After a whirlwind of visitors over the summer, it’s time to take stock of the dings and scratches left on your furniture.
According to trader search website Checkatrade, we normally pay £150 for furniture repair, but follow our advice to save money and revive old favourites.
White ring marks on wood tables are usually caused by moisture penetrating the surface’s protective finish. The top of my wood cabinet has an unsightly watermark on it.
Darren Eaton, of NH Eaton French Polishers in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, says: ‘Take a step back.
‘Your first task is to find out if the furniture is waxed, lacquered, oiled or varnished. This is easy for a trained eye, just make sure you get it right.’
Elbow grease: Toby works on his wooden chair with a wicker seat, bought years ago for £8 from a junk shop
Experts like Darren are happy to give you free, unbiased advice before you make a mistake and make things worse.
But you can put a fingernail into waxed furniture and you’ll find that it’s smoother than a French lacquer or varnish. Oiled finishes tend to have a duller sheen. Don’t start before you know the end.
Darren says I can put a cotton tea towel over the ring mark and run a hot iron over it to remove the moisture and the mark.
Other options that can banish these types of water spots include rubbing the area with a cotton cloth dipped in mayonnaise or toothpaste. Both contain mild abrasives to help clean stains from wood.
threadbare chairs that shine
A wooden chair with a wicker seat, bought years ago for £8 from a junk shop, came in handy for a big summer lunch in the garden.
It has new scratches, but Darren suggests that rather than just garage it up, I get it as good as new, and it’s worth £200.
Antiques dealer Paul Evans, from Nottingham, says: “Even minor bumps halve the value of furniture, because at auction it’s the imperfections that stand out.”
My first task is to degrease. Sprinkle dishwashing liquid sparingly with tap water and gently scrub. Fine ‘0000’ grade steel wool is then rubbed along the grain of the wood.
Then it’s time to repair cracks and chips with a wax stick. These £8 soft crayons can be rubbed onto damaged areas and come in a variety of colors to match the wood. You can buy touch up pens for £3 to cover cracks.
Next, we applied a mahogany stain with a lint-free cloth. There are dozens of stain colors to choose from, including pine, oak, and walnut.
A £3.50 trial pot allows you to stain the underside of furniture before you decide what goes best. Subsequently, the piece can be waxed, oiled, lacquered or varnished.
rub with wax
Wax for use on wood is usually made from beeswax or carnauba (a species of palm) wax. It not only provides shine, but also protects furniture from minor bumps and scratches.
Darren whips out a tin of Liberon ‘black bison’ wax to add the finishing touch to my £8 chair, giving it the appearance of something that sells for 20 times the price.
He says: ‘First wax with fine steel wool. Then, using a soft cotton cloth, apply a thin layer of a good quality wax to the wood.
Rub in circular motions to ensure no streaks remain. Wait a few minutes before buffing, first with more circular motions and then along the grain.’
If you want to take care of your furniture, he suggests polishing it with wax once a year.
Darren adds: ‘Many people use a spray furniture polish that contains silicone. It works well if left on for five minutes after spraying before polishing, but if you rub it on the furniture immediately, it won’t polish or do the wood much good.’
Another tip if you’re using furniture wax is to spray it onto a clean cloth, rather than directly onto the wood.
If you then use the cloth to clean, it will be less likely to soak into the surface and discolor over time.
The main ingredient in French polish is shellac, a resin secreted by the female lac beetle to form a cocoon on trees in Asia.
Shellac is mixed with denatured alcohol to create a French polish and applied with a ‘gum’ – a cotton pad or wool wadding soaked in the polish and wrapped in cloth.
Cleaning bug: French enamel is made of shellac, a resin secreted by the female lac beetle to form a cocoon on trees in Asia (pictured)
Darren says he can spend a couple of days on a piece of furniture, applying 20 coats for a good finish.
Says Paul: ‘Add a pinch more methylated spirit to the polish to thin it out, and give your furniture a good scrubbing. This helps to clean up blemishes.’
Websites like Priory Polishes have tutorials on how to polish.
Sand the stains
Unfortunately, there are some marks that you just can’t remove, so it may be time to sand.
Alex Froggatt, of Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers at Stansted Mountfitchet in Essex, says: “When sanding, you may have to tackle the entire surface, but you’re rewarded with a blank canvas.
“This can be great for large pieces, like an underappreciated Victorian chest of drawers worth a couple of hundred pounds, but be careful restoring Georgian furniture as you’re removing layers of history and potentially high values.”
Before sanding use a varnish stripper such as £20 Nitromors. Scrape with a knife and wire wool, then clean with water.
A light sanding with a £50 orbital electric sander starting with 80-grit sandpaper can remove most stains before moving on to 120-grit paper and then a fine finish 240-grit.
Take your time sanding by hand before deciding to wax, oil, varnish or lacquer.
Darren says that a chemical treatment such as oxalic acid can help remove color damage after sanding, and Darren recommends always buying from a specialist, such as Jenkins in Tottenham, London.
Leather desk surfaces and chairs can be cleaned of new stains with a moist baby wipe.
However, wipes often contain alkaline, which is great for removing stains, but can crack leather over time.
For a long-term solution to leather, clean with a specialist product like Leather Honey Leather Cleaner from £15.
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