FURNITURE CARE AND HANDLING GUIDE
FURNITURE CARE AND HANDLING
Furniture objects are part of our lives every day. The information in this booklet is not about restoring or repairing furniture and furniture objects; it is about caring for and preventing damage to them. The aim of this booklet is to explain how to minimize preventable damage to furniture.
Damage to and destruction of furniture takes many forms and paths. We use the term “preventable damage” to describe those conditions and events over which a furniture caretaker has some influence. By far the most predominant damage to furniture is caused by poor choices its users and caretakers make through misunderstanding the nature of furniture objects.
Consider the major causes of preventable damage:
- Poorly controlled ambient environment (light, relative humidity and temperature)
- Careless use, handling, and maintenance
In this context “environment” means the conditions under which the artefact exists. we must at least try to understand the effects of light, varying temperature and humidity, and potential for damage from use in order to make the choices that best fit our desires for using or preserving furniture.
Probably the easiest environmental issue to understand and resolve for furniture is damage from light.
For the most part, light damage takes the form of discolouration, usually bleaching. Light induces bleaching and degradation in most components of furniture: coatings, whether transparent or polychrome; the furniture itself; and especially upholstery textiles. Generally, light damage is cumulative and permanent.
Responding to the potential for light damage is relatively simple and can also be straightforward: when the furniture is not in use, it is best left in the dark. Even when furniture is in use and in the light, damage can be reduced through common devices like window shades, curtains, and screens for protection from direct sunlight or elevated light levels. Ultraviolet filter films can be used to block the most damaging light frequencies if there is concern over the colour of the light, for example, light from fluorescent bulbs or ultraviolet radiation from sunlight. For extended periods of non-use, opaque dust covers are recommended.
As long as there is light, there will be light damage proportional to its intensity and exposure time. But the application of simple measures can go a long way to reducing damage.
Perhaps the greatest environmental damage to furniture comes from wide swings in relative humidity (RH). furniture absorbs and desorbs water as relative humidity rises and falls, and in doing so it swells and shrinks. Making matters worse, it expands and contracts unequally along with different grain directions. As humidity changes, the components of furniture objects are continually pushing and pulling against each other. This pressure often results in parts of furniture no longer fitting together closely or becoming distorted or breaking from their own internal stresses.
Be aware that raising the temperature lowers the humidity and vice versa. Thus, modern heating systems, which can drive down interior RH in the winter, almost invariably cause problems for furniture. To counteract their effect, you can modify the RH by keeping furniture-containing spaces cooler in the wintertime. A humidistat automatically adjusts the temperature to maintain a stable relative humidity.
The third, and most often overlooked environmental problem is bio predation. Furniture is subject to attack by both animals and micro-organisms, including insects, rodents, and fungi. The best protection against bio predation is to monitor your furniture regularly and keep food separate from your furniture or at least stored in sealed containers.
Mould, Mildew and Fungi
Mould, mildew and fungi are everywhere – on furnishings, walls, and in the air. But fungal infestation will occur only in the presence of an external moisture source or when the fibre saturation point (nearly 100% RH) is approached. Still, air and high temperatures also encourage the rapid growth of these organisms. Moulds and mildew growing on the surface of furniture may stain it. Other fungi can completely destroy your furniture.
The control of mould and mildew is quite simple: do not let the relative humidity rise above 70%. Even if an active infestation exists, lowering the RH will cause the mould and mildew spores to become dormant. Similarly, cooler temperatures will also reduce fungi growth. Lowering the RH in a damp area should be done very slowly to prevent excessive stress. Once the room is allowed to dry out to a humidity level below 70%, the dried, inactive mould residues can then be carefully vacuumed off furniture surfaces. Be careful not to breathe or scatter the dust, and clean the vacuum after use.
It is also important to locate any source of excess moisture and determine what can be done to remove it. Underground walls should be sealed and vapour-proofed. Leaks should be repaired in roofs and walls.
Fungal damage, or rot, can only occur in areas of extreme dampness at moderate temperatures. Unless your furniture gets wet and stays wet, this type of damage is not normally a severe problem. However, if your furniture is stored in areas where water incursion is a common problem, such as basements or attics, these areas must be surveyed every time it rains.
Furniture Use and Care
Careless and uninformed treatment of furniture is the second major cause of preventable damage. Damage to furniture is tell-tale: it is either caused by poor construction (over which the caretaker has no control) or is the result of improper use or care. You don’t have to be a specialist or scholar to treat furniture properly, all it takes is a basic understanding of the nature of furniture objects and of what furniture is and is meant to do, combined with common sense.
Here are some common-sense pointers:
- Protect surfaces from fire and excessive heat
- Sit only on structures designed for that purpose
- Be careful about what you place on a piece of furniture
- Be careful while moving furniture
Hot items, such as irons, coffee mugs, and steaming tureens can literally melt a finish away. Water from spills and condensation from vases and cold drink glasses can damage and deface coatings through “blooming,” an effect that makes transparent coatings white or milky. Damage is even worse when the liquid itself stains the surface, such as when ink or coffee or tea is spilled, or if the coating, where available, is penetrated and the staining liquid enters the furniture itself.
Organic solvents, such as fingernail polish and remover, perfumes, and alcoholic drinks can behave as paint and varnish removers on many kinds of coatings.
These problems are simple to address. Using coasters, oversized ashtrays, and writing pads can virtually eliminate the potential for damage.
Handling and Moving Furniture
In addition to using furniture wisely, it is important to handle it carefully. Safe handling and moving of furniture begin with a basic understanding of how a piece is constructed. The second step is to plan carefully.
Before picking up a piece of furniture, determine how it is put together and if any of its parts are removable or detachable. Make sure you know where the furniture is its strongest – generally along with a major horizontal element – and try to carry it from these points.
Then examine the room and the route whereby the furniture is to be moved. Look around to make sure you know where everything is. Identify potential trouble. Light fixtures that hang low, for example, or that extend out from the wall may be damaged or cause damage. Glass tabletops are also easily damaged if bumped. If necessary, clear the way by moving or removing fragile or obstructive items. Protect the furniture to be moved with soft padding or wrap it in a blanket pad. Padding, which will provide extra insurance against bumping and gouging, is especially important if an item is going into storage.
Before moving an item, make sure you know exactly where it goes next. Plan ahead to adjust the temperature and relative humidity in the new location so they are the same as where the furniture presently is. Extreme changes in temperature and humidity can cause the splitting of joints and veneers.
Never hurry when you are moving furniture. Scratches, dents, and gouges from bumps against hand trucks, doorways, and other furniture are always more likely in haste. Each item needs to be approached individually, without haste, and with sufficient manpower present.
Make sure you have a firm grip on the piece with both hands. Do not wear cotton gloves. It is essential that hands not slip from a piece of furniture while it is being moved.
Never slide or drag furniture along the floor. The vibration can loosen or break joints, chip feet, break legs, etc., to say nothing of what dragging does to the carpeting or finish on the floor. Whenever possible, use trolleys or dollies for transporting heavy pieces.
Handling valuable furnishings requires a special attitude: in general, movement should be carried out at a slower pace. Here are some quick tips for moving furniture properly. Remember: If you don’t break it, it doesn’t have to be fixed!
- Just as gymnasts work with “spotters” to catch them when they misstep, have helpers on hand to guide the movers so they don’t crash into walls or other pieces of furniture
- Anticipate trouble; think through every step; plan ahead, and do everything with care
- Make sure the route is clear and has no obstructions, such as narrow doorways or hanging chandeliers that might hinder the safe passage of furniture and movers
The following sections offer suggestions for moving specific types of furniture.
When lifting a large chair or sofa, the principles are the same. Grab underneath the side frame, making sure to lift with your legs rather than your back. For upholstered chairs or sofas, place your hands underneath the frame to avoid touching the upholstery. If upholstery must be touched, use cotton gloves. For chairs with slip seats, remove the slip seat and wrap and move it separately to prevent it’s being soiled or falling out during the move.
The strongest part of a table is generally the apron. Whenever possible, lift the table carefully from the apron, never by the top or legs.
While a case piece requires can be moved by carrying it carefully, holding on to the bottom as you would a table or chair, it is better to move the piece on a dolly. A dolly makes the move safer for both the movers and the object, and that is all the truer for large objects.
If the carcass is sturdy enough, remove drawers to lighten the load and make the move easier. Carry the drawers separately to the destination. If the piece has handles, wrap them with padding. Padding protects the handles, the furniture surface (if the handles have swinging bales or drops), the movers, and the surroundings in case you bump up against anything.
Never grab a heavy piece like a chest of drawers or bookcase by the cornice at the top. The attachment of the top to the base may be loosened and pull apart from the rest of the piece.
The guidelines for furniture maintenance are pretty simple. If the furniture is used wisely and handled carefully, it will need very little in the way of routine maintenance. But in cleaning and polishing furniture surfaces and hardware, and in re-upholstering, some well-intentioned caretakers introduce damage. In fact, a lot of what furniture conservators do is respond to destructive maintenance practices.
For the most part, maintaining furniture simply means keeping it clean, carefully. Furniture usually needs to be cleaned only when there is a build-up of wax or dirt. Only unfinished furniture, painted furniture, or furniture with a sturdy finish should be cleaned. The finish on gilt furniture is often applied with a water-soluble size, or adhesive; it should be carefully dusted, not cleaned, or cleaned only by a professional.
Before cleaning furniture or coatings, the first and most important step is to evaluate the surface and make sure that the surface or coating is stable and not apt to be damaged by the contact required in cleaning and polishing. If the surface is unstable, the polishing could knock off loose portions. Damaged surfaces should be referred to a conservator.
After the soundness of the surface has been established, the next step is to find out what the dirt is and what the surface is. If you can’t determine these exactly, find out what removes the dirt without affecting the surface underneath it. Often, dust can be removed with the careful wipe of a damp cloth. Oily dirt or waxy residue can be removed with a mild detergent and water solution or with mineral spirits. However, it is vital to make sure that the cleaning solution does not affect the underlying surface. Even when you determine a cleaning method that works successfully, proceed cautiously.
Loose dust on the surface can be removed with a soft, lint-free cloth, gently rubbed over the surface. Dust is abrasive and can scratch the surface, so be careful. Uneven areas can be dusted with a clean, natural bristle paint or artist’s brush. Again, do not try to dust a surface that is severely deteriorated. Cloth fibres can catch and tear away pieces of the finish, veneer or lose parts. Even rough edges can splinter. Carving, fretwork, and other delicate work can be dusted with a soft bristle brush, with a vacuum cleaner host held close enough to take in the dust once it is dislodged by the brush. Do not use feather dusters, as they can scratch and pull off loose fragments of veneer.
Surfaces in good condition but with a heavy accumulation of dust can be cleaned very carefully with a vacuum cleaner. Use the lowest suction available and the round brush attachment. Don’t let the metal or hard plastic parts of the vacuum bump into the surfaces; they can scratch the finish or furniture. Much damage, in fact, occurs as the feet and bases of pieces are hit with the vacuum cleaner.
Dirt that cannot be simply vacuumed off may be removed with cleaners mixed in a dilute solution, but only if the finish is in good solid condition. First, determine which solvent removes the dirt without removing the finish. Those to be tested include mineral spirits (white spirit), paint thinner, and naphtha. Second, test a small spot in an obscure area with the solution on a cotton swab. All areas that appear to be a different coating or material must be tested separately. Only if the solution does not damage the test area should it be used to clean the rest of the piece.
For finished furniture, dampen a cotton cloth with the solvent or cleaning solution, and gently rub over a small area at a time. Avoid using too much liquid, as it can cause damage. Then, wipe the cleaned surface with a clean dampened cloth to remove any cleaner residues, followed by a dry soft cloth.
Following simple cleaning, further protection and aesthetic enhancement can be obtained through the application of stable, hard furniture polish, such as a hard paste wax. The hard wax surface can be dusted more easily because it will be more smooth, and the dust will not be embedded in it as it would on an unwaxed surface. Waxing need only occur infrequently because the wax itself is not readily removed and it does not degrade chemically. Waxing too often can result in a built-up, clouded surface.
This simple approach avoids the problems created by popular methods of “furniture polishing” – such as sprays and oily polishes – that may result in cumulative damage to furniture. Many polishes and residues continue to be a vexing problem for furniture conservators, as they can build up over time and with numerous applications, trapping and adhering airborne dirt onto the surface.
For a more in-depth discussion of furniture polishes, refer to the appendix at the end of this text.
Dusting upholstery can be accomplished by a vacuum cleaner. Place a soft screen on the surface to prevent any snagging or abrasion from the vacuum tip, and using a brush attachment, carefully vacuum the surface.
Stains and other damage to upholstery should be referred to an upholstery or textile conservator for further treatment.
Leather Furniture – Care
Made from animal hide, leather is durable and easy to clean. There are different grades of leather though, so be sure to look for full or top grain leather to ensure you’re getting the best. Your leather furniture has been manufactured from genuine leather hide. Immediately after delivery you may notice the slight compression of the padding due to the compressed packaging, Wrap protection and pressure while in Sea-transit, which will return to its original appearance once used. Because leather is a natural product, this limited warranty does not cover natural characteristics of leather, such as Grain wrinkles, stretch marks and closed scars, markings caused by – insect bites, barbed wire, veining, abrasions, wrinkling, stretching or variations in grain or colour tones on different sections of the same leather product. All of these imperfections are evidence of the product being genuine leather and are not considered to be defects in any way. Softening of the seat, padding and cushions will occur over time and leather will develop comfort creases, slight wrinkling and stretching whilst filling materials will soften and to some extent flatten out, which is considered to be normal wear. Regular use of one particular seat or cushion will cause the seat to soften more than others. Use all the seats evenly and rotate cushions regularly. Do not pull any loose threads as it may be the end of the stitching.
Never use detergents, solvents, abrasives, use only recommended leather cleaners or suede cleaners. The accumulation of body hair, oil, dirt and grime will accelerate wear-causing both discolouration and surface damage. Dust and Oily stains are also the biggest danger to leather surfaces. wipe your leather furniture with a soft, damp cloth weekly. In the event of stains from oils, Gently dab and wipe the stain with a clean cloth dampened with water and neutral soap. Dry the surface and gently wipe with a dry cloth.
Keep lounge out of direct heat and sunlight sources, both direct and through heating, vents to avoid fading and stretching. Vacuum regularly, to remove dust and grit; then wipe with a soft cloth dampened with plain water. This should be done as often as necessary (weekly). Periodical(Every 3 Months) systematic cleaning with leather cleaning agents is recommended available at all SKM Furniture Store. These products are specialized to protect your leather furniture. Strictly Avoid contact with chlorine, chlorine stains are permanent and will change the colour of materials.
For optimum product longevity, PVC must only be cleaned by gently sponging warm water with a clean damp cloth(strictly avoid any abrasive chemicals). PVC – Polyvinyl Chloride is a synthetic plastic material that can either be made brittle and hard, or soft and malleable through the addition of a softener or ‘plasticizer’. Vinyl furniture is durable, and with proper care, vinyl furniture retains its appearance and resiliency for many years. Regular cleaning is critical. Otherwise, heavy usage, soil and body oils may cause vinyl to stiffen, Wipe away small stains as they occur. Wipe the surface with a soft cloth dipped in warm water without any additives. Wipe the surface using a soft cloth. Strictly Avoid contact with chlorine, chlorine stains are permanent and will change the colour of materials.
Use a clean sheet or outdoor covering to cover your vinyl furniture when it’s not in use. This will protect your vinyl furniture from dirt and debris, preserving it over time. This is also helpful for vinyl furniture that is stored outside, as it helps protect vinyl furniture from sun damage. Strictly avoid direct sunlight and direct heat.
Fabric Furniture Care
Remove spill and stains immediately. If you are dealing with a liquid spill, dab the liquid up with a paper towel and avoid rubbing while cleaning. If the item is solid/semi-solid, scrape the fabric’s bits and use distilled water to treat the leftover marks. If the stains are from mud, let it dry and brush the remains off.
Always keep your furniture away from direct sunlight. The sunlight’s exposure will fade your fabric furniture, wear and tear will take place at a rapid pace.
Gently vacuum your fabric sofa once a week with a soft brush attachment to remove any surface dirt or dust. Pay particular attention to the front of the arms. Plump up your cushions once a day to retain their shape and comfort. Treat your fabric couch with care and avoid jumping on the pillows/cushions or sitting on the armrest
Be sure to have your fabric lounge cleaned on an annual basis by professionals.
Mirror/Glass Furniture Care
Since mirrors are a more fragile material, taking extra precautions while opening or moving or hanging. Avoid putting mirror items in the high-traffic spots, smaller areas, and spots directly next to doors that may bang into them if opened carelessly. Ensure the items you place on your mirrored surface are not sharp and avoid heavy objects to prevent crack.
Always use a soft cloth with a mirror-safe glass cleaner or make a DIY solution of distilled white vinegar and water. Spray your cleaner directly on the fabric instead of on the mirror’s surface If The reflexible Silver/Aluminium is damaged or the coating is exposed, an oxidation reaction happened. You will notice the black spots on the mirror surface from inside. Minimize residual streaks by working top to bottom and wiping in little circular motions. Inspect from all angles. Depending on where the light is hitting, it may look like you’ve done an excellent job cleaning, but take a step back or to the side, and you might find hidden marks and streaks
Regularly dust them and clean smudges routinely. Keep these tips in mind: Clean up spills as they happen. Especially be quick to clean off certain household items with chemicals like nail polish remover, hair dye, lotions, perfume and cologne, and rubbing alcohol, damaging the surface.
Small mirror pieces on Dresser and Console are glued and may fall off over the period. It’s a common problem and is not a structural issue, and can be fixed easily with any regular glues.
Mechanised/Electrical Furniture care
WARNING: Do not allow children or pets to play on or with mechanised furniture, including extended footrest.
Exercise close supervision when mechanised furniture is used by, with or near children, pets or disabled persons.
Avoid operating mechanised furniture around moving persons.
Keep hands and other objects away from openings in mechanised furniture.
Do not place mechanised furniture near power cords.
Avoid entangling mechanised furniture in power cords.
Avoid liquid contact with any electric component.
Switch off and unplug mechanised furniture when not in use, and before addition or removal of parts.
Never operate mechanised furniture if cord or plug is damaged, malfunctioning or damaged.
Contact supplier for examination and repair. Do not tamper with electrical components.
Take care when moving the recliner that the wall and transformer cords are not under the base or they may get damaged.
The transformer is not to be placed under or within the recliner structure.
Do not cover or place the external transformer under the chair. Keep in an open, well-ventilated area free from foreign material and away from possible pinch points.
WARNING: TO REDUCE RISK OF BURNS, FIRE, ELECTRIC SHOCK OR PERSONAL INJURY TO PERSONS:
- Use only for its intended purpose
- Never press or activate the control switch if you are not seated in a recliner or Electrical Massager
- Only the occupant should activate the control switch
- Never operate with more than one person occupying a seat
- Never sit or stand on the footrest or massager.