Antique Furniture Care
The methods of care for historical or valuable antique furniture have changed over the years. Antique furniture should not be cared for or repaired in the same manner as modern home furnishings. The use of polishes, adhesives, fasteners and finishes can dramatically affect the current and future value of such pieces.
Ultraviolet light is damaging to antique furniture. Sunlight can degrade early finishes, wood and fabrics. Antique furniture should be placed out of direct sunlight, and curtains or shades should be used to diffuse or block sunlight when possible.Avoid placing your antique furniture in front of heating and air conditioning vents, radiators, fireplaces or stoves. The heat can cause shrinking that can loosen glue joints, veneers, inlays and marquetry.
Your antique furniture is also affected by the amount of moisture in the air. Changes in relative humidity can cause wood to expand and contract. This expansion and contraction can cause glue joints to loosen, drawers and doors to drag or become stuck in their opening. Extended periods of high humidity can lead to mould growth, rot and insect infestation.
The use of a humidifier or dehumidifier is recommended to help maintain the relative humidity and minimise the adverse effects that moisture can have on your valuable antique furniture.
Insects and Pests
Wood, leather, fabrics and upholstery materials such as horsehair can be inviting to insects and other small pests. Insects such as woodworm beetles eat their way along the grain inside wood until they mature. Mature insects bore their way out of the wood leaving exit holes. Active infestations can be identified by exit holes and a fine sawdust called frass appearing under the piece of furniture. Active infestations should be isolated as soon as possible and an exterminator and/or conservator should be consulted.
Cleaning and Polishing
A thin coat of wax applied annually will help protect your antique furnitures finish. In between waxing, dusting with a soft, lint free cloth on a regular basis. Dampen the cloth slightly and turn frequently. A dry rag can cause scratches when dusting.
Wax may not be appropriate for surfaces with a deteriorating finish; if in doubt, consult one of the Antique furniture restoration specialist’s for advice on how to best care for your antique furniture. Silicone based polishes should be avoided as silicone can penetrate the finish and will cause problems with future restoration or repairs. Silicone oil leaves a difficult to remove film behind that affects the adhesion of spot repairs or restoration of the existing finish. Spray furniture polish is usually silicon based.
Brass and Copper
Hardware will acquire a soft patina that may appear to some as unattractive. Brass and copper hardware on historical and other valuable antiques should not be polished to remove the tarnished appearance. The original finish and patina should be retained on the hardware including handles, knobs, hinges, pulls and escutcheons.
Handling and Moving
When moving your antique furniture you should check for loose or damaged joinery. Chairs should always be carried by the seat rails as opposed to the back splat, top rail or arms. Tables should be carried by the apron or legs instead of the top which could pull loose from the base. Large pieces should always be lifted and never dragged across the floor.
When transporting your antique furniture it’s best to first remove shelves, doors and drawers. Protect glass doors with moving blankets or other adequate padding. Tall items should be transported on their back or top, preferably their back.
General Antique Furniture Care
- Avoid placing antique furniture in front of a window or direct sunlight.
- Avoid placing antiques near air conditioning and heating vents.
- Don’t place your antique furniture near fireplaces and stoves.
- Blot up spills immediately.
- Dust regularly using a lint free cloth.
As always, it’s best to be cautious when considering a course of treatment or repairs to your antique furniture. If you believe you might possess a piece with significant historical value or provenance, it’s best to consult us for values and any repairs or restoration.
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