A teak or rosewood heirloom is often the pride of our homes. Suvasini Sridharan tells you how to care for these treasures
There is something so luxurious about wooden furniture, whether rich mahogany, solid teak or timeless rosewood. Even one piece can lift up a room's décor several notches. Furniture made of these woods is said to last a lifetime and more. “Pieces made of old, good wood need practically no maintenance at all,” says Suresh Narayan of Indika Creations, which specialises in antique wooden furniture. “Some species of wood are even naturally resilient to termites.”
Interior designers often advise clients to buy just one solid piece of wooden furniture, even if expensive, rather than three or four inferior pieces. If you are lucky enough to have inherited an antique piece or have invested in a dresser or bed of top quality timber, then it will just get better with age. But maintenance is the key.
All that your wooden pieces need is regular dusting with a soft cloth. Don't expose them to extreme temperatures. Says Narayan, “Rosewood, especially, is very sensitive to the sun, so don't keep it in direct sunlight.” Or make sure the curtains are drawn when needed. Also, don't keep that teak armchair next to a fireplace or heater.
Keep all wooden furniture in a well-ventilated spot to avoid fungus attacks. Says Viji Saravanan of Timber, known for its high-end wooden furniture: “Use a paint brush or soft, clean cloth to remove dust and moisture regularly. Don't use water on wooden furniture, as it removes the polish.”
The way to clean wooden furniture also depends on its finish. Rosewood and teakwood pieces are usually not finished with lacquer or polish and possess a natural glow, so along with dusting you could apply a touch of furniture oil once a year to give it that sheen. With painted wood, dusting is more than enough. For polished furniture, where lacquer or varnish has been applied, a polish bought at any hardware store can clean the surface. Freshly brewed tea or old, flat beer are both great ideas. Dip a soft cloth in the tea or beer, wring out the excess, and wipe over to remove dirt and grime. You can finish by buffing with a soft cloth.
Don't varnish your nails on your teak dining table! And always, always use coasters, dish pads and place mats on wooden surfaces. This prevents your accidentally putting down a hot, cold or sharp object on the wood.
Despite your best intentions, chances are you will end up with stains, scratches or scorches. A water ring on a walnut peg-table or a cigar burn on a teak counter can bring tears to your eyes. Take heart. We have just the easy solutions you are looking for.
Water rings Apply mayonnaise on the spots and let sit for an hour. Wipe off with a soft cloth. White toothpaste or salad oil also works. Or cover the spot with a thick blotter, press down with a warm iron, and lift off. Repeat. Try rubbing a walnut (without its shell!) or walnut oil on the ring.
White spots Rub the spot with a mix of cigarette ashes and lemon juice or salad oil using a soft cloth. Or sprinkle baking soda or salt and rub off with a soft oil-dipped rag. Or moisten a rag with turpentine and rub off the spot.
Burn marks Rub with polish or use soft sandpaper dipped in linseed oil. Always rub along the grain until the mark disappears. You could also use extra-fine steel wool dipped in lemon oil, again buffing along the direction of the grain. Rubbing with a pumice stone dipped in water or rubbing oil also works.
Scratches If it's dark wood fill the scratch mark with shoe polish in a shade that matches the lightest hues of the wood. Or rub with a walnut in the direction of the scratch. At worst, use a crayon or felt pen to cover the mark. For scratches on light wood, fill with tan or natural shoe polish or paint over with a darkened iodine solution that's diluted 50 per cent with denatured alcohol.
Candle wax Melt with a blow-dryer kept at the hottest setting, then remove the softened wax with a paper towel. Finish by wiping down with a soft cloth dipped in a 50:50 vinegar and water solution.
Termites Sometimes, a cheaper, readymade piece could end up with termites. “To get rid of termites, move the piece to a garage or open space,” says Saravanan. “Clean it and inject the holes with cell oil or termite insecticide, available at hardware stores.” Leave the piece in the sun for a couple of days to kill all termites.