Wood products, properly cared for, can endure for several lifetimes – or even millennia! – becoming treasured heirlooms, passed from generation to generation. Different finishes require different care, but in general, wood is a resilient material that is very forgiving … as long as you follow a few simple rules.
As a formerly living being, wood is designed to absorb water like a pro. Any prolonged contact with water will cause the wood to expand, which could warp its shape, cause joinery to fail, discolour the wood, and separate the finish.
Use coasters for beverage glasses, put trays under potted plants, and try to avoid placing wooden furniture outside or in high humidity. Wipe up any spilled liquid immediately with a dry cloth.
Avoid Heat & Direct Sunlight
Excessive heat will dry wood out, causing it to shrink and become brittle, which in turn causes finishes to separate and joinery to fail. Heat plus moisture will accelerate the issues caused by moisture, above. A sunny corner within a home can get hot enough to cause problems.
Direct sunlight presents other problems as well. Most woods exposed to sunlight will age more quickly – dark woods will get lighter, and light woods will deepen in colour, which is undesirable if you’ve chosen a wood for its distinctive hues.
A general rule for wood is to keep in mind that a balanced environment is ideal – for the wood and for human beings, both. Sunlight will burn you under prolonged exposure, and a moderate temperature and humidity level is more comfortable for you than extremes of either.
Avoid Abrasive Cleaners
All abrasive and caustic cleaners, such as bleach and products intended for tiles or ovens, will remove finishes and damage the wood beneath. For general cleaning, use only products designed for wooden furniture.
Food Safe Mineral Oils
Wooden cutting boards, serving boards, and utensils are finished with food safe oils to maintain their colour and integrity. These oils need to be replenished at regular intervals, even if they’re not being used. I recommend once a month, unless the product is really taking a beating!
The type of oil is a personal choice, and can include mineral oil, raw linseed oil, beeswax, carnauba, or any commercial product sold specifically for this purpose (there are a lot of really nice ones!) Generally, the oil or wax is simply rubbed into the wood with a soft cloth.
I often use Tung Oil as a natural finish option for my wood products. As the oil ages and is worn by use, it needs to be replenished with a fresh coat. I recommend every six months to a year, depending on use. Tung Oil can also be refreshed any time the finish is scratched or abraded, to restore its original lustre. Make sure you use a product that is 100% Tung Oil, and follow the instructions on the back. The process is simple and easy, and only requires a soft cloth.