Caring for Your Collections: Antique Furniture

Tool Chest

Tool Chest

Frontier Homestead has a large collection of artifacts made of wood. From large coaches and wagons to pieces of antique furniture, both on exhibit and in storage. Caring for an these pieces can be very difficult. There are so many do’s and don’ts for every kind of product. Wooden antiques can be the most difficult to care for, however, they can also hold the highest value. If you have a wooden antique here are a few pointers to help you know what to do.

 Avoid using cleaning chemicals

Cleaning chemicals such as Pledge and other dusting products can damage the finish already present on the wood. The patina (aged look of the finish) is what needs to be preserved. Instead of cleaning the wood, take a gentle cloth that doesn’t have lint and dust the surface of the wood. Avoid using feather dusters, they can scratch the wood.

 Never use oil based products

Though oil can create a luster in the furniture that is very bright and attractive, it can turn the wood underneath black. Instead, use a high quality wax. Wax is easily removed and will not damage the wood underneath. Be sure to apply wax sparingly and move cloth with the grain of the wood.


 Keep out of direct sunlight and away from forced air

Wood shares one common quality with metal, it can swell and contract as the temperature around it changes. Sunlight can be very damaging to the original finish of the wood. It can cause the wood to dry out and cracks to appear. Avoid exposure to forced heating and A/C. Place in a part of the house where there are no vents and little direct sunlight. Also the use of humidifiers in dry climates can help preserve the finished look of the antique.

 Carefully remove metal pieces to clean and polish them

Many wooden pieces have metal handles or knockers. If these metal pieces are not original and look best polished, carefully remove them from the antique to polish and clean. If the metal pieces are original, it is best to frequently dust these pieces. The goal is to preserve the original look of the antique.


 Use protective covering if near food and water

Water can be the most damaging liquid for wooden antiques. The finish which was used before the 19th century is not water proof. Dab at water spills with a gentle cloth until the water is cleaned up.

 Never try to fix damage yourself

If any damage happens to befall the antique, hire a professional restorer to fix the damage. Doing so will ensure proper care of the product. Do not be worried if the paint is fading, this often adds to the value of the antique. Every antique is precious, with proper care, their value will increase. If proper steps are taken to care for your antique, it will last for years to come.