Spring cleaning is an annual ritual for many families. During my childhood, spring arrived with an army of detergents, mops and dusters. Likewise, as an adult, I give my home a deep cleaning as part of my annual preparation for Passover.
But I could have simplified my cleaning routine and saved money if I had first chatted with Teri Masaschi, author of the article, Maintaining a Finish, in the latest issue of Fine Woodworking, a furniture magazine. Most of the expensive products on the market lack the punch of simpler tools such as a bit of paste wax and a cloth moistened with soap and warm water, according to Masaschi, who owns a furniture and restoration business in New Mexico.
Here's the rundown on furniture polishes, sprays and oils.
Aerosol sprays and liquids. Sprays and oils, (silicone-based, emulsion blends or oil polishes) are the easiest to apply and the most popular. But if this is your favorite furniture tool, use it for cleaning not shining. And within this category, emulsion polishes -- milky blends of oil and water -- are most effective at removing grease and dust, but leave minimal shine. ''A cloth dampened in warm, soapy water cleans just as well,'' Masaschi says.
Beware of furniture oils: For the short run, petroleum or mineral-based products leave your furniture with a slick gleam. In fact, quick-sale antique dealers love this short-lived shine. But over the long-term, the oil that remains on the surface really attracts dirt and dust. ''So it's better to avoid this type of polish,'' Masaschi says.
High marks for paste wax: Fine Woodworking recommends the regular use of a dab of paste wax as protective maintenance for furniture. A thin application of paste wax provides a longer shine -- relative to oils and sprays -- and conceals minor blemishes on the surface. Masaschi recommends Briwax, Staples, Antiquax and Liberon's Black Bison. But caution, while great for protecting and polishing, paste wax is not suitable for cleaning furniture.
Microfiber cloth and water: Fine Woodworking recommends old-school, low-tech methods for maintaining furniture in between wax applications. Dust off furniture with a microfiber cloth, a nonabrasive material made from polyester and polyamide, with a strand count of 200,000 strands per square inch. Microfiber cloths can be purchased at drugstores, office supply and car-care stores and cost from $3.50 to $8. The cloths can be washed and re-used. Remove grime with a cloth dampened with soap and water.