Furniture Care Basics: Protecting Your Investment

by Mother Huddle Staff

Did you know Americans spent an estimated $114.5 billion on furniture and bedding in 2019? With an investment like that, responsible homeowners naturally will be seeking out ways to make those coffee tables, entertainment centers, sofas, and loveseats last. A strategy for caring for furniture is the best way to accomplish that goal.

Wood furniture

Wood is a popular material to build home furniture because of its cost and durability. Avoid using all-purpose cleaners on wood furniture and instead, consider using a soft cloth and soapy water. Popular furniture polishes and oils can create a great shine. The downside to using oils and polishes is that they trap dust and fingerprints, so apply them lightly.

For nicks and deep scratches, consider purchasing a wood repair kit to mend it properly or consult a professional repair company.

Cloth surfaces

Sofas, beds, and chairs often use upholstery in construction. Put serious thought into using a soil protection spray – like Scotchguard – on these pieces when purchasing them. After that, dabbing club soda onto spills is a good first-defense plan.

Furniture experts also recommend using a professional upholstery service every couple of years for more extensive cleaning and mending.

Leather surfaces

Leather can offer a rich, luxurious feel to furniture, but it’s also a challenge to maintain because it can dry and crack over time if not properly cared for. The first step in caring for leather furniture is determining what exact type of leather is used. 

Unprotected leather – sometimes labeled aniline leather — is known for its soft feel. Aniline leather is pricey and more susceptible to staining, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s specific care instructions for it. 

Protected leather – also known as finished leather – is a more common surface for furniture because it’s more durable. Unlike aniline leather, it has a stiffer feel to it. Again, refer to the manufacturer’s care guides for this surface otherwise the warranty could be voided. Oftentimes, caring for protected leather is as simple as using a microfiber cloth and some mild liquid soap.

Leather conditioning products – available at most grocery and retail stores – should only be used if the manufacturer’s instructions refer to them as safe alternatives.  

Here’s one handy tip to cleaning leather surfaces: Always try cleaning a hidden spot first to be sure it’s safe. At the first sign of trouble – such as fading or discoloration – consult a professional furniture cleaning company.

Outdoor furniture

Wicker is a common material used in kitchen and outdoor furniture. It’s lightweight and flexible so it’s commonly found in bar stools, patio tables, and chairs. But it’s also more fragile than other furniture materials. Like wood, wicker is a natural fiber so it’s susceptible to heat, moisture, and the sun’s rays. Because wicker’s fibers are tightly weaved, dusting is required for weekly care; a wet rag with soap and water can be used for seasonal care. Use a brush or vacuum cleaner to clean hard-to-reach areas. Also, consider furniture covers for outdoor furniture – especially in seasons when the weather isn’t cooperative.

Plastic furniture

While plastic resin can create a weather-proof and long-lasting material for furniture, caring for furniture like this still requires careful maintenance. Kitchen and outdoor furniture often use this construction material. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials on these surfaces and instead favor a wet cloth, sudsy water, and a little elbow grease. Dry the furniture with a soft towel afterward to keep them in tip-top shape. 

Glass covers

Adding a glass surface to top a piece of furniture has long been a popular way to protect your furniture investments. Glass is easy to clean – a spritz of window cleaner does the trick – and it protects furniture from spills and condensation. The downside of using glass is that it can be expensive to get customized sizes. It can also slide off the furniture if not securely attached. A set of non-slide stickers under the glass usually do the trick here.

Rehabilitating furniture

If buying new pieces of furniture isn’t an option or caring for furniture seems too challenging, consider investing in used furniture and then spending your time and money fixing it up. A new sofa on average costs about $1,000 but a second-hand piece can be reupholstered for between $50 and $400 – a significant saving. 


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