For good reason, wood remains ever-present in contract furniture. Care and maintenance is generally similar across different types of wood, but different finishes do need different approaches.
Almost all contract furniture made of wood has either a lacquer (note: lacquer and varnish are generally interchangeable descriptions) or a seal applied to it. They both protect the wood but have different appearances. A seal soaks into the wood (and tends to be matt); lacquers form a hard layer on top of the wood (and are more often gloss or silk).
The colour of timber will tend to naturally change over time and is accelerated through exposure to the elements, although again the type of finish will have an effect on this (a lacquered surface tends to change colour less).
The most common causes of damage to wooden furniture
- Surfaces damaged by inappropriate use of abrasive cleaning products or substances that contain abrasives, ammonia, bleach, spirit or other aggressive chemicals; this includes D10 Sanitiser.
- Burns caused by very hot items or liquids– using mats will avoid this.
- Bleaching and warping caused by exposure to excessive sunlight (even in the UK!).
- Warping and splitting caused by significant changes in temperature (between 10°-25°C is generally best).
- Warping and splitting caused by excess humidity or changes in humidity.
- Tables being used outdoors that are not specified for outdoor use.
Wooden furniture care & cleaning
Wood table tops that have a lacquer on must be cleaned with a product that does not damage the lacquer – any product with ammonia may be damaging. We recommend you clean lacquered surfaces using ‘Relay Spray’ (available on the internet).
Relay Spray is also useful for other surface types, but if you are in any doubt, use warm water and liquid detergent or soap.
Maintenance of wooden furniture that has been sealed
Seals require regular re-application – how regularly depends on how much it has been used and how often it has been cleaned/wiped. When the wood surface dulls, reapply the seal.
If a sealed surface is showing marks and scratches, use a fine sandpaper to remove these and then re-apply the seal to restore the original finish.
Leading wood seal brands include Rustins and Liberon; types of popular seal include Linseed oil and Danish oil.
Maintenance of wooden furniture with a lacquer
Lacquer gives a strong layer of protection that can last for years. It usually simply requires cleaning with Relay Spray as above and standard furniture polish, which will disguise shallow scratching.
But if a lacquer is chipped, it can be difficult to repair.
For shallow chips, which do not penetrate through the lacquer, but may be unsightly, lightly sand the area with fine sandpaper, and then use furniture polish to shine the surface.
If the chip is more substantial, it can be touched-up, using a specialist product. We recommend using Behlen Jet Spray Clear Lacquer; please do follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
If the wood under the lacquer has been damaged or discoloured, maybe simply by exposure to air, sometimes the only option is to sand down the whole surface, a laborious process, then re-apply a finish similar to the original. This could well be more expensive than replacing the top.
Maintenance of wood specified for outdoor use (typically Iroko or Teak)
Wooden outdoor furniture tends to weather to a silver-grey colour once it has been exposed to enough weather. Regular oiling will maintain this appearance and also protect the surface from drying and splintering and from stains.
To maintain the appearance of un-weathered timber requires very regular oiling and also probably scrubbing – even so the wood will tend to darken.
We recommend oiling furniture at least every six months using proprietary teak oil such as Ronseal, Osmo or Liberon (following the product’s instructions).
If the surface becomes rough, it can be sanded with a fine sandpaper, then re-oiled. Read this blog article for more information on Outdoor Furniture Care.
Below is a photo of an iroko table top after just six months exposure in an extremely damp & cold outdoor environment. However, after a little TLC (sanding and reoiling as above) the top will soon be good as new.
Repair of chips and deep scratches in wooden surfaces
Deep chips and scratches in wooden surfaces are usually unwelcome and can be particularly obvious if they expose a different colour core.
Specialist products can fill chips and scratches; different colours allow the surface colour to be matched. Leading products include wax repair sticks by Mann's or Liberon. Following the manufacturers’ instructions is particularly important.
Watch the video below to see a wooden chip filled in using a Liberon wax stick.
Also available are Touch Up Marker Pens which are very good for surface level scratches.
Solid wooden table tops are often supplied with wood reinforcing batons on their underside. If these are removed, the table top is likely to warp.
Free Furniture Care & Maintenance Guide
Get more from your contract furniture by caring for it properly. Download our Furniture Care & Maintenance Guide to learn how to make your furniture last longer in a hospitality space.