Furniture Maintenance: 5 Tips for Beginners
Furniture is expensive and has a sizeable environmental footprint. It’s important to maintain your furniture to maximize its life and minimize the impact on the environment and your wallet. Well-maintained furniture will also have a higher resell value, helping you get a little extra to invest whenever you are ready to replace it with another piece.
This guide will give you key tips for getting the most out of your furniture by making it last as long as possible. In future posts here at the Bird’s Nest, we’ll go more in depth on many of the topics covered in this article!
1. Treat your Furniture Like an Investment
The simplest way to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to furniture is to make sure you’re buying high quality, durable pieces that are built to last. It might be tempting to opt for cheap and easy to replace pieces, but these often cause greater harm to the environment when they’re created and also cost more over time because they must be replaced more frequently.
Vintage furniture is often great when it comes to quality. A great deal of modern furniture is designed to quickly wear out and be difficult to repair so that you’ll buy a new piece rather than maintain what you have. There’s a reason why your grandparents have had the same tables and wardrobes for decades—those pieces were made to last a lifetime! Buying vintage helps ensure you’re getting a piece that will have a long life, especially if it is properly maintained.
2. Protect Surfaces from Harm
Furniture surfaces are the most likely to take cosmetic damage and therefore are the most important to protect. One of the most harmful but often overlooked sources of furniture damage is the sun. The ultraviolet rays can distort and fade colors on fabrics, woods, and plastics, and leathers will also begin to crack as their natural oils evaporate. Lighter-color materials are even more susceptible. You can help block excess sunlight by using curtains, drapes, shades, and window films.
You’ll also want to protect against other forms of accidental damage. Furniture protectors such as fabric protection sprays and stain guards will go a long way, and make sure wood surfaces have been covered with a sealant to prevent moisture from soaking in. You can also use slipcovers and tablecloths for an extra layer of protection—these are also great for changing the look of a piece without having to buy new furniture! Of course, always remember to use coasters and trivets to protect surfaces from water and heat damage.
For parents and pet owners, it’s also helpful to set rules about furniture use. For example, pets can be banned from upholstered couches that are easily damaged by claws and hair, such as cotton, wool, velvet, silk, and linen (leather and faux leather are your best friends in this case—they’re more scratch resistant and hair won’t stick). For children, it can be good to make sure arts and crafts stay far away from upholstery and untreated wood surfaces! Also be sure to regularly flip cushions and pillows to help minimize wear and tear.
3. Clean and Polish Regularly
Cleaning is critical to making your furniture last. Not only does cleaning maintain your furniture’s appearance, but it also prevents damage. Dirt and small particulates can scratch and discolor surfaces over time, which can be much more trouble than simply keeping your surfaces clean in the first place.
Regular dusting is one of the most important ways to keep your furniture clean. Dust traps the particulates that can damage surfaces, so removing it regularly is essential. Dusting once a month should be enough for hard surfaces like wood and plastic, while upholstery should be vacuumed roughly once a week. Go ahead and take a vacuum to your upholstered couches and chairs when you vacuum your floors—it’s quick, easy, and will increase the life of your furniture quite a bit (a professional cleaning service is recommended every 6 months to a year, depending on frequency of use). A mild vacuuming is also great for leather, as it prevents dust from building up in creases and helps keep edges from fading.
Adding polish when you dust can help as well. Polishing wood and metals helps them look their best while also repelling dust and allergens and protecting against wear and tear. Polish degrades over time, so be sure to apply a new coat every 6 weeks. Wood should be waxed every 6 months to a year to give it the most longevity.
Most surfaces can be easily cleaned with a mixture of dish soap and warm water. You only need a few drops of soap mixed into a cup of water to clean small surfaces, or ¼ of a cup of soap mixed with a gallon of water if you have a lot to clean. Test your solution on a small, hard to see area of the furniture if you’re not sure if it’s safe. Be sure to use a gentle cloth—microfiber usually works best—or a soft sponge when cleaning to avoid scratching your surfaces. You also want to make sure your cloth or sponge is only damp rather than dripping wet—too much moisture can cause damage.
For leather, however, you want to avoid using dish soap and water. The soap will dry out the leather’s natural oils, causing the surface to crack. Using a cleaning product designed for leather is best, but you can also mix ¼ of cup of white vinegar with a ½ cup of water for a DIY cleaning solution.
Finally, remember to clean up any spills immediately! The longer any liquid substance sits on furniture, the more likely there is to be a stain that will require some form of resurfacing to remove.
4. Check Screws and Joints
With your surfaces cleaned and protected, you’ll also want to check some of the insides—particularly screws and joints. Loose screws and joints take more damage from stress when loose, which can cause them to break if not tightened correctly. A breakage will often cause more damage to the piece by stripping threaded holes and splintering woods.
You should check the tightness of screws and joints about once a year, or when you feel any parts of the furniture moving or wiggling when they aren’t supposed to. When a screw feels loose, use a drill or screwdriver drive to make sure they’re firmly in place. This only takes a few minutes even for large pieces of furniture and will help ensure your pieces last for along time to come!
5. Repair and Repurpose
You can still get a lot of use out of furniture that is heavily damaged or no longer seems to fit your needs. Repairing furniture by refinishing and repainting woods and reupholstering couches and chairs is easier than it seems and often much less expensive than replacing a piece altogether, even when you pay for a professional repair service. These are also great ways to change pieces to fit new décor schemes, add splashes of color in new places, and make furniture feel new even when it isn’t.
If piece seems to have gone past the point of repair or isn’t getting much use, you can also repurpose it in other ways. Small desks can often be cut to create coffee tables and end tables, for example, and some styles of dressers can be converted into benches (with drawers for storage!). Repurposed pieces can have value simply be being unique. Be creative and look for inspiration on sites like Etsy and Pinterest!
By maintaining your furniture properly you’ll get the most out of every purchase. It may seem like a hassle, but adding reminders to your phone for when to clean and check pieces will help you get into the habit. Also be sure to move your pieces carefully. Never drag a piece of furniture even when moving it a short distance, and always use surface covers when moving pieces between homes or offices.
Keep up with us here at The Bird’s Nest: The Furniture Sustainability Blog as we’ll being going more in-depth on identifying durable furniture, cleaning particular types of furniture, and other topics covered here to make sure you can make every piece last! Remember, every piece you save and maintain helps reduce your environmental footprint!