Follow the care instructions to preserve your furniture's life, an expert says.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Leather and wood have been used to make furniture for thousands of years. But if you'd rather your leather and wood furniture didn't actually look as if it's been around for thousands of years, it will need a little TLC.
Stuart Wilkins, owner of Seville Home, an Overland Park, Kan., furniture retailer, sells a lot of leather and wood products.
"They're natural, very basic materials," he says.
"That's why people are drawn to them. And because they are natural, they will age. Plastic and steel don't age. But leather and wood furniture will last a lifetime, or longer, with even minimal care."
Wilkins offers the following advice.
First, read and follow the furniture makers' instructions. "They made it. And they know how to best care for it," Wilkins says. "They want you to enjoy your furniture and they want it to last."
Uncoated leathers like suede are more vulnerable to staining. Some commercial sprays may be used on unfinished leather that will help it resist spills, but check with the retailer or the manufacturer's instructions before using these products.
Dust leather furniture weekly.
Artists' gum eraser may be used to remove some dirt and grime.
At least twice a year apply a mild leather cream or conditioner to finished leather furniture.
Test these first on a hidden spot to be sure the leather is colorfast. Creams will provide a degree of protection against spills and stains while reintroducing moisture into the leather.
Try to position leather furniture at least two feet away from heat sources and furnace vents. Heat will dry leather and make it more vulnerable to cracking.
Try to position leather furniture away from direct sunlight. Direct sunlight will fade colors and accelerate drying.
Caring for wood furniture is not much different, Wilkins says. Unfinished wood is more vulnerable to spills and stains and therefore needs to be protected. Paste wax or beeswax products applied with a clean, soft cloth, such as a diaper, are best for this purpose. The wax keeps spills from penetrating into the wood, while sealing in the wood's natural moisture.
All wood furniture should be kept out of direct sunlight, which will fade and dry the wood.
Wood finished with high-gloss lacquer, varnish or polyurethane will show scratches more obviously.
Commercial dusting sprays and polishes can build up with repeated use resulting in a foggy residue.
When dusting or waxing wood furniture, always rub with the grain, using a soft, clean cloth. Diapers work well.
Commercial products are available that purport to remove or treat stains or marks, such as a ring left by a water glass. Use these with caution, Wilkins says, lest you make the problem worse. Better to consult a professional wood furniture repair and restoration specialist.
"We don't carry much plastic or steel furniture at our store," Wilkins says.
"We like the more timeless look and feel of leather and wood. And we tell our customers not to worry too much if their leather and wood furniture gets marked up. That gives the furniture character. Furniture is to be used, to be lived in. It's not a museum display. It's furniture."