Guide to Cleaning Your Rustic Wooden Furniture

wiping dust off wooden table

If you have a rustic home or cabin, chances are high that you have plenty of wooden furniture and decorations. While wood has unmatched beauty compared to other materials and can be much more durable, it can also be tricky to clean. Today, we’ll discuss why this is, how to prevent your furniture from getting too dirty, and how to clean it if it does.

What makes wooden furniture unique?

Unlike metal and plastic items, spills and dirt on wood can’t always just be wiped up. This is due to a couple of main factors:

  • Source - because wood is from trees, organic and living organisms, it absorbs things like water and responds to temperature much more than other synthetic materials. Trees and their wood are also much more sensitive to harsh chemicals that can irreparably damage the surface or structural integrity, so this influences how you can clean it.
  • Finish - wood is also usually finished to protect and seal the surface, prevent wear and tear damage, and minimize splinters. In addition to the functional reasons, finished wood also enhances its color and appearance, but this protective layer of lacquer can also accidentally be removed if not cleaned properly.

Keeping wooden furniture clean

Now that we understand what makes cleaning and maintaining wood different from other materials, how can general upkeep help to reduce the amount of full cleaning you have to do? There are some “best practices” and tips that we have to keep your furniture looking brand new and minimize the amount of more intensive cleaning required.

  • Regularly dust - a buildup of dust can make your furniture look unappealing, as well as kick off sneezing and allergies. While you don’t have to dust every day, it’s helpful to do this every week or two so that surfaces are clean.
  • Use tablecloths/coasters - because wood absorbs water, leaving wet glasses or dishes on wood can leave white rings stained onto the surface of your beautiful table. To prevent this, just remember to use tablecloths and coasters to protect the wood from water rings forming and staining.
  • Avoid frequent humidity changes - wood is a very porous and reactive material, meaning that when humidity changes, so does the wood. High humidity leads to expansion, while dry conditions result in contraction. Changes back and forth can easily crack and severely damage your wooden furniture, so try to keep your home’s climate fairly stable.
  • Protect from bugs - because wood is organic, there are many insects and other bugs that love to burrow through or eat it. By using a sealant and natural repellant, you can minimize the chances of this happening. This is also why you should avoid picking up wooden furniture from the side of the road, as you never know if there are already bugs making a home in there!
  • Quickly wipe up any spills - we’ve discussed how absorbent and reactive wood can be, and this is especially true for spills. Whether it’s water, soda, or another liquid, the texture and crevices in wood can make it difficult to clean off once it has soaked in a little. To prevent staining or stickiness from being an issue, make sure to wipe up any spills as quickly as possible.

How to clean wood furniture

While the above tips should definitely cut down on the amount of full cleaning you have to do of an item, it’s impossible to completely eliminate. Accidents happen, and dirt and grime build up slowly over time, even with vigilant upkeep. If you’re wooden furniture is in need of a more serious clean, follow these steps and tips:

  • Start by dusting surface dirt - before you bring out the washcloths or sponges, make sure to dust the wood’s surface first to remove any loose dirt, hair, or dust.
  • Wipe with soap and some warm water - once you’ve dusted, dampen a soft cloth with soap and a little water, wiping the surface of the wood to clean any remaining dirt, stains, or other marks.
  • Use natural cleaning products - it’s important to use natural ingredients in your soap or cleaning products, as chemicals can damage not only the protective finish, but also the wood itself.
  • Work from gentler cleaner to stronger options - if mild soap or cleaner doesn’t do the trick to get all marks and stains off of your furniture, slowly work up to stronger options. This will reduce the chances of you damaging the wood with a cleaner that is too harsh (but remember to continue using natural ingredients).
  • Dry afterward - once the wood is clean, make sure to pat (or wipe, depending on how smooth the surface is) dry as thoroughly as possible to prevent absorption or residue that could stain if left on.

What not to do

There are also some things to keep in mind and avoid when you’re cleaning wood furniture or trying to make it last as long as possible:

  • Don’t use harsh chemical cleaners - as mentioned earlier, using natural cleaning alternatives is important because many chemicals can damage your wood and remove the protective finish, or even damage the wood underneath.
  • Don’t “wash” the wood - for the same reasons we discussed in the upkeep section, you shouldn’t treat cleaning your furniture like you’re “washing” it. Limiting the amount of water used will be healthier for the material and make cleaning much easier.
  • Don’t leave in direct sunlight - while leaving a wooden deck chair out on a balcony in the sun for 8 hours a day might seem like a great idea, it’s an unfortunate fact that direct sunlight not only fades the color of wood, but also can dry it, leading to cracks in the material. Try to keep outdoor wooden furniture covered when not in use, or under an overhang or next to a tree or wall that will block some of the sunlight.

How to clean painted wood

Painted wood can be cleaned in the same way that other wood can be — by primarily using a damp cloth with soap. As with unpainted wood, you want to avoid getting the paint or wood too wet because this can leave marks or lift the paint.

How to clean mold or mildew

This can be cleaned with soap and water as well, just make sure to use goggles and an air mask to prevent particles from getting in your eyes or lungs. If the mold doesn’t get taken care of by just soap and water, try using some distilled white vinegar mixed with equal parts olive or vegetable oil.

Get high-quality wooden furniture for your cabin today

If you’re looking to replace or upgrade some of your furniture with beautiful, handcrafted wood options, look no further than Cabin Place’s wide selection of woods, finishes, sizes, and shapes. Not only do they look great, but they’re built and finished to last, so you can worry less about keeping them clean and focus more on relaxing and enjoying your rustic home. Look through our selection of bedroom, dining room, office, bathroom, and other furniture today!