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Proper Care, Cleaning & Handling of Wood

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In this chapter, we discuss maintaining the natural beauty of wood through proper cleaning methods. Whether your wooden surfaces feature exquisite hardwood, veneers, or lacquers, we provide you with straightforward and effective techniques.

Elegant wood floors in a home study

Wood Floors

Cleaning Wood Floors

Meticulously cleaning wood floors is crucial before they are ready to be polished. Addressing high-traffic areas, beneath furniture, and area rugs at least twice yearly is essential. Dirt tends to filter through area rugs, settling between the underside and the surface of wood floors. If left unattended, this filtered dirt acts like sandpaper, potentially damaging the finish and surface.

Here are our recommended steps to ensure a thorough result:

  1. Clear the Space: Begin by removing all furniture and rugs. If lifting heavy furniture or rolled-up area rugs, seek assistance from a coworker or hire a helper. If you tackle the task solo, use furniture pads underneath or slide furniture out of the room. For furniture on area rugs, employ similar techniques for removal. Avoid dragging heavy furniture on rugs to prevent damage. Vacuum rugs with a suction-only vacuum cleaner before rolling them up and removing them from the room.
  2. Vacuum the Wood Floors: Prioritize vacuuming the wood floors to eliminate accumulated dust and debris beneath area rugs and furniture. Ensure the vacuum cleaner has no rough plastic parts near the bottom or edges, as these may scratch the floors. If the vacuum is in disrepair, use a broom to sweep up dirt and debris.

Identifying Wood Floor Finish

Wood floor finish is a barrier, shielding it from everyday elements such as foot traffic, spills, and sunlight. Properly applied finishes contribute to the longevity of wood floors and simplify maintenance and cleaning routines.

Polyurethane floors have a hard finish and can be cleaned with a small amount of water. Conversely, shellac or lacquer floors should not come into contact with water and may require regular hand waxing.

Understanding the floor finish is crucial for proper maintenance. The following test will help you to determine if the wood floor is shellac, lacquer, or water-based:

  1. Apply a small amount of denatured alcohol to an area of the floor covered by a rug or large piece of furniture.
  2. After a few seconds, touch the spot with an old cloth.
  3. Does it feel soft?
    YES → The floor finish is shellac.
    NO → Apply a small amount of lacquer thinner to a nearby spot.
  4. After a few seconds, touch the spot with an old cloth.
  5. Does it feel soft?
    YES → The floor finish is lacquer.
    NO → The floor finish is (likely) water-based.

Waxing Wood Floors

Waxing wood floors contributes to both their aesthetic appeal and long-term durability. If they lose their shine, show signs of wear, or become more challenging to clean, it’s likely time to reapply wax.

Recommended Frequency

The frequency of waxing wood floors depends on various factors, including foot traffic, the type of wax used, and the specific finish of the wood. As a general guideline:

High-Traffic Areas
Consider waxing these areas every 1 to 3 months to maintain optimal protection and appearance.

Low-Traffic Areas
Less frequented spaces may only require waxing every six months to a year.

Type of Wax
Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the specific wax product used, as different formulations may have varying durability.

Materials Needed

  1. Wood Floor Wax: Choose a high-quality wax suitable for wood floors. Popular options include paste wax, liquid wax, or solid wax.
  2. Cleaner: Ensure the floor is thoroughly cleaned before waxing. Use a gentle wood floor cleaner to remove dirt and residue.
  3. Soft Cloth or Applicator: Use a soft cloth, mop, or applicator pad to apply the wax evenly.
  4. Buffing Equipment: Use a floor buffer, electric polisher, or soft, dry cloth.


  1. Prepare the Floor: Clean the wood floor thoroughly to remove dirt, dust, or residue. Allow the floor to dry completely before applying wax.
  2. Choose the Right Wax: Select a wax that is suitable for your type of wood floor finish. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  3. Apply the Wax: Dip a soft cloth or applicator into the wax, applying it in a thin, even layer. Work in small sections to ensure uniform coverage. Follow the wood grain while applying.
  4. Allow Drying Time: Let the wax dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Drying times may vary, but it typically takes 15-30 minutes.
  5. Buff the Floor: Once the wax has dried, use a floor buffer, electric polisher, or a dry, soft cloth to buff the floor. Buffing helps to remove excess wax, evens the finish, and enhances the shine.
  6. Repeat if Necessary: For a deeper shine, you can repeat the waxing and buffing process. However, be cautious not to over-wax, as this can lead to a buildup.
  7. Maintain Regularly: Periodically clean the floor with a wood floor cleaner and reapply wax as needed. The frequency will depend on factors such as foot traffic and overall wear.

Mopping Wood Floors

For polyurethaned floors, using a damp mop is an effective method for regular cleaning. However, avoiding excessive water is crucial, as standing water can seep into seams and joints, potentially causing damage over time. This method helps remove dust, dirt, and stains, maintaining the floor’s sheen and protective finish.

Never mop floors that are waxed. Clean waxed floors by vacuuming and sweeping.

To properly mop wood floors:

  1. Mix a few drops of dishwashing liquid with a bucket of cool water.
  2. Wring out the mop until it’s damp.
  3. Run the mop along the grain. Use smooth strokes. Start at the interior corner and work outward to the doorway. This motion will keep you from stepping on wet floors.
  4. Wipe up excess liquid if you see standing water.
  5. Follow with a clean, dry rag or towel. Make sure the surface is arid.

Closeup of an elegant carving on a fine hardwood dresser drawer

Wood Furniture

Regularly cleaning fine wood furniture is essential to preserve its beauty, longevity, and overall aesthetic appeal. Dirt, dust, and grime can accumulate over time, diminishing the luster and charm of the wood finish. With a proper and consistent cleaning routine, you maintain the furniture’s appearance and prevent potential damage.

Materials Needed:

  1. Microfiber or Soft Cloth: Use a lint-free and non-abrasive cloth to avoid scratching the wood surface.
  2. Mild Wood Cleaner: Choose a gentle wood cleaner suitable for your furniture’s type of wood finish. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners.
  3. Water: Use lukewarm water to dampen the cloth.
  4. Soft Bristle Brush: A soft brush can be useful for intricate carvings or hard-to-reach areas.
  5. Wood Polish or Wax (Optional): A high-quality wood polish or wax can restore shine and protect the finish.
  6. Lint-Free Towels: Towels that won’t leave fibers behind are ideal for drying.


  1. Dust the Furniture: Begin by dusting the furniture with a dry, soft cloth or a feather duster. Remove loose dirt and dust to prevent scratching during the cleaning process.
  2. Prepare the Cleaning Solution: Mix some mild wood cleaner with lukewarm water in a bowl. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the correct ratio.
  3. Dampen the Cloth: Dampen the microfiber or soft cloth in the cleaning solution. Wring out any excess water to ensure the cloth is only slightly damp.
  4. Test in an Inconspicuous Area: Before proceeding, test the cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous furniture area to ensure compatibility with the wood finish.
  5. Wipe Down the Furniture: Gently wipe down the wood surfaces with a damp cloth, following the grain of the wood. Pay attention to any stains or sticky spots, applying more pressure if necessary.
  6. Use a Soft Brush for Details: For intricate carvings or areas with detailing, use a soft bristle brush to remove dust and grime. Be gentle to avoid causing damage.
  7. Dry Immediately: After cleaning, immediately dry the furniture with a clean, lint-free towel. Moisture left on the wood surface can lead to damage over time.
  8. Apply Wood Polish or Wax (Optional): If your furniture needs extra shine or protection, apply a small amount of high-quality wood polish or wax according to the product’s instructions. Buff the surface gently with a soft cloth.
  9. Regular Maintenance: Dust your fine wood furniture regularly to prevent the buildup of dirt and grime. Avoid placing hot or wet items on the wood surface to prevent damage.

Detail of fine wood wall paneling in a home office

Wood Paneling

Fine wood paneling in upscale homes is a luxurious and timeless design element that adds sophistication and warmth to interior spaces. This type of paneling is often crafted from high-quality wood materials, showcasing exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail. The wood species used vary, from traditional options like oak, mahogany, and cherry to more contemporary choices like walnut or exotic hardwoods.

Maintenance is a crucial aspect of preserving the beauty of fine wood paneling. Regular cleaning, as mentioned earlier, is essential to prevent dust buildup and maintain the finish’s integrity. This attention to upkeep ensures that the wood paneling remains a focal point of sophistication within upscale homes, contributing to the overall ambiance of refined living spaces.

Dust Regularly

Dust the wood paneling frequently using a soft, lint-free cloth or a feather duster. This prevents the accumulation of dust and reduces the risk of scratches.

Bi-Monthly Dusting

For painted or polyurethaned paneling, thoroughly dust every two weeks. Use a feather duster on an extension pole to reach from top to bottom. Doing so helps maintain the paneling’s sheen and prevents the buildup of dust in crevices.

Periodic Cleaning

Twice a year, perform a more comprehensive cleaning. Mix a solution of cool water and a mild wood cleaner like Murphy’s Oil Soap. Dampen a soft, clean cloth in the solution and gently wipe the wood paneling. Follow up with a dry, clean, all-cotton cloth to buff and restore shine.

Waxing (If Applicable)

For waxed paneling, conduct a hand waxing process twice a year using a suitable paste wax, such as Johnson Paste Wax. Apply the wax in circular motions, feathering from top to bottom. Once the wax has dried to a white haze, buff it with a clean, white, all-cotton cloth to enhance the luster.

Special Attention to High-Gloss Finishes

If the fine wood paneling features a high-gloss mirror finish, understand that it may require a specific type of polish, potentially silicone-based or epoxy. In such cases, a quick damp wipe with cool water and Murphy’s Oil Soap can effectively remove dust. Additional polish or wax may not be necessary and could compromise the appearance.

Protect from Sunlight

Minimize prolonged exposure to direct sunlight to prevent fading or discoloration of the wood. Consider using window treatments like blinds or curtains to shield the paneling.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals

Please refrain from using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, which can damage the wood finish. Stick to mild wood cleaners suitable for the type of finish on your paneling.

Inspect for Damage

Regularly inspect the wood paneling for any signs of damage, such as scratches or dents. Address any issues promptly to prevent further deterioration.

If you need clarification on the specific care requirements for the fine wood paneling in your care, consider consulting with professionals or the manufacturer for tailored advice.

Household Staffing does not assume responsibility for any outcomes resulting from the use of cleaning products or procedures.

Household Staffing does not assume responsibility for any outcomes resulting from the use of cleaning products or procedures.