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Keep furniture clean to prolong life

Cleaning furniture prolongs the life of the pieces and makes rooms look polished and tidy. Vacuuming upholstery removes allergens and refreshes the fabrics. Dust-free furniture reduces allergic reactions and asthma attacks for those who are sensitive.

Common materials used in furniture construction include wood, metal, plastics and glass. Upholstery materials range from leather and vinyl to fabrics such as linen or canvas. Not all cleaning solutions can be used on all materials. It is important to read the manufacturer’s recommendations before using any product.

Consumer concern about the impact of cleaning products on the environment has spurred several federal agencies to evaluate the health and environmental effects of product ingredients. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA)  Design for the Environment (DfE) awards manufactures the right to use the DfE logo when their product ingredients are certified as safer for the environment and human health.

The Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred Program certifies products that have a stated percentage of biologically-based ingredients. The program differs from the DfE in that a product may have the necessary percentage of bio-based products, but may contain ingredients that are not eco-friendly. Some biologically-based products are toxic. Several certified cleaners meet both BioPreferred and DfE criteria.

A basic Boston household cleaning kit should contain pH-neutral liquid soap, baking soda and vinegar. An all-purpose solution can be made from these ingredients that is effective on glass, plastics, acrylic, vinyl and many metals. Because it contains vinegar, it should not be used on stone or other materials that react to acids.

A solution of vinegar and water is an excellent glass cleaner. After washing with a clean cloth, dry with newspaper for streak-free glass. It also works well on clear acrylics like curtain rods and partitions.

Baking soda is a mild abrasive that, made into a paste with water, removes stains and discoloration on metals, plastics and vinyl. It can scratch, so it should be tested on a small area before use. Baking soda sprinkled on carpets and upholstery can eliminate odors. After applying, wait 30 minutes and vacuum.

Wood is porous and easily absorbs liquids and odors. Water should be avoided on woods in general, but particularly on veneers and inlays because water can seep down and loosen adhesives between the veneer and the base. Instead, use a soft, slightly damp, lint-free cloth to wipe away dust and oils.

The Museum Management Program of the National Park Service has issued guidelines on preventive conservation for cleaning antiques and museum pieces that can be applied to objects and materials of any age. Topics include wood, plastic, upholstery, glass and leather.


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