Spring Cleaning Secrets You Haven’t Heard

    6 Tips for Furniture Care

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    There’s something about spring that creates the urge to sort, clean, organize, and purge. Some people clean often, a lot, and regularly. Some clean in
    one long day every month. Some clean just before they’re having guests over.

    Here’s an important question: Do you take the time to clean and maintain your furniture like you care for your house, your car, or your clothes? The irony is that most people expect their furniture to last longer than their car or their clothes, but they provide little to no maintenance to ensure its longer lifespan.

    Here are a few tips to keep your furniture investments in good shape:

    1. Keep all wood furniture dust-free to prevent it from drying out. Accumulations of dust particles that settle on wood can eventually settle into the wood’s naturally porous surface, causing cracking and discoloration.

    2. Only a few manmade surfaces (like Corian) are completely impervious. Always use a coaster to protect materials from water rings, stains, scratches, burns, and other marks. Solid wood does not mean scratchproof. For instance, American cherry is one of the softest hard woods there is. If your child does homework on your cherry dining table without a mat under his paper, you may see his writing left behind on your tabletop. Many natural stone surfaces interact badly with acids. One red wine spill can ruin a beautiful marble table. And lastly, glass is not scratchproof. Period. Glass is beautiful and very durable, but you need to be careful, plus use coasters or placemats, before you put your dinner plate, serving pieces, or artwork on your glass dining or coffee table.

    3. Wonder why your sofa looks flat on one cushion only? It’s probably the favorite spot of someone in your household (even the dog). You need to do some regular fluffing. If the cushions are not attached to the frame, pull them off and gently push, pull, and pound on the filling. If necessary and if you can, remove the cover and/or re-stretch it around the insert. With feather or down-filled cushions, take out your aggressions and pound hard to fluff them back into shape. If the cushions are attached or it’s a tight-seat style, you can fluff the seat and back with your fists. You should also consider sitting in more than one place. Seriously. The other cushions are getting jealous.

    4. Please don’t push and pull your furniture, and don’t lean back in your chair. Anything with legs or panel supports will break. Every time you pull or push an item, one leg or panel wants to stay behind (remember inertia?). You weaken the integrity of the joint where the leg attaches to the body of the piece. This does not mean your furniture is not well-made. It does mean you have to move it properly. If someone tried to push or pull you, your legs would resist too. About that chair leaning: Your mom told you not to do it. The teacher told you not to do it. They were both right. Your chair is meant to support you with all four legs on the ground. When you use only the back two, they get stressed out, and eventually will break.  And you could fall and break something, too. (P.S. When you push, pull, or lean without lifting, those little protective floor caps at the ends of the legs will also be compromised, and fall out more easily.)

    5. Vacuum and dust the parts you don’t see: between the seat cushions; under the chairs; under the area rug (yes, under); inside lampshades; tops of bookcases and behind books; under and behind cabinets; under the mattress; across those upholstered headboards; and inside a/v cabinets and shelving. Embarrassing admission: When our personal Mr. Fix-it (my dad) took apart our non-working DVD player a few years ago, he found whirls of cat hair inside the unit. Turns out our cat had been climbing in from the back and sleeping behind the DVD player. Gross? Yes. Now we have glass doors and I dust out the shelves regularly.

    6. Be sure to use cleaning products that are meant for the item being cleaned. Milder products are recommended most often. Do not use harsh abrasives on metal, marble, or wood surfaces. Using the wrong cleaner on your leather or fabric sofa could discolor the textile or, worse, remove the color. Be sure to clean woods with the right kind of oil, wax, or paste. Most cleaners recommend cleaning or treating the entire product, not just the spot or stain, to prevent mismatched results. There are all kinds of horror stories about using the wrong products. When in doubt, ask your design consultant, the retailer, or the vendor.

    Quality furniture is a thoughtful investment that should and can last a long, long time – if cared for properly. You notice and respond to warning lights in your car. You watch for loose buttons and frayed hems on your clothes. Your furniture will give you warning signs too (sticky drawers, loose seat cushions, flat cushions). Take the signs seriously, provide regular maintenance, and you will enjoy your furniture for many years.

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    Sarah Paxton
    Sarah Paxton is president of LaDiff, which she co-owns with her husband Andy Thornton. She is also mom to a teenage daughter, Lucy, and tries to keep up with a shedding dog and cat.