) 229-9069

Caring for Antique Furniture

Are you fortunate enough to possess fine antique furniture?  Caring for your antique furniture will insure the same pleasure you receive from ownership for generations to come. With a little loving attention, a good furniture piece should last another century or two. Most importantly,  do you wish to keep it looking good and staying that way? Follow these tips from leading restorers.

Caring for Heat and Humidity

Firstly, antique furniture should never be placed close to heat. For instance, vents, radiators or any source of direct heat. Above all, direct sunlight is a enemy of antique furniture. Conditions like this can lead to veneers lifting and joints drying out. Additionally, wood subjected to a dry house will gradually give up moisture. It will start to shrink and split along the grain. Therefore, caring for your antique furniture will mean you should keep it at least two feet from any heat source.

Next, proper humidity levels are essential to the integrity of antique furniture. That is your responsibility as a purchaser. Additionally, invest in a good humidifier. One option is a free-standing type that uses several quarts of water a day. Option two, is a humidifier that can be plumbed-in permanently in a central location of the house. Most importantly, maintain 45-55% relative humidity for an indoor temperature of 60-70 degrees. Additionally, buy a good quality hygrometer to monitor the humidity levels.

Dusting and Waxing

Secondly, always dust with a soft cotton cloth or feather duster. Do not use spray dusters on your antique furniture as they contain silicone. As a result, your wax finish will ultimately be damaged.

Do not over polish antique furniture; too much wax can become sticky. For most furniture once a year should be enough. A dining table in daily use should perhaps be wax polished more often. Good quality paste wax like carnauba is best. Start with one or two tablespoons of wax inside a few layers of cheese cloth or an old cotton tee-shirt. Next, knead the wax through the cloth, forming a pad. After that, rub in the direction of the grain. In this way, you will avoid smears and streaks. Next step, buff with a clean lint-free soft cloth to a mellow luster. You will find, the heat produced by friction when polishing softens the wax. The right pressure of the hand produces the flat, reflective surface. This is what will give the piece of antique furniture it’s shine. Remember, do not use a commercial spray or wax.

Cleaning and Problem Solving

However, if a dining table gets greasy or sticky use a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water to clean. If you do this, make sure the cloth is not too wet, just damp. Then, rub it dry and wax sparingly.

Another hint, rub pieces of candle wax along the friction parts of drawers, like runners and slides. Sticky drawers will move much better.

Also, coasters or mat protections are an important for your antique furniture. Remember, do not set glasses, vases of flowers, hot containers etc., on the surfaces. You will find, serious water or heat marks will have to be dealt with by a professional restorer.

Sometimes pieces of inlay or veneer may come off when dusting or waxing. Be sure to keep them, however small. If you do, you will save hours of a restorer’s time – and your money.

Patina and Refinishing

The patina that builds up on a piece of antique furniture is very precious. In most cases, it is as a result of many years of wear, polishing, oxidation and light. What is more, patina is the aging process that distinguishes poor quality from the very best. In most cases, you should never consider having the surface stripped and re-polished. However, if the surface is really very badly marked or if the finish no longer protects the wood adequately you could consider it.

Above all, regard your fine antique furniture as something requiring regular maintenance, like your house and your car. Most importantly, get a good professional restorer to look it over every few years. In this way, you will minimize the amount of major work to be done in the long run.